(The St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Oaks are located on the corner of Canal St. and 7th St. just a few blocks west of downtown Thibodaux. The oaks are best viewed from behind the cathedral, on President Street.)
The group of oaks at the rear of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral was planted in the 1920s, near the time the building was constructed to replace the old St. Joseph Church that had been destroyed by fire in 1916. The oaks here are less notable for their age than for the structure they surround. And like all Catholic churches across South Louisiana, it has been a focal point of local history in this predominantly Catholic region.
As the French Acadians, Spanish, and Canary Islanders settled along Bayou Lafourche in the 1700 and 1800s, the churches were often the center of activity, with the communities growing up around them. They were also the repositories for public records such as records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths.
The original St. Joseph Catholic Church was erected next to the present day St. Joseph Cemetery. That structure burned in 1916 and this beautiful Renaissance Romanesque-style church was built shortly after and was dedicated in 1923. Then in 1977, it was named co-cathedral for the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese along with the St. Francis de Sales Church in Houma. Both buildings are stunning works of architecture, worthy of a visitor’s attention when traveling through the area.
The church structure is a stunning work of architecture with twin towers that flank the main façade and a rose window that was modeled after one in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Paris. Main features of the interior include a “baldachin,” or grand canopy over the raised altar, elaborate stained glass windows, and a reliquary (container) for relics of Saint Valerie of Milan. The ornate structure also makes an interesting contrast to the older and simpler design of the St. John’s Episcopal Church just a few blocks away on Jackson Street.
The Lafourche Live Oak Tour was created through the generous support of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism. For more information on Lafourche Parish events and activities, visit their website at LACajunBayou.com.