Small Town Churches

When I first began my historic church column, I fell in love with the people, history and that unique presence that lives inside these heavenly havens. I’ll never forget my first assignment hauling all kinds of gear including my recorder, camera bag, tripod and notebook. It was the beginning of a new calling, a passion that continues to grow.

As I sat down to write that first article, I studied the photographs and listened closely to the recording. The words began to flow devoted to the language of art, architecture and the generations who built these lordly monuments.

I returned with several copies of the magazine and they were overwhelmed with appreciation. One prominent member of the church took me to the side, holding the magazine close to her chest, she said, “Ms. Burst you have found your ministry, God has given you a gift.”

That was 12 years ago and I have honored that ministry with a long list of articles and two books. I continue my quest to share more of Louisiana churches in my Louisiana’s Sacred Places series of books. I’m currently researching churches for my next book due out 2016. If you would like to recommend a church, please leave a comment below.

Until then, enjoy this post as I share some of my favorite churches across the Louisiana back roads and towns along the way.

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St Martin de Tours church, St. Martinville, LA


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St Martin de Tours church altar, St. Martinville, LA


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Our Lady of Peace Meditation Chapel, Columbia, LA.


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Our Lady of Peace Meditation Chapel interior, Columbia, LA

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Old country church on backroads of Pointe Coupee Parish, LA


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United Methodist nave, Jackson, LA


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United Methodist upstairs pew window, Jackson, LA


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Lourdes chapel, Lacombe, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St Francis Church, River Road near New Roads, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St Francis Church interior, River Road near New Roads, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St. Stephens, Innis, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website.


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St. Stephens interior, Innis, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places. Autographed books available via this website


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Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans. Autographed books available via this website


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Christ Episcopal Church pews, Covington, LA. Church and history featured in my book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans. Autographed books available via this website


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Trinity Lutheran, Abita Springs, LA


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Trinity Lutheran church altar, Abita Springs, LA


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Clinton Baptist church, Clinton, LA


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Covington Presbyterian Church, Covington, LA


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Church on the bayou, Gibson, LA


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Interior of church on the bayou, Gibson, LA


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Natchitoches Hwy 119 church, LA


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Mount Olivet Episcopal Church, Algiers, New Orleans, LA


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Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church, Morgan City, LA

Louisiana cemeteries that leave you dying for more…

Louisiana enjoys a melange of cultures and customs blurring the lines between the sacred and the profane. It is here you will find Louisiana’s cities of the dead, tombs shrouded with weeping oaks and the Creole tradition of lighting the graves. Each with its own personality, from the ornate to the Gothic, these photos are a fitting tribute to a soulful state that celebrates death with the same joyous zeal as they celebrate life. New Orleans cemeteries are available for tours and most country cemeteries are open from dawn to dusk.

Unlike other sites, these pictures are part of my ongoing work in documenting the beauty of Louisiana’s historic cemeteries. I’m a Louisiana local, a professional writer and photographer, and all the photos are originals and copyrighted.*

1. St. Louis No. 1, New Orleans

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 Just outside the French Quarter, ghastly but poignant neighbors share common grounds with New Orleans trailblazers, politicians, and Voodoo queens.

2. St. Louis No. 3, New Orleans

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       Here amid an oncoming cool front, storm clouds funnel a soft glow across a row of tombs inside St. Louis No. 3 cemetery

3. St. Roch Cemetery, New Orleans

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People still believe in the miracles of St. Roch which is evidenced inside a small room on the right-hand side of the St. Roch chapel altar.  In what appears to be a ghastly torture chamber is in fact a collage of heart-felt stories that give thanks to St. Roch for healing minds, bodies and souls.

4. Holt Cemetery, New Orleans

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Not far from City Park, tucked away behind a college parking lot, Holt Cemetery is New Orleans’ only underground graveyard.

5. Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery, New Orleans

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One of the more prominent cemeteries in New Orleans, Metairie Lake Lawn Cemetery is known for its elaborate stained glass windows.

6. Night of the Dead, Lacombe Cemeteries

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The lighting of the cemeteries, an All Saints Day tradition shard by Creole families, descended from Early Native American, African American and French settlers.

7. Covington Cemetery

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Resurrection vines crawl across the sprawling oak branches paying tribute to the pioneers and heroes who founded and built the historic town of Covington.

8. Madisonville Cemetery, Madisonville

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A courageous group of locals have restored this 200-plus-year cemetery along the banks of the Techfuncte River in Madisonville. There are many stories of hauntings including a mother looking for her children after the entire family drown when their car plunged into the river.

9. Grace Church, St. Francisville

st F wide treesShadows of the past come alive inside a ghoulish art exhibit shrouded by weeping strands of moss and poetic epitaphs of beloved children, prominent aristocrats and fallen war heroes.

10. Jewish Cemetery, Hwy 10 near Clinton

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Past the stoic wrought iron fence under a deep perimeter of towering pines and oaks, marble and granite monuments lay claim to many Jewish souls. Among them, were early cotton merchants that helped build Clinton’s commercial and cultural life in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

11. Clinton Confederate Cemetery, Clinton

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The town of Clinton in East Feliciana Parish owns a rich history of cemeteries and home to Confederate heroes inside the Clifton Confederate Cemetery.

12. Port Hudson National Cemetery, Zachary

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The Port Hudson Cemetery is a national cemetery that began as a resting place for both Union and Confederate soldiers that died during the siege of Port Hudson. Burials began in 1863, and today the cemetery is at capacity home to 13,000 former members of the US Military and their spouses.

13. St. Stephens Episcopal Church Cemetery, Innis 

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Located behind St. Stephens Church, built in a Gothic Revival architecture, both the church and cemetery were consecrated in 1859. The grounds is located along HWY 418 a country road skirting the Mississippi River where every turn is a history lesson.

14. St. Francis Chapel cemetery, New Roads

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St. Francis was the first church in the region and began the move to Christianity in 1728, the church was built ten years later.

15. Holy Rosary Cemetery, Larose

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Don’t be turned away by rainy days when shooting cemeteries, this beauty was found after taking a u-turn looking for another cemetery. Right after parking, the rain stopped and nature provided a fitting reflection for the eternal abodes.

16. Southdown Cemetery, Houma

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Both a sobering and eloquent display, Southdown Cemetery is home to children’s graves filled with their favorite toys. This picture was taken against a brutal sky from a wicked line of thunderstorms. Not a drop fell during the photo shoot, perhaps the children loved the attention and willed away the encroaching storms.

17. St. Mary Cemetery, Raceland

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Raised brick tombs of this design were built for families accommodating 2-12 burials above the ground. Most brick tombs were plastered, but in this case it appears the tombs are struggling with decay. The dates are in the 1870s.

18. Young Family Cemetery, Zachary

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Along a winding country road, the Young Family Cemetery was first used to bury the children of James Young with land donated in 1874. The grounds were thick with chestnuts and filled with squirrels scampering across the tombstones.

 19. Morgan City Cemetery, Morgan City

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The Morgan City Cemetery is a stunning example of different cultures that have come together in the after-life. It is also home to the gravesite of Ada Bonner Leboeuf, the first woman to hang in Louisiana in 1929, a crime even today is still being researched. Could her spirit still be lingering among the weeping moss?

20. Old Jackson Cemetery, Jackson

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 In the historic town of Jackson, Louisiana, the Old Jackson Cemetery is home to Confederate War heroes. The cemetery is open for viewing from dawn to dusk and the town is filled with many nationally recognized historic buildings and churches.

*The prose and many of the pictures in this post are from my book Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo. Print and ebook are available on Amazon or order autographed copies via this website.

Charming Charleston

Charming Charleston

Historic churches and cemeteries around every corner

By Deborah Burst

Looking out my 12-story corner suite in the heart of downtown Charleston, a perfect rainbow stretches from the bay to the sea forming a halo above this sacred city. It was truly a magical moment and a sign of things to come with churches and cemeteries around every corner.

Much like New Orleans, Charleston is a walking town, and offers a complimentary trolley car that tours the downtown district. Another plus is the historic Francis Marion Hotel conveniently located downtown with panoramic views of the city. The historic décor fits perfectly with your stay and everyone from the bellhops to the concierge, are all eager to please. Be sure to get a trolley guide with the churches, historic homes and museums mapped out with locations and names.

Our first stop was the Circular Congregational Church, one of the oldest continuously worshipping congregations in the south. Located at the corner of Meeting and Queen Street, our stroll along the sidewalk came to an abrupt stop. Worn headstones stand at attention just beyond the black fencing bordering the sidewalk. I look up and stare in awe, like a castle from medieval times the church rises from a garden of tombstones shaded by oak, cedar and palm trees. Stout squirrels scurry about perching themselves on top of faded stones stained with years of wear. It’s a forever home for a faithful congregation, one that began in 1681, and the oldest burial ground in the city with graves from the 18th century. The oldest is a brick grave structure from 1685 that holds the Simonds family on the south side of the property.

As I examine the intricate detail, my senses are heightened with the sweet aroma of blooming ligustrum and the damp air growing stronger with an encroaching storm. It is here inside this gothic graveyard that the dead continue their story. The funerary architecture brings to life the religious and artistic history of a young and struggling colony. Slates of the Peronneau family offer a storyboard of death in colonial America, from the skull and crossbones to the skull with wings, then portrait busts from primitive to classical. According to the church’s website, the cemetery has endured many hardships with a fire, earthquake, vandalism and even a cannonball from the British during Sunday services in 1780. Recently restored by the Historic Charleston Foundation, it is a stunning portrait of southern art.

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A telling video on their website paints an eloquent story of a strong-willed congregation that loaned the Continental Congress 17,000 pounds toward the revolution and freedom of America. In 1804 the circular church was built to accommodate its 2,000 members including black & white, slave and free. Today’s church grew from the ashes of a fire in 1861 and welcomes people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds promoting racial progress, gender equality, economic justice, environmental stewardship and support for public education.

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Inside the church arched beams flow from the curved ceiling in a web across the sanctuary. The curved pews gather around a simplistic altar dressed in solid wood and a Celtic cross. Narrow stained glass windows follow the curved walls while the organ resides in the loft. It is a masterpiece, perhaps the only highly decorated piece in the entire church. The brass pipes are painted with olive and cinnamon colored designs encased by amber wood. It is an exceptional tracker organ built for a church in Boston in 1890 then moved and restored in 1987.

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As we exited the church, a deafening clap of thunder greeted our journey back to the hotel. The heavens seemed to christen us in our most sacred discovery. I caressed my camera under a small umbrella while my husband and I scurried from one shop to another for temporary shelter.

Our salvation was Nick’s BBQ restaurant, the original Nicks as they have franchised across the south. We toasted our trail with local craft beer and pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches. As we walked back to the hotel, the sky began to clear and then the rainbow. It was a sign, a sign of redemption, and the beginning of many more tales of Charleston churches and cemeteries.

Side bar

Francis Marion Hotel, 843-722-0600,

Circular Congregational Church, 843-577-6400,

Charleston Visitor Center, 800-774-0006,

Nick’s Original BBQ restaurant, 843-577-0406,

Deborah will continue her journey sharing the beauty of Charleston’s sacred places in the next several issues of Louisiana Road Trips. Learn more about Deb’s latest projects and her current book, “Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo,” in this month’s author highlight. Order print and eBook via Amazon or signed copies from