Road trip: St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery lives up to the hype

Little cajun cemetery offers beauty, peace

I've been hearing about St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery in the tiny Cajun hamlet of Grand Coteau for years, with a buddy constantly telling me I needed to be there for a sunrise. Finally, going stir crazy being confined to our home, my wife and I loaded up and left our home at 4:30 a.m. in late April. 

And St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery did not disappoint.

My buddy told me the real payoff would be the sun rising behind a large crucifix standing in the old Jesuit portion of St. Borromeo, with the first light of day pouring through the Spanish moss of a nearby live oak tree.

That's exactly where I set up, using the arching branches of the oak tree to frame the scene. When the rising sun burst over the horizon, it threw rays of light across the old graves and a wrought iron fence, with the crucifix standing above the trees.  It was just marvelous.

And the resulting photo really captures the drama of the moment.

However, there is more to the cemetery than this one photo. Graves date to the 19th century, with tombstones documenting the ancestors of this quiet Acadiana village. This cemetery remains in use, with former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco being interred there.

Great Cajun names like Boudreau, Boudreaux (yes, those are different names), Angelle, Benoit, Babineaux, Etienne, Quebedeaux and Thibodeaux (of course) were etched on tombstones, and it was apparent descendants continued to care for many of the grave sites generations later. Flowers decorated tombstones that were sometimes more than a century old. 

So I wandered the old section, looking for other scenes that would capture the sense of peace found at this wonderful cemetery. 

I took several, but the one that really spoke to me was the last frame I shot. I looked over my shoulder while walking back to the truck and saw a group of concrete crosses against the backdrop of Spanish moss and sweeping oak tree branches. 

I stopped, switched to a longer lens to compress the scene and shot a photo (below) that I simply love. It encapsulates the atmosphere of life and death found at St. Borromeo Cemetery.