New Orleans, LA (WGNO) — For nearly 300 years people have come here seeking eternal life but when you enter the St. Louis Cathedral and take a seat, you're sitting just as close to death.
"The faithful buried beneath the cathedral include children, they include Priests, they include Governors… Their souls are before the hand of God just as ours are when we come to church to pray," says Brandon Briscoe the Cathedral Tour Guide.
In the center of the Cathedral between the two pillars it's estimated that there were 100 people buried before 1850 underneath the pews. We know their names but not their locations. "Over the course of the renovations, there was a big renovation in 1850, we lost track of who exactly is in each spot. We believe as faithful that we will all rise from the dead and get our resurrected bodies so when that happens at the Second Coming, we'll know who exactly is placed where," says Briscoe.
Beneath the Sanctuary and wings of the Cathedral are the crypts. The exact number is unknown, but this is where auxiliary bishops, bishops and archbishops are buried. Head Archivist Lee Leumas allowed us to see what one of the crypts looks like underneath the floor.
"It doesn't get opened very often… It gets opened when we get asked sometimes by news people. Here because of the opening in the floor, it always had this doorway and this panel. Part of it was for access so that you can get under the cathedral, there's a crawl space under the cathedral, but it's also to be able to get to the crypts for the people buried there," says Leumas.
The first crypt inside belongs to G.A. Rouxel. "He was the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans and he died in 1908, so that's his crypt there."
Its possible prominent laypeople were also buried here centuries ago, but the remaining 7 crypts are reserved for archbishops who will one day join those who were and still are the foundation for the Cathedral.
"We're all intermingled. It's the communion of saints that still live that faith. It's a living breathing faith, and that includes those who have gone before us," says Briscoe.