The Ancestors: Marie Laveau's Tomb

St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street, once outside the city limits, is the oldest existing cemetery in New Orleans. Towering above-ground tombs remind visitors of New Orleans’ high water table and French heritage. It is in this cemetery that our Vodou Queen Marie Laveau rests in her eternal slumber.

On June 15, 1881, while in her bed at her St. Ann Street cottage, surrounded by family and community members, including her only surviving child Marie Philomene, Marie Laveau passed away. Her family members would have seen to the adherence of Creole mourning traditions, such as covering mirrors and placing a black wreath on the front door. Augustin Lamonthe, a border at Laveau’s St. Ann home, reported Laveau’s death to the Board of Health. According to the Daily Picayune, many people squeezed into the small home to get a last look at the much loved and revered woman. Father Hyacinth Mignot conducted Laveau’s funeral and according to the Picayune, “her remains were followed to the grave by a large concourse of people, the most prominent and the most humble joining in paying their last respects to the dead.” [1]

Despite some WPA interviewees and later researchers insisting Marie Laveau was buried in a wall vault in St. Louis Cemetery #2, archival records show that Marie is buried in her family vault in St. Louis Cemetery #1. Joining her husband Christophe Glapion, her children, grandchildren, and other family members, Marie is entombed in the middle vault of the Laveau-Glapion family tomb. [2] Later, in 1897, Marie Philomene would join her family in the tomb. [3]

Almost immediately after Marie Laveau’s death, devotees began to perform pilgrimages to her tomb to leave offerings and ask for petitions. Raymond Rivaros and Ayola Cruz, sextons of St. Louis Cemetery #1 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mentioned how visitors came “almost daily to make offerings to Marie’s spirit. They make crosses with red brick, charcoal, and sharp rocks.” Visitors would leave cooked foods, cakes, flowers, pineapples, and would, “knock three times on the marble slab…” [4] These traditions continue today, although the tradition of making crosses and Xs on her tomb with brick have caused great damage to the tomb over the years and has come under criticism by preservationist and true Vodou adherents alike. On December 24, 2013, upon opening the cemetery gates, workers and visitors discovered Laveau’s tomb was painted pink, covering the traditional whitewash color. The paint was latex, preventing the centuries-old bricks from breathing. Preservationists conducted intense restoration to preserve the tomb, with efforts completed in 2014. After that time, the Archdiocese of New Orleans restricted visits into the cemetery to approved tour groups to deter vandalism. [5] In response to the cemetery’s increased restrictions, artist Ricardo Pustanio and Vodou priestess Sallie Ann Glassman created the International Shrine of Marie Laveau. The shrine is located in the lobby of The Healing Center at 2372 St. Claude Avenue and allows visitors to learn about and pay respects to the Vodou queen with less restricted access. [6]



St. Louis Cemetery #1, 425 Basin St, New Orleans, LA 70112 ~ Only accessible by approved guided tour.