Monday, January 5, 1998
The city of New Orleans receives an average of 59.74 inches of rainfall each year, and considering the amount we have seen in just two days, they should meet their quota early this year. A relentless rain, common to New Orleans, put a bit of a damper on this Iowa crew's plans for filming today.
The city itself is situated on a drained swamp and is the only major American city below sea level--up to six feet in some areas. The city has quite an amazing drainage system that involves thousands of miles of underground pipes and a series of 16-foot, screw-type pumps. The system was designed by Baldwin Wood, and the city's pumps, still the most powerful in the United States, are actually prototypes once used to drain the area known as Zuider Zee to reclaim a great deal of the Netherlands.
Despite efforts to keep the city from falling into its previous swamp-like state, a little rainwater still hangs around for a long time in these parts. Not only does this create some interesting challenges for New Orleanians, it makes for some unusual burial practices as well.
The cemeteries here in New Orleans are known as the Cities of the Dead. And that's exactly what they look like. The 42 cemeteries scattered throughout the city are brilliantly designed, above-ground tombs that give the appearance of small buildings lining city streets. Even the earliest inhabitants of the flamboyant city could scarcely stand the thought of their loved ones in swampy, water-soaked graves. The honor of their dead being of great importance, most decided to shelter coffins in elaborate, elevated shrines of fine stone and marble.
The architecture of the entire world can be found in miniature in these wondrous cemeteries. The most renown is the grand Metairie Cemetery. It's fame is attributed, in part, to the fact that many famous and wealthy New Orleanians are buried there. It is even more widely known for the grand stories attached to some of the monuments.
The tale most often told is that of Mrs. Daniel Moriarty's great monument. Having never been able to break into the closed upper-society found in New Orleans during her lifetime, Mrs. Moriarty's husband commissioned the creation of a monument 85-feet tall. In this way, she would forever look down on the very people that once snubbed her.
It is often referred to as the monument of the four Graces: Faith, Hope, Charity, and Mrs. Moriarty. The humor in the story is that there are, of course, only the three Graces. Mr. Moriarty originally requested that four life-size statues of each of the Graces be included as part of the monument. Apparently, Mr. Moriarty would not change his mind about the design of the monument after being informed there were only three. The monument is thought to be the tallest privately owned monument anywhere in the United States.
Where exactly do the three graces fit into Greek mythology and who was their father? What famous Baroque artist painted them?
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