October 14, 2013
Thank you, New Orleans City Council, for the clock, bell, and tower
I had the good fortune to spend this weekend in New Orleans celebrating a nephew's baptism. One of the highlights was a Sunday morning trip to the French Quarter, including wanderings around Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. At 7:45 a.m. some of the bars still had partiers from the night before, but most of the quarter was in clean-up mode getting ready for the new day. Everything really came to life in the Square around 8 a.m. (although not the performance artist in metallic makeup who was performing as a statue).
The cathedral is a beautiful church with a fascinating history,and it has provided a form of continuity to a plaza that has witnessed transition from French to Spanish to French to American rule. It should be no surprise to learn that the clock tower was put up before the Establishment Clause was held to be incorporated against the states, but it was surprising to me to learn that the city government paid for part of the Cathedral. According to the Cathedral's website, the City Council paid for the Cathedral's clock and bell, as well as for part of the tower holding them:
In 1819 a New Orleans clockmaker, Jean Delachaux, was authorized by the trustees to obtain a suitable clock to be placed in the facade of the Cathedral.
As this was a project of general civic interest, the City Council agreed to the expense of buying the clock and its bell and also to share in the cost of erecting a central tower to house them. Delachaux brought the clock and bell with him from Paris and Latrobe records in his journal an incident which occurred when he was about to place the clock's bell in the tower:
When the new bell was ready to be put into the tower, I wrote him (Pere Antoine) a letter in Latin to apprise him of the circumstance, in order that, if the rites of the Church required any notice of it, he might avail himself of the occasion and do what he thought necessary. He thanked me, and I had the bell brought within the Church. After High Mass, he arranged a procession to the bell and regularly baptized her by the name of Victoire, the name embossed upon her by the founder.
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