Everyone know about Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, but the most well-known view in New Orleans has to be St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Jackson Square is an easy place to start your New Orleans’ outings so, if you are like us, you will probably spend time there multiple times throughout your vacation. On at least one of your visits to Jackson Square you will definitely want to visit inside the St. Louis Cathedral. Doing so isn’t as easy as just showing up so you will want to do a little preparation to make sure you get access to the inside of St. Louis Cathedral and can enjoy your time there.
What is St. Louis Cathedral?
St. Louis Cathedral is a Catholic church that stands prominently on the north side of Jackson Square, close to the Mississippi River. Although the Cathedral has been rebuilt twice, it is considered the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States.
The original St. Louis Cathedral was built in the early 18th century; however, it did not make it through the rest of the century before falling during New Orleans’ Great Fire of 1788. The Cathedral was quickly rebuilt during the next decade thanks to the generosity of Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, whose remains now rest beneath the Cathedral. The current building was built in the mid-19th century, but remnants of the second structure (the lower portions of the hexagonal tower walls)were incorporated into the current building.
Where is St. Louis Cathedral?
The St. Louis Cathedral is pretty hard to miss, standing tall at the north end of Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. Finding it should be a breeze if you have GPS. In case you need it, the address is 615 Pere Antoine Aly., New Orleans, LA 70116. If you need to reach the Cathedral for any reason, contact information is T: 504.525.9585 | F: 504.525.9583 | E: email@example.com.
Parking is easy too as there is a public parking lot directly south of Jackson Square along the Mississippi River. It is a bit expensive, but all parking in that part of town is similarly priced.
If you are coming by bus or streetcar, you shouldn’t have much trouble either. Bus will be easier as there are stops at Jackson Square on bus lines #5 and #55. If you come by streetcar, you will want to take line #49 and get off at the St. Anne Street stop, which is about five blocks northwest of St. Louis Cathedral.
What is inside St. Louis Cathedral?
We loved the interior of the St. Louis Cathedral. The first thing that struck us is how bight the inside is. With a lot of cathedrals we have visited we found them very dim on the inside as the only light filtered in through stained glass windows. While the St. Louis Cathedral had great stained glass at ground level, the upper portion is full of big windows letting lots of light in.
The first thing you will see upon entering the Cathedral is the really unique checkerboard floor leading between the pews to the front of the Cathedral. The black and white marble floors are definitely striking and make for a really different feel, with all the light, then you experience at most churches.
As mentioned above, the ground level of the Cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows. There are ten windows in total, and each window depicts a scene from the life of St. Louis.
The image above depicts the coronation of St. Louis. The image below shows what I assume was his marriage. Other popular windows show his illness and death, his building of Sainte Chapelle, his body being sent to France and his canonization as a saint.
Saint Louis is also featured in the mural behind the alter, which shows him during the 7th Crusade. The beautiful murals on the ceiling depart from Saint Louis and show the Nativity of Christ, Jesus and Peter, and Saint Michael slaying the dragon.
The front of the Cathedral is taken up by the large gilded altar featuring carved angels and statues of Peter and Paul. The elegant wooden pulpit to the side of the altar features a large scallop-shaped wooden sounding board. Other prominent statues in the Cathedral include Joan of Arc, Saint Louis, Madonna and Childe, Saint Therese of Liseux and Joseph and child. Something else a bit unusual are several historical flags hanging inside the Cathedral. My children always enjoy lighting the candles, which are available for a small donation.
When is St. Louis Cathedral open to visitors?
You definitely want to be aware of the hours the Cathedral is open, or you may get stuck like we did on our first attempt to enter the Cathedral before dinner. The Cathedral opens early at 8:30 a.m., but also closes early at 4:00 p.m. We also have the mass schedule at the bottom of the article so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Even if you aren’t interested in entering the Cathedral, you should be aware the beautiful park in front of St. Louis Cathedral also gets locked up earlier than you might expect. Jackson Square opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 7:00 p.m. I found this out unfortunately after putting the kids to bed one night when I headed back into the city to to some night photography. If you want to shoot the Cathedral at night, you can shoot through the bars or head across the street where there is a nice vantage point.
Does St. Louis Cathedral cost money?
Entrance to St. Louis Cathedral is free. There are not even the “suggested donation” collections that many big touristed churches collect as entrance fees. The only thing that will cost money is if you go with a tour, or if you purchase the self-guided tour at the cathedral. Prices for tour groups vary, but the self-guided tour is only $1.00.
How long should you plan to spend at St. Louis Cathedral?
I would not recommend planning a whole day around your visit to St. Louis Cathedral, or even to Jackson Square. This is an activity you should add to a different itinerary. If you are planning an evening in Jackson Square or a tour in the French Quarter, plan on spending an hour or less at St. Louis Cathedral.
We planned initially to go to the Cathedral our first evening in town when we were just hanging out at Jackson Square, but were unable to get in because it was closed. We still wanted to see the inside so we just got down there an hour early another day when we were going to to a tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 (check out our article on the awesome cemetery).
An hour was more than enough time for us to visit the Cathedral. If we are just talking about going inside St. Louis Cathedral, even a half hour is going to be a ton of time. Realistically, you can go inside and see it in five minutes, but a half hour will give you time to look at all the stained glass and details inside and enjoy your time.
If you aren’t going to be in the area anyways, you will definitely want to plan some extra time outside the cathedral. The beautiful park in front of the cathedral, which makes up most of Jackson Square, has lots of grass, benches and shade where you can relax for a bit. If you are going to enjoy some famous beignets from Cafe du Monde (also in Jackson Square), count on spending 20-30 minutes in line as well.
When to avoid crowds at St. Louis Cathedral?
The best time to avoid crowds at St. Louis Cathedral is going to be earlier in the morning after it opens when there is not a mass scheduled. More tourists will visit as it gets later in the day, but you won’t find it overly crowded most days unless you are there during a busy tourist day.
The Cathedral will of course be busier, and your access restricted, when there is a mass in session. If you aren’t interested in attending mass, want less people there, and want to be able to explore the interior, be sure to check out the mass schedule before going.
The normal schedule is below, but be sure to check here before you go.
|Monday – Friday:||11:30 – 11:50 a.m. Sacrament of Penance
12:05 p.m. Daily Mass
|Saturday:||4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Sacrament of Penance
5:00 p.m. Vigil Mass
|Holy Days of Obligation:||Holy Day Eve – TBA
Holy Day – 12:05 p.m.
except Christmas and January 1st
|December 24 – Vigil at 5:00 p.m.Midnight Mass Tickets not required
December 25 – 9:00 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.
|New Years Eve:New Years Day:||5:00 p.m. Vigil MassSolemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
|Ash Wednesday:||Cathedral closed Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras
Ash Wednesday Masses:
12:05 p.m. & 5:00 p.m. (ashes distributed at all Masses)
|Lent:||Monday through Friday 12:05 p.m.
Sacrament of Penance 11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Mon. though Fri.
Sacrament of Penance 4-4:45 p.m. Saturday
Stations of the Cross Friday following 12 noon Mass
Sunday 9:00 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.
|Holy Week:||Palm Sunday (Blessing of Palms at all Masses)
Nearby Points of Interest
There is seriously so much to do in New Orleans. For a good starting point with 26 different locations, check out our Instagram Guide to New Orleans!
For more great in-depth articles, check out:
Our guide to the St. Louis Cemetery #1