An enormous number of churches and other religious structures have been built in Louisiana over the past 250 years, many of which still stand. Today, in New Orleans alone, there are more than 850 churches representing more than seventy denominations. The state’s religious buildings encompass not only a wide range of faiths but also a striking diversity of architectural forms. In Religious Architecture in Louisiana, author Robert W. Heck and photographer Otis B. Wheeler provide the first photographic survey of this rich architectural heritage. Their goal has been not to document every religious building in the state (a nearly impossible task) but to isolate prime examples of the historically and architecturally significant.
Robert W. Heck presents a brief history of Louisiana’s religious architecture. He describes the dominating influence of Catholicism during the eighteenth century, during which time the original Church of St. Louis was built on the site of the present Cathedral of St. Louis, King of France, in New Orleans. He then discusses the burgeoning construction that accompanied the expansion of religious freedom following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 as Protestants and Jews erected their own places of worship. The author also considers the various architectural influences that have marked Louisiana’s religious buildings, from the Colonial style of the eighteenth century, to the Classical Revival and Gothic Revival styles that predominated during the middle part of the nineteenth century, to the Eclectic style that gained currency after the Civil War and persisted until about 1930.
The great part of the book is devoted to 162 religious buildings located throughout the state. In addition to presenting photographs of the structures, each place of worship is identified by name, address, date of construction (when known), and architectural style. For each building the author also provides comments on design, construction materials, and structural and decorative details. To enhance the usefulness of the book, a glossary of architectural terms and an appendix that lists those religious buildings in the state included in the National Register of Historic Places is included as well as another appendix that lists known early religious structures that are no longer standing.
Religious Architecture in Louisiana will prove a valuable resource for architects, religious congregations, historic preservationists, and religious and architectural historians.
Otis B. Wheeler is Professor Emeritus of English at Louisiana State University. He is the author of The Literary Career of Maurice Thompson.
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