By Kelly Wise Valdes
The St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans’ most extraordinary historic and architectural landmarks, overlooking Jackson Square. Also known as the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, it is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.
This historic building showcases triple steeples towering above the heart of old New Orleans. Since 1727, the site has welcomed worshipers and visitors. Dedicated to Louis IX, sainted King of France, this was the first building in New Orleans of “brick between posts” construction, which was a method of building that continued to be used in Louisiana until the middle of the nineteenth century.
Inside the original structure, the church baptized the children of the colonists and the children of the slaves. A fire in 1788 caused by a candle in a nearby home, destroyed church. More than five years later the church was rebuilt. Throughout the years, the structure has changed to meet the needs of the growing congregation. In 1819, a central tower with the clock and bell was added. The present structure primarily dates to 1850.
The cathedral was designated as a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI in 1964. Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in September 1987. In more recent years, the church suffered damage when Hurricane Katrina tore a hole in the roof of the church in August 2005. The church and pipe organ were extremely damaged and subsequently repaired thanks to the support of its more than 6000 church members.
During the Christmas holidays, St. Louis Cathedral plays host to an annual holiday tradition of staging free concerts by prominent New Orleans musicians, church choirs and singers in the jazz, classical, gospel and pop genres. The acoustics of the cathedral adds to the beauty of the music. The concerts are open to the public and donations are welcome.
For more information about the St. Louis Cathedral Holiday Concerts call 504-522-5730 or visit www.fqfi.org.