Sunday, May 19, 2024
Sunday, May 19, 2024

St. Martinville Cultural District

by KAREN LAGRANGE COX

News from BY’s Neighbors

Historic St. Martinville, Louisiana, is about ten miles from Broussard and about twelve miles from Youngsville. Its Cultural District encompasses Saint Martin Square, Evangeline Oak Park, and the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center. The Cultural District includes sites and information about the history and heritage of the area.

Saint Martin Square

Saint Martin Square is the heart of the St. Martinville Cultural District. It is home to the Evangeline Oak, the St. Martin of Tours Church, and several other historically significant sites.

Saint Martin Square
Saint Martin Square. Photo credit: Larry Cox

Saint Martin Square Grounds

Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church is the heart of Saint Martin Square and was established in 1765.

Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church. Photo credit: Larry Cox

The Evangeline Monument was donated and dedicated by actress Dolores del Río who starred as Evangeline in the movie of the same name, Evangeline in 1929. The movie was filmed in the St. Martinville area. The dedication was made by Del Rio on April 19, 1931, in St. Martinville. [source]

Statue of Evangeline
Statue of Evangeline. Photo credit: Larry Cox.

A Tribute to the Attakapas Indians is a sculpture located on Saint Martin Square on the Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church grounds. The areas of St. Martinville and Bayou Teche were once home to the Attakapas Indian Tribe. [source]

Sculpture of an Attakapas Indian
Sculpture of an Attakapas Indian. Photo credit: Larry Cox

Popup Shops are set up in the cultural square every other month, during even-numbered months. These transient stores only exist briefly and are usually set up for special occasions.

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Supper on the Square At Christmas time, the annual Supper on the Square is held in conjunction with the St. Lucy Festival of Lights. Tickets are available for purchase for this annual pot-luck supper.

The St. Lucy Festival of Lights usually includes a Mass at Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church, a live nativity scene, a Chariot Parade, memorial lighting, and a choir performance. The festivities culminate in the lighting of the Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church square.

Evangeline Oak Park

The Evangeline Oak Park was built around the ancient oak tree that is said to be the meeting tree of Evangeline and Gabriel in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline. The park features landscaped lawns, a multi-tiered patio system, a gazebo, and other elements such as benches and bicycle racks.

Evangeline Oaks Park
Evangeline Oaks Park. Photo credit: Larry Cox.

The Evangeline Oak is situated in Evangeline Oak Park near the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center in downtown St. Martinville. The tree overlooks Bayou Teche. This oak signifies the renowned spot where Emmeline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux, counterparts of Evangeline and Gabriel from the poem Evangeline, met. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow composed this poem, which recounts the tale of two lovers, Evangeline and Gabriel, who became immortalized by the tragedy of the Acadian exile from Nova Scotia in 1755.

Evangeline Oak
Evangeline Oak. Photo credit: Larry Cox.

The Belle Marie Oak did not have a name until 2022. The tree was informally known as Evangeline’s Daughter. The St. Martinville Garden Club held a contest for naming the tree, which is now named Belle Marie, its official name. The tree sits next to Evangeline Oak in Evangeline Oak Park.

Belle Marie Oak
Belle Marie Oak. Photo credit: Larry Cox.

The St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center comprises two cultural museums, The African-American Museum and the Museum of the Acadian Memorial. The two museums have a common theme as both represent people who were uprooted from their homeland and made new homes in Louisiana. The museums focus on the region’s history from colonial times to the present and houses interactive exhibits.

The St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center
Photo credit: Karen Lagrange Cox. The St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center.
  • The African Museum is dedicated to African-American history and recounts the arrival of Africans and the growth of the free people of color community in Southwest Louisiana. Through its exhibits, the museum highlights this community’s challenges, adjustments, and valuable contributions, especially in the Attakapas District during the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The Acadian Memorial Museum tells stories about the Acadian settlers in Louisiana and their lasting impact on the area. The museum boasts engaging displays, including the Acadian Odyssey Quilt and images from the Claude Picard Deportation Series, which can also be found at the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. The panels are presented in both French and English for bilingual visitors.
  • Acadian Memorial has a wall of three-thousand names of Acadian refugees in Louisiana. The memorial includes:
    • The mural of the Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana represents Acadians who found refuge in Louisiana after the 1755 deportation of Acadians by the British.
    • Grand-Pré Deportation Cross replica is located in the meditation garden behind the museums. The original Grand-Pré Deportation Cross is located near the Grand-Pré National Historic Site in Nova Scotia. The cross represents the British deportation of the Acadians from old Acadie (present-day Nova Scotia, Canada) during the French and Indian War [source].
      • The Eternal Flame is a symbolization of the ability of a people to rekindle their culture.
    • The Coats of Arms of some Acadian families surround the Eternal Flame located within the Eternal Flame Garden.
    • The Acadiana Odyssey Quilt represents the tragic event of The Expulsion, also known as Le Grand Dérangement, which occurred in 1755. This event involved the forced relocation of Acadians by the British to various colonies in North America and Europe. Fortunately, Louisiana became a new home for many of these displaced refugees.

Other Places of Interest within the Cultural District

  • Tourist Information Center
  • Bayou Teche Boardwalk
  • Evangeline Boulevard
  • La Maison Duchamp
  • Duchamp Opera House and Mercantile
  • Old Castillo Hotel

About

The St. Martinville Cultural District falls under the newly structured Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism (CRT) initiative of the City of St. Martinville. The City is the parish capital of St. Martin Parish, sits along Bayou Teche, and is one of Louisiana’s oldest surviving towns.

Mayor Jason Willis’ administration established the CRT department in the City of St. Martinville. This department is responsible for culture, recreation, and tourism-related initiatives in the city and falls under Louisiana Culture, Recreation and Tourism. According to the LA CRT website, “The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism ensures Louisiana’s cultural & natural assets are promoted to its citizens & potential visitors.”

Danielle Fontenotte, the director of CRT for the City, advised the department manages various programs and initiatives and has recently restructured its programs and initiatives within CRT to better align with the goals for the city.

Other items of interest in St. Martinville:

St. Martinville Main Steet Program

To learn more about St. Martinville and what it offers, visit its website.

Disclaimer: Opinions, editorials, letters to the editor, or content from external sources published on BY Local News LLC do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of BY Local News LLC or its owner.

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