Battle of New Orleans: St. Louis Cathedral
Stop 3 of 10 in the Battle of New Orleans tour
Facing Jackson Square and the Mississippi River, the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. With its three steeples, St. Louis Cathedral, as it is commonly known, is one of New Orleans’ oldest and most recognizable landmarks. The Cabildo flanks the left (upriver) side of the Cathedral, while the Presbytere appears on the right. St. Louis Cathedral occupies the site of the first church in the area included in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
Bienville planned the church when he laid out the City of New Orleans in 1718, naming it St. Louis after the patron saint of the then reigning monarch of France. Established as a parish in 1720, the first church building on the site opened in 1727. The eighteenth-century church was destroyed by fire in 1788; the present church was dedicated as a cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1794. At his own expense, Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, a wealthy Spanish nobleman and father of Baroness Pontalba, built the Cathedral at a cost of $50,000, “on condition that a mass would be said in perpetuity every Sunday for the repose of his soul.” After his death in 1798, Almonester was buried in the cathedral.
The design reflected the usual Spanish style, with three round towers in front. The building was remodeled several times over the next few decades and steeples were raised on the towers.
"The side chapel on the north side is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Don Andres Almonester sleeps beneath a large slab on which is inscribed in Spanish his many deeds," according to a cathedral guidebook.
After the victory over British troops on January 8, 1815, General Jackson requested a thanksgiving service, an “external manifestation” of thanks to “the Ruler of all events.” Abbe Dubourg offered a solemn high Mass at St. Louis Cathedral on January 23, 1815. General Jackson and members of his troops attended the Mass and a solemn "Te Deum" of Thanksgiving was sung. On January 8, 1840, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson returned to New Orleans and attended a service at St. Louis Cathedral. Afterward, Jackson conducted a military review in Jackson Square. Mass is still celebrated daily at St. Louis Cathedral. Pope Paul VI designated the cathedral as a minor basilica on December 9, 1964.