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Archdiocese to pressure-wash Marie Laveau's tomb, may cause greater damage

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Some are calling it desecration - others are referring to it as a misguided act of good intentions, but my grandma taught me not to take, break, or alter in any way the things that do not belong to me - - - - a lesson that the vandal of Marie Laveau's tomb should have been taught.

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Just recently, the iconic tomb of "voodoo queen" Marie Laveau, located at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 just outside the French Quarter, was painted pink. What's worse is that the vandal's choice of paints was a latex based one which prevents the materials of the tomb from breathing, causing further damage to the structure already fighting the destructive forces of time and weather.

Created in the early 1970's as a response to the Archdiocese's plans to eradicate the wall vaults surrounding St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 and erecting a chain-link fence in its place, Save Our Cemeteries works to preserve, protect, and promote the historic cemeteries of New Orleans. Save Our Cemeteries, a small nonprofit, raises the funds for its programs and services via donations as well as operating the cemetery tour program.

Since butting heads in 1974, the Archdiocese has become a partner with Save Our Cemeteries, so to speak, in the efforts to preserve and protect the cemeteries, however, they have refused Save Our Cemeteries' offer to remove the paint from Laveau's tomb at no cost to the Archdiocese.

According to Save Our Cemeteries, this very morning the Archdiocese had planned to use a pressure-washer to remove the paint - this process alone can damage the soft brick and fragile marble, but they further plan to then paint the tomb rather than using lime-wash, the process which creates a protective covering of the historic materials.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was founded in 1789 and is the oldest existing cemetery in New Orleans. This cemetery and its tombs are an integral part of the city's history and is deserving of gentle care and earnest respect. Careless shortcuts in "restoration" like pressure-washing and regular painting not only set back preservation efforts, but literally do more harm than good.

Unable to reach the Archdiocese of New Orleans by phone for comment, the office will not return from their holiday break until tomorrow, Friday, January 3.

In the meantime, to learn more about the Save Our Cemeteries organization and how you can help either via donation, volunteering, or membership please visit their website by clicking here.

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