God in America
Support provided by:

Sacred Spaces: New Orleans

The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Credit: Pierina Benvenuto)

The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Credit: Pierina Benvenuto)

Flying in over Lake Pontchartrain for the first time, I thought it was a sea. From the air, and on our maps, the landscape surrounding the city seems to dissolve. Land blends with water -- appearing as a tentative, almost untenable habitation. Hardscape roadway surfaces seem inconspicuous within the sponge-like swamps and bayous.

The city of New Orleans is in a cycle of renewal. During our time there we saw spaces full of grandeur and decrepitude. Mansions and slums sit next door to one another and infrastructures seem fragile. The city is at once struggling and letting go of its hold on the environment. Five years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still a feeling of vulnerability and grief. We felt that the people we met were engaged stewards of their sacred places in this historic city.

During our visit to the Voodoo Spiritual Temple, Priestess Miriam said to me, that like her -- I too was a "Floater." We had come to America from faraway lands, me from Ireland and she, via her ancestors in Africa. We found commonality -- what better city for a Floater to find a home, than one who is awash in the waters of a great delta? The Voodoo religion is strong in New Orleans simply because -- like the city, there is something for everyone -- all mixed together like sacred gumbo. No matter what your background, we hope that you find solace and peace in the spaces we suggest in our guide.

Many of the spaces are linked together by one of the main arteries defining the Crescent City: St. Charles Avenue. Winding from the Central Business District and Canal Street through the Garden District, and Uptown, the avenue is lined with a stately parade of sacred spaces. They are connected via our secular selection -- The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar. With the spaces threaded together by the stops on this line, you can use this mobile sacred space as a method to travel. Relax, enjoy and watch out for your stop. This will be the tour of a lifetime.

Deirdre Colgan
Executive Director, Sacred Space International
Chicago, 2010

St. Charles Ave. Streetcar (Credit: Alex Ratliff)

St. Charles Ave. Streetcar (Credit: Alex Ratliff)

Download the New Orleans Sacred Spaces Guide
The guide includes maps and three suggested tour routes. The following Sacred Spaces are featured:
• Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France
• Christ Church Cathedral
• The Church of the Immaculate Conception
• Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity
• Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
• New Orleans Zen Temple
• Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church
• St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church
• St. Charles Avenue Streetcar
• Temple Sinai
• Touro Synagogue
• Voodoo Spiritual Temple

Download the New Orleans guide here (PDF).

Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in New Orleans. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call, or leave us a comment below.

About Sacred Space International
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. Morgan, a retired architect with expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent climate of social tension, cultural misunderstanding and fear. She conceived the idea of religious architecture as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and education. Without promoting any single faith or tradition, the organization seeks to use the common language of architecture as an educational means to foster reciprocal respect, awareness and appreciation of the different traditions that comprise our pluralistic society.

Visit Sacred Space International's website for more information.


blog comments powered by Disqus


Major funding for God in America provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John E. Fetzer Institute, Inc.  Additional funding provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. God in America is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
The Pew Charitable TrustsFetzer InstituteThe Arthur Vining Davis FoundationsWGBH
Exclusive corporate funding for American Experience provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance.  Major funding provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Major funding for FRONTLINE provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  Additional funding provided by the Park Foundation.  God in America, FRONTLINE and American Experience are made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television viewers.
Liberty MutualAlfred P. Sloan FoundationMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationThe Corporation for Public BroadcastingPBS

Published October 11, 2010

FRONTLINE and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE are registered trademarks of WGBH Educational Foundation
Privacy Policy   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2012 WGBH Educational Foundation