The community in which our current RV park is located was first settled in 1722 and named Baron after one of those first settlers, Canadian Pierre Baron, who remained here until 1739. In the late 18th Century it was renamed St. Michel. In gratitude for the Sacred Heart Convent opening in 1825, the name was changed to Convent.
St. James Parish is located midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on the Mississippi River. The original settlers carved this parish from a wilderness on both banks of the river. It is one of the state’s nineteen original parishes, created by an act of the Orleans Territorial Legislature on March 31, 1807. The original seat of government was the community of St. James on the west bank of the Mississippi, but this was moved in 1869 to Convent, on the east bank, where we are located.
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church was built in 1809, and is located within walking distance of the Sphinx. It’s hand carved altar is from the 1889 Paris World’s Fair.
Behind the altar of St. Michael
is the Lourdes Grotto. Since 1876, Catholics have come to the grotto to pray and leave personal items when their prayers are answered. The grotto is unique because its altar is made of shells collected from the Mississippi River. The “rocks” which make up the Lourdes Grotto are actually bagasse. Bagasse is a product of the sugar-making process, which is an important industry in the area.
Artistic representations of the Lamb of God are common in Catholic churches (of course I know this because I am Jewish). But, the lamb above the altar in St. Michael is different. It looks like it’s looking at you. All the time. No matter where you walk in the church.
The graveyard of the Church was begun in 1827,
however the locals had already used this area for burying their dead 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, these old graves made of brick have deteriorated.
This sign makes note of this:
“Drove my Sphinx to the levee, but the levee was dry.” We hiked up to the levee of the Mississippi River, opposite our campsite.
At this point on the river, cargo from ships are transferred to barges for further travel on the river. Today a Russian cargo ship was unloading pot ash to the barges.
We are on the east bank of the River,
so we saw the sun set in the west.
Technical Stuff: Ponchatoula, La. to Convent, La: 70.7 miles