Blake Pontchartrain: The stories of the Sainte-Trinité and Notre-Dame de La Vang churches | Blake Pontchartrain | Weekly Gambit

Hi Blake,

What can you tell me about the history of two separate churches on Robert E. Lee Boulevard: the Greek Church near Bayou St. John and the Vietnamese Church closer to the Champs Elysées?

Dear reader,

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, established in New Orleans in 1864, was the first Greek Orthodox church in North and South America.

New Orleans’ Greek community dates back to the mid-1700s. According to the cathedral’s website, the first Greek Orthodox religious services held here were held in 1864 at the Bayou Road home of businessman Nicholas Benachi. He later sold property on North Dorgenois Street in Treme to the church. Thanks to donations from other devotees, the first local Greek church was built there.

This original Church of the Holy Trinity (which later added a school, parish house, library and cemetery) was replaced by a brick cathedral in 1950. In 1976 a much larger cathedral was built in the 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Each Memorial Day weekend, the church and its Hellenic Cultural Center are the sites of the popular Greek Festival.

Thanh Nguyen carries an umbrella as they parade around Our Lady of La Vang Church in a ceremony honoring the Blessed Virgin.

Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Church in Robert E. Lee’s 2100 block was dedicated in 1992. It is located on the former site of Our Savior Lutheran Church. The Catholic church was founded as one of five mission churches of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in East New Orleans.

According to The Times-Picayune, the lakeside church is named after a reported 1798 apparition of the Holy Mother to persecuted Catholics in the Vietnamese town of La Vang. The site has become a major Catholic shrine in Vietnam, and many Vietnamese communities outside the country continue to commemorate the event.

The church has a large outdoor sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang. Every May, a festival includes a procession through the neighborhood and a ceremony featuring elaborate Vietnamese dances.

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