According to the legends of New Orleans, on certain rainy nights, in the hours before dawn, the crisp, clear voice of a man can be heard singing the "Kyrie" in the air between the St. Louis Cathedral and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
The story behind these phantom voice is one of the lingering legends of the city.
The owner of the spectral voice was a priest named Pere Dagobert. He arrived in New Orleans in 1745 to pastor the Church of Saint Louis, now the St. Louis Cathedral. He was a very popular and beloved man and he was more than just a priest to the people. He cared for the sick, was the benefactor of the poor and the widowed and was embraced by the people.
In October of 1764, the acting governor of Louisiana announced to the colony of New Orleans that the land of the city had been given in treaty to Spain. The people suddenly found themselves citizens of Spain and terror erupted in New Orleans. The French families organized support and petitioned the king of France not to cede New Orleans to Spain but the petition failed.
And the first rebellion began to boil in the New World.
In March of 1766, the first Spanish governor, Don Antonio de Ulloa, arrived in New Orleans. He was instantly hated and a plot began to be hatched to overthrow the Spanish. The ringleaders were some of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the city and all were friends of Pere Dagobert. The rebellion was successful and in November 1768, the Spanish governor fled for the safety of Havana.... but Spain was not willing to give up without a fight.
They sent a Spanish fleet of 24 ships to New Orleans under the command of Don Alejandro O'Reilly, an Irish expatriate, now fighting for Spain. The rebellion was crushed and the leaders were all arrested.
On October 24, 1769, the rebel leaders were executed by firing squad. Their names were Lafreniere, Noyan, Caresse, Marquis and Milhet. A sixth man, Villere, had been bayoneted when he was arrested and had died awaiting trial. It is here that the story of rebellion ends... and a more ghostly tale begins.
The men were killed but O'Reilly refused to allow them to be buried. The corpses were left out to rot in the rain and heat. The people were shocked and appalled, not believing that a Catholic would allow these men to not be buried decently. But there was nothing to be done as the bodies were placed under the watchful eye of the Spanish garrison.
But something happened one night that has never been explained....
Pere Dagobert appeared at the homes of the slain men and summoned their families to the cathedral. When they arrived, they found that the bodies of the ringleaders had somehow appeared there. A funeral mass was held and then, in the driving rain, the men were all entombed at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
The miracle was never forgotten by the city's French and just how Dagobert managed to steal the bodies away from the Spanish soldiers has remained a mystery to this day.
Many believe that it is Pere Dagobert's voice that has been heard singing the "Kyrie" near the old cathedral and his spirit is still keeping watch over New Orleans more than 200 years later.
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