Perhaps one of the most recognizable landmarks in New Orleans, Saint Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square stands in all its glory welcoming visitors to the Crescent City. Also known as the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, the cathedral is the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the U.S. Located on the Chartres Street side of the Square, the three steeples of St. Louis Cathedral rise dramatically into the New Orleans sky. Facing Decatur Street and the mighty Mississippi River, the church stands as a beacon of light over the historic French Quarter.
Not only is the cathedral the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, it has been visited by Popes, Presidents and dignitaries. Its position on a public square indicates the importance that the Catholic religion played in the early days of New Orleans. A Roman Catholic church has stood on the spot since 1718, the first one an early colonial structure made of wood. In 1726, a larger brick edifice was constructed, only to be destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. A series of other structures were built on the site, with the current church being completed in 1850. The bell from an earlier tower built-in 1819 still remains in use.
When Hurricane Katrina swept through the French Quarter in 2005, the church received significantly less damage than many surrounding buildings. Perhaps the worst damage occurred when a relatively small hole was opened up in the roof. Water entered the building and poured into the Cathedral’s Holtkamp pipe organ. Severely damaged, the organ was removed for repair and in June 2008 was reinstalled in the Cathedral.
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at St. Louis Cathedral. Whether you come to attend a mass or simply to look at the remarkable beauty of the façade and interior, the magnificent Cathedral and its towering steeples will forever rise in your memory.