Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grave Houses

Today is Mardi Gras. A fun filled day of celebration and excess that is observed in many Southern regions of the United States. But most especially Louisiana.
So today, we will travel to Louisiana to visit a very special cemetery. One that has only a few unique burial structures left. And the ones that remain are a mystery as to why they were built.

The structures are called Grave Houses and they can be found in Istre Cemetery which is located in Mermentau Cove, Louisiana - Cajun Country. There is evidence to show that there were once hundreds of grave houses erected in this part of Cajun Louisiana but today only three remain. 

A Grave House is a small house which is built over the tomb of the deceased. These structures were actual little houses with walls and working windows and doors. Grave Houses are not to be confused with Grave Shelters which are simply four posts and a roof erected over an inground burial. 

Grave Houses can be found in cultures throughout the world - the Ukraine, the islands of Indonesia. and the Native Peoples of the Americas - but they are not a common burial practice. How the Cajun people came to build them is a mystery. The three remaining Grave Houses date back to the early 1900s and no one is left alive that may know the answer to the mystery.

To read more about Grave Houses, Click Here!  
Or to visit the website for the documentary film made about Grave Houses, Click Here!

** Special Note**  Grave Houses can also be found in other Southern regions of the United States. Though they are scarce and usually in a very bad state of disrepair. Some people are dedicating their time to finding and documenting the few remaining Grave Houses. Click here to read more!


Aine said...

Wow, I have never heard of grave houses - fascinating!

Wendy said...

I love altars and dedications to the ancestors. These are fantastic, Jeanne...I'm going to have to do some more research on them. Happy Fat Tuesday :)

Heathen said...

Very cool! I had no idea such a thing even existed.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Rue said...

This is SO interesting! The interior shot is neat. I wonder if this was merely a way for people to mourn in private, or visit their ancestors without being exposed to the elements or prying eyes.

~*Gypsy*~ said...

SOOO interesting! I can't believe I wasn't already subscribed to your blog. >.<

debbieluttrell said...

Down in the Ozarks, in Kaiser,Missouri, there is a family plot. My great-great grandfather built a house over my great-great grandmother's grave. When he died, my great-grandfather inherited the maintenance of it, as well as the upkeep on the cemetery. Every few years the house would get a new roof, and once a week until he died at the age of ninety-seven, my great-grandfather would walk the five miles from his home to the cemetery, pushing a mower, mow the entire plot, and push the mower back home. I haven't been there since I was a teen, but if I ever get the chance to look for it, I will know the cemetery by that little house. It was built to last, and unless vandals have destroyed it, I'm sure it's still there. My great-grandfather's acreage was sold off eventually by my grandmother and her sister, and I have no idea if anyone in the family still lives around there. The roads were still dirt than, and no one knew where Kaiser was other than locals. On the road where my great-grandfather lived, there were three homes. His, the cabin across the road and to the west a bit, where my father was raised, and the one at the end of the road, where my great-grandparents on my paternal grandfather's side live. When my grandmother met my grandfather, they had the only two homes on the road, so when they grew up and married, they built the cabin in between their childhood homes. I should write a blog of my own about this.

Jeanne said...

Debbie, that is so cool! What a wonderful bit of family history. ♥ You really ought to blog about it!!
Do you have any idea why he built the house over her grave?