615 Pere Antoine Alley
New Orleans, LA 70116
The St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks. This venerable building, its triple steeples towering above its historic neighbors, the Cabildo and the Presbytere – looks down benignly on the green of the Square and General Andrew Jackson on his bronze horse and on the block-long Pontalba Buildings with their lacy ironwork galleries. Truly, this is the heart of old New Orleans.
Since 1727 New Orleanians have worshipped in churches on this site. Half a dozen years earlier, the French engineer, Adrien De Pauger, who arrived in the newly founded city on March 29, 1721, designated this site for a church in conformity with the plan of the Engineer-in-Chief of Louisiana, LeBlond de la Tour, who was at the capital, Biloxi.
A fire on March 21, 1788, started when a candle ignited the lace draperies of an altar in the home of the military treasurer of the colony, Vincente Jose Nunez, on Chartres Street. Among the buildings burned to the ground were the Church of St. Louis, the priests’ residence, and the Casa Principal, which housed the Cabildo.
Nearly a year elapsed before the charred remains of the church were cleared away and construction of a new churchThe second Church of St. Louis was the gift of the wealthy Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, a native of Andalusia who had acquired numerous properties since his arrival in New Orleans in the wake of Governor Alejandro O’Reilly.
As Louisiana and the Floridas had been created a diocese in 1793, and Luis Pefialver y Cardenas appointed first bishop with New Orleans as his See city, the new church was dedicated as a Cathedral and put into service on Christmas Eve, 1794.
n 1819 a New Orleans clockmaker, Jean Delachaux, was authorized by the trustees to obtain a suitable clock to be placed in the facade of the Cathedral. As this was a project of general civic interest, the City Council agreed to the expense of buying the clock and its bell and also to share in the cost of erecting a central tower to house them.
In 1829 an organ was imported and in 1825 Francisco Zapari, an Italian painter, was employed at a fee of $1,855 to decorate the interior of the church and its three altars.
On January 8, 1840, Andrew Jackson returned to the scene of his triumph against the British twenty-five years earlier. He went to the St. Louis Cathedral where an oration was given in his honor. After this ceremony, he conducted a military review in the Place d’Armes.
n 1844, the Baroness Pontalba, to he New Orleans agents to present to the Council for the First Municipality a project to construct a two-story arcaded facade in front of the old buildings bordering both sides of the Place d’Armes, buildings she had inherited from her father, Don Andres Almonester. Two years later, this remarkable woman again submitted and had approved by the Council elaborate plans, prepared under her personal supervision, which called for remodeling her buildings with arcades similar to those of the Cabildo and Presbytere, and also for extensive improvements to the square itself, to create a bit of Paris for her native city.