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Beauty in the Hereafter

Angel statue stands against the sky
Photo by Francesco Ungaro

A wrought iron fence dating back to the 1800s surrounds a cemetery, picturesque with towering oak trees draped intricately in Spanish moss. Grace Episcopal Church and Cemetery is found in St. Francisville, a quaint town in southern Louisiana, and one of the state’s oldest protestant churches. If you meander through the 9-acre cemetery, countless gravestones, statues, and a few mausoleums date back to when the church and cemetery were first created in 1827.

Grace Episcopal Church holds both Union and Confederate officers buried together from the Civil War. Every year in June, residents from St. Francisville reenact a moment the locals call “The Day the War Stopped,” celebrating the day when a Freemason from New York was granted permission to be buried with full Masonic honors by the southern Masons. One incredible detail, aside from the fact that both sides paused the fighting to bury an enemy, was that the New York Mason was the captain of the ship that had been targeting the same church he was buried in from the Mississippi River just a short distance away.

There is much to find and explore when you visit: read the well-kept tombstones, and marvel at the stone angels and apostles that guard those at rest. You may hear the organ player practicing, adding extra ethereal ambiance to your visit. If you’re into spooky experiences, there is a myth that suggests there are stairs leading down to an empty tomb, with a rumor that it was used by Confederates as a hideout on the grounds.

The town has more information available at the visitor center. If you’re looking for a scenic and leisurely place to stroll and admire architecture, nature, or a marriage of the two, I highly recommend stopping at Grace Episcopal Church and Cemetery. The grounds are open daily for visitors. Grace Church has weekday services offered on Wednesdays at 5:15 p.m. and two services on Sundays at 7:30 and 10 a.m.