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I heard someone bombed St. Louis Cathedral in the 1900s. Who and why?

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All


Hey Blake,

I heard someone bombed St. Louis Cathedral in the 1900s. Who and why?


Dear Charles,

  That beautiful and historic building definitely has withstood the test of time and remained a symbol of this city for more than 220 years. The dark day in its history that you reference happened on Sunday, April 25, 1909.

  "The magnificent St. Louis Cathedral, known the world over as one of the historic churches ... was damaged by an explosion yesterday afternoon," The Times-Picayune reported the next day. "The work seems to be that of some villain or scoundrels only half familiar with nitroglycerin or dynamite."

  According to reports, a baby had just been baptized and another was about to be christened, but there was only a handful of people inside the cathedral when the bomb went off about 2:30 p.m. Although no one was hurt, the explosion caused significant damage and rattled the building and people's nerves.

  "The explosion ... startled the neighborhood and soon had thousands dash- ing towards the edifice," the T-P reported. "As the news spread, thousands more — men, women and children — began their trip to the scene. ... Everyone wanted to get within the Cathedral to see the ruin wrought by the explosion."

  Reporter Podine Schoenberger wrote about the incident in 1935 as repairs to the cathedral were finished. She quoted Bishop John Laval, the rector of the cathedral at the time of the attack, who said, "It was enough to make a man almost sick to see what had been done. The organ was ruined, the stained glass windows shattered, some of the fine paintings partially demolished."

  Two men, both Italian immigrants, were arrested for the bombing, but the charges were dropped. The true identity of the culprits, as well as their motive, remains a mystery.

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