The doors were designed with geometric patterns typical of Moorish architecture. They weigh 1,500 pounds each.
Statue of St. Patrick
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. At the age of 16, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders who raided his village. He escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul where he studied in a monastery. During his training, he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity. St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity.
Statues of St. Peter and St. Anthony
St. Anthony’s statue guards the poor box. This box often reflects the good fortune of racetrack devotees. St. Anthony is also the saint to whom we pray in order to find lost articles.
St. Peter is made of bronze and is a replica of the statue in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The statue’s foot is worn down because of the devotions of many who wish to touch it. The same is true of the statue in Rome.
Holy Water Fonts
The four angels holding the bowls of Holy Water were installed in 1933. Their facial features were modeled after the family members of Father Facundus G. Carbajal, S.J., who was pastor at the time.
When baptized we become members of Christ’s Body and are adopted children of God. Every time we enter the church, we bless ourselves with the Holy Water and make the sign of the Cross, the sign of our salvation, a renewal of our baptismal promise to the Lord. Notice the mosaic icons. The three-leaf clover represents the Trinity, the butterfly represents new life and the perpetual flame represents eternal life with God.
The columns have the same geometric shapes as the bronze doors. The bottom half of the columns have eight angels. One is of the Archangel Michael. The name Michael means “Who is like God.” This was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy. The other seven are guardian angels of the Church, as presented by St. John in the Book of Revelation.
The two mosaic shrines, which were made in Italy in 1930 at a cost of $5,000 each, are of our Heavenly Queen, Mary. One recalls the devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Jesus is represented here as preoccupied even from his youngest days with the price he would one day pay in his Passion. He runs to Mary for comfort.
The second mosaic represents Our Lady of Prompt Succor. History notes two miraculous interventions by Mary in the city of New Orleans. The first was to save the old Ursuline Convent from a fire that damaged much of the city in 1788. The second was a successful plea on behalf of the Americans soldiers who were preparing to fight the British during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
The pews are of cast iron, adorned with eight artistic designs symbolic of the scriptural references to Our Blessed Lady: the Morning Star, House of Gold, Gate of Heaven, the Tree of Life, Lily Among Thorns, and Ark of the Covenant.
Stained Glass Windows
There are three levels of windows, the most ornate and valuable being on the first floor. The first level windows in the body of the church represent various scenes and events in the early history of the Society of Jesus. Included in the work are the North American Martyrs. These windows were crafted in Le Mans, France.
The balcony level depicts images and symbols of 36 saints. A veritable litany of well-known and not so well known saints adorns the balcony level. These were also crafted in Le Mans, France.
The third level of stained glass windows is composed mostly geometric shapes, except for the six above Mary’s niche. These latter windows represent the Blessed Virgin and her place in salvation history.
The first displays the Annunciation of Mary: the angel announced to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Redeemer. The second portrays the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. But above that sad scene is the representation of Mary crushing the head of a serpent. The next is of the Assumption of Mary’s Body into Heaven without going through the process of bodily decay. Then we have Mary being crowned as Queen of Heaven. The fifth and sixth are of Mary at the foot of her Son’s cross.
Eight Jesuit Saints
Over the exit doors up by the altar, there are two small windows over each door. They are four of the Jesuits who are in the group of North American Martyrs. The remaining four are up in the choir loft below the large crucifix. The presence of these North American Martyrs in this configuration of embracing all other Jesuit saints is significant because of their martyrdom on this continent.
Mary’s statue is solid marble. She was hand carved by Denis Foyatier, who carved it for the last queen of France, Marie Amelie. The statue of Mary stands in the serene simplicity like a mother beckoning her children to come closer and to be in peace. The statue is bathed in light with a beautiful gold background.
Statues of the Apostles and Evangelists
High above the sanctuary there are six statues. The two greatest Apostles, Peter and Paul, are flanked on each side by the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The height of the dome is one hundred and eight feet.
Statues of Four Saints Under Mary’s Niche
On either side of Our Lady are four statues represented four great saints of the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius –founder of the order of the Society of Jesus; St. Aloysius – patron of youth, devoted to the care of the sick; St. Stanislaus – model and mirror of religious perfection; and St. Francis Xavier – great missionary to India and Japan.
The High Altar
This original high altar was built in 1867 of gilded bronze and won first prize in the Paris Exposition of 1867. The altar was designed by James Freret of New Orleans, but was constructed in Lyons, France. There are more than 600 pieces to it. The Moorish domes on top of the altar as well as the miter-shaped arches all harmonize perfectly with the architecture of the entire building.
Altar of Sacrifice
A very recent addition is the smaller marble altar on which Mass is offered. The hand-carved design on the front of this smaller altar suggests the elements of the Holy Sacrifice: wheat, bread, grapes, and wine – all symbols of the Eucharist.
Stations of the Cross
While current church law establishes at 14 the number of Stations of the Cross, history demonstrates that there has been a variety of practices and scenes associated with this devotion throughout the ages. Our church contains 18 Stations of the Cross, 16 dating to the 1850’s and belonging to the original church and two additional stations added during the 1929 construction. These additional stations include the Agony in the Garden and the Crowning with Thorns at the start and the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension at the end.
Under the first Station of the Cross is a very large window depicting the Lord’s revelation of His Sacred heart on fire to the French Visitation nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Present also in the scene are Saint Claude de la Colombière, her Jesuit confessor, Pope Clement XIII, who approved the devotion, and Mary represented as the Immaculate Heart. This window dates to 1903.
Under the final Station of the Cross is a window of Joseph on his deathbed with Jesus kneeling on one side and Mary on the other. Also present is Joseph’s guardian angel. This window also dates to 1903.
There are three round windows right behind the gold altar, all of a Eucharistic theme. The center window portrays the resurrected Lord breaking bread with the two disciples at Emmaus. On the right is the Old Testament priest Melchizedek offering a sacrifice and on the left is depicted the animal sacrifice of Abraham, offered after the angel saved his son Lot from death.
At the entrance to the church, over the center doors, is an exquisite round window. This window, with semi-precious jewels embedded in it, depicts the face of Mary.
High over the choir loft is a rose window with the face of Our Lord. The sun-like rays of the window have various symbols of both the Lord and His Mother.
Zachary Taylor Bell
The bell, now located in the alley on the Canal Street side of the church, was cast in New York in 1849 and presented to Zachary Taylor while he was President. In 1887 President Taylor’s granddaughters presented the bell to the Jesuit Church.
The majestic beauty of this church, coupled with the presence of the Lord and His Mother, lifts up everyone who enters. Here, the words of Our Savior are brought to fulfillment: “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you”. (Matthew: 11:28)