The tallest monument in a historic New Orleans cemetery was prompted by romance and dash of pettiness.
Towering at a height of 80 feet, the storied Moriarty Monument is one of the most attention-grabbing memorials in Metairie Cemetery for its sheer size. Sited amid rows upon rows of extravagant tombs, this gravesite is the tallest in the cemetery. It was commissioned by Daniel A. Moriarty to honor his late wife—and to show up the community that coldly rejected him.
The story goes that Moriarty, a poor man, emigrated from Ireland to New Orleans in the mid-19th century. He met and married an older woman, Mary Farrell, with whom he forged a successful business and eventually enjoyed significant wealth. But as a non-native, Moriarty was disallowed from integrating into the city’s tight-knit circle of high-born movers and shakers.
When Mary Moriarty died in 1887, her husband sought a means of honoring her life. Come the turn of the century, he would have a grand memorial built in her honor, one which would also display the notable affluence that his old money peers had shunned.
The Moriarty Monument bears a colossal granite steeple crowned by a cross, with four life-sized statues at its base. According to local legend, Moriarty commissioned a sculptor to create the statues in the image of four virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, and Mary Moriarty. However, another theory suggests that the fourth statue represents the virtue of Memory.
The monument bears the name “Moriarty” in large capital letters, but the date of Mary’s death has been omitted due to her self-consciousness about how much older she was than her husband. Daniel Moriarty and his father are buried in Metairie Cemetery alongside her.
It’s no easy feat to compete with the magnificent mausoleums in Metairie Cemetery, a New Orleans cemetery built in 1872 on the site of a former horse racing track. With the largest assemblage of above-ground monuments and mausoleums in the city, Metairie Cemetery boasts a number of impressive tombs that create a small neighborhood of imposing buildings in various architectural styles, from an Egyptian pyramid to spectacular Neoclassical structures.
Know Before You Go
Metairie Cemetery is located on Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard. The cemetery is reachable by the Canal streetcar line and by car. Visitors can follow Louisiana Heritage Trail markers to find some of the cemetery’s most famous tombs and monuments. The cemetery gates close at 5 p.m.
A number of historic and cultural figures are buried at Metairie Cemetery, including senators and governors, musician Louis Prima, and the founder of Popeyes Fried Chicken, Al Copeland.
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