While I lived in New Orleans through college and visited several of the unusual cemeteries throughout the city, I had never explored Metairie Cemetery until our last visit. And it was well worth the wait. Because New Orleans is below sea level and basically built over swampland, graves must be placed above ground to prevent caskets from coming unearthed and floating away. Therefore, crypts of all styles fill the cemeteries in New Orleans to house the dead. Throughout the city, these above ground “cities of the dead” are interesting places to be explored. And none are more beautiful and serene than Metairie Cemetery with the largest collection of marble tombs in New Orleans. You can read more about the interesting history of some of the other cemeteries throughout New Orleans in Stories from the St. Louis Cemeteries of New Orleans by Sally Asher.
Dave and I spent an afternoon exploring Metairie Cemetery and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip to New Orleans. With elaborate grave sites of notable New Orleans residents, intricate marble tombs and incredibly detailed stained glass and statues, Metairie Cemetery is definitely worth visiting when in New Orleans.
Metairie Cemetery – Weeping Angel in the Chapman Hyams Crypt
One of the most famous statues in Metairie Cemetery is the Angel of Grief or Weeping Angel located in the Chapman Hyams family crypt. Throughout the French Quarter and New Orleans, prints of this beautiful statue are sold. And truly, the blue light shining through the stained glass behind her makes the Angel of Grief one of the most memorable cemetery statues I have ever seen. Although the door to the crypt was closed and locked, we were still able to see inside through the windows.And while the Weeping Angel of Grief is indeed unforgettable, there is so much more to see at Metairie Cemetery. Some crypts are simple marble or granite structures and some are elaborate works of art, decorated with intricate carvings and stained glass. After parking in the main lot where we were the only car, we wandered around and took it all in. Since it was cloudy and chilly, we practically had the very popular tourist destination to ourselves on the Sunday afternoon we visited which made our time there even more special. You could easily take hundreds of beautiful pictures in this amazing cemetery so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to visit and explore.
Famous Grave Sites at Metairie Cemetery
Filled with the rich and famous of New Orleans, Metairie Cemetery is the resting place for numerous notable figures including-
- Jefferson Davis was buried here before being later moved by his widow to Richmond, Virginia. A memorial still stands.
- Civil War Veteran Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard is buried in a mound crypt along with other Confederate Soldiers
- The graves of numerous Louisiana Governors, New Orleans’ Mayors and other politicians
- Storyville Madam Josie Arlington
- Al Copeland who founded several restaurants including Popeye’s Chicken
- Ruth U. Fertel, founder of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
- Mel Ott, Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Pitcher
- Advice Columnist Dorothy Dix
- Jazz Trumpeter Al Hirt
The statues that adorn the crypts in Metairie Cemetery are haunting works of art. From intense grief to joy at the possibility of the afterlife, every emotional response to the passing of a loved one is represented. Since hardly any visitors were there with us, it was a surreal experience to be there walking around to only the sounds of crows cawing to keep us company. Peaceful, calm, and thought provoking, visiting Metairie Cemetery is something I will never forget.
While cemeteries aren’t typically thought of as tourist destinations, the ones in New Orleans are so unusual and full of historic significance that you should definitely include one in your travel plans. And Metairie Cemetery is the most beautiful New Orleans cemetery I have visited. Just another reason to love the unforgettable city of New Orleans.
If you go to Metairie Cemetery-
- Metairie Cemetery is located in New Orleans at 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd.
- Phone Number: (504) 486-6331
- Hours are from 7:30am-5:30pm daily
- If looking for a certain grave site while visiting Metairie Cemetery, visit Find A Grave, a website which will help you locate the site you are looking for in the sprawling 150 acre grounds with more than 4,500 graves.
- There is no admission charge to visit Metairie Cemetery and parking is plentiful.
- While even a quick visit would be worthwhile, allow yourself plenty of time to explore the expansive grounds.
Have you been to Metairie Cemetery or any of the other amazing cemeteries in New Orleans? I’d love to hear about it…
As always, Happy Travels!