The Presbytere

Located on Jackson Square directly next door to St. Louis Cathedral, The Presbytère is not only one of New Orleans’ most striking structures, it’s a building of great historical importance, too. The Presbytère has served a number of purposes over the course of the past 200 years, and today it’s a part of the Louisiana State Museum family of attractions. As a museum, it’s defined by two primary exhibits: one on the history of Mardi Gras, the other on Hurricane Katrina.

Money Saving Tip! The Presbytere is included on the Go New Orleans Pass as well as the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass. If you are sightseeing in New Orleans, then you can save a lot of money with a pass.

The Presbytere History

The Presbytère takes its name from the fact that it was constructed on the site of what was once a residence for monks. When this religious building was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788, the architect Gilberto Guillemard decided to place two matching structures on either side of his majestic St. Louis Cathedral. These matching structures would become the landmarks we know today as The Cabildo and The Presbytère.

The Presbytère was a commercial property until 1834, when it became a courthouse. It would remain in this role for over 75 years, until the Louisiana State Museum took over control of the site in the early twentieth century. The Presbytère was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. It has undergone several major renovations throughout the decades, but still looks largely as it did when it was built approximately 230 years ago.

What’s at The Presbytere

When you get right down to it, part of the appeal of visiting an attraction like The Presbytère is the history of the site itself. Many consider The Presbytère to be one of the most significant pieces of Spanish colonial architecture found anywhere in the United States. First-time visitors here will want to pay particular attention to the extraordinary artistic details built into The Presbytère’s elliptical arches and gabled pediments.

Architectural interests aside, as a museum The Presbytère is defined by two permanent exhibits. Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana is an exhibit that tells the remarkable story of how much this unique festival means to the greater New Orleans community. You’ll find throughout its galleries an amazing selection of costumes, parade floats, photographs, musical artifacts, and more.

The Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond is The Presbytère’s other notable exhibit. It paints a powerful portrait of a city that has come face to face with disaster and valiantly moved forward in the wake of tragedy. This moving exhibit pays tribute to those lost during Hurricane Katrina while shedding light on how New Orleans has fought to rebuild itself in the past few years.

Visitors wanting to pick up a souvenir from their time in The Presbytère and around Jackson Square will want to walk a half-block down St. Ann Street to 1850 House, where they’ll encounter the 1850 House Museum Store. The official store of the Louisiana State Museum, this charming shop has New Orleans-related apparel, gifts, books, jewelry, and more.

Tips for Visiting The Presbytere

  • The Presbytère frequently hosts smaller special exhibits. By their very nature, these special exhibits are subject to frequent change. Be sure to consult The Presbytère’s official website in advance of your visit for the latest information on all that might be showing when you’re scheduled to be in town.
  • Children under the age of six years old are always admitted free at The Presbytère.
  • Be sure and have your camera ready when you visit The Presbytère. Its Mardi Gras exhibit highlights some of the most colorful clothing you’re liable to ever come across, and you won’t want to miss the chance to snap a picture or two!