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History of St. Agnes

Source: The Parish of St. Agnes Golden Years 1931-1981

Origins
St. Agnes is located on a stretch of land which pioneers of the early 18th Century named 'Les Chapitoulas.' The land, a strip along the east bank of the Mississippi River, was distributed to early European investors and to a handful of Canadians struggling to survive along the Gulf Coast. This distribution was in the form of company land grants issued by John Law's Company of the West (known as the Company of the Mississippi). Old St. Agnes ChurchThe granting of land commenced almost simultaneously with the founding of New Orleans in 1718.

St. Agnes Parish comprised the riverfront portions of the original land grants of the Dubreuil, Chauvin, and St. Reyne concessions of 1724; and the deLaBarre, Arnoult and D'Aquin family properties as they stood in 1824.

The original area name, Chapitoulas, is a combination of three Indian words meaning, "those who resided at the river." It referred to the Chapitoula Indians, the first inhabitants of the land, a group which had become extinct by the 18th Century

In 1915, and area referred to as Suburban Acres was opened offering residential lots for sale. By 1930 approximately 300 Catholic families resided in the area prompting the establishment of the church parish of St. Agnes on March 1, 1931. The Rev. Father Charles F. Beauvais was appointed pastor of the new parish by Archbishop John William Shaw.

First Place of Residence
Whitehall Plantation House, constructed in 1857, was the first place of residence. This building with a long and colorful history was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. Whitehall served as rectory and church for St. Agnes Parish until January 20, 1932, when a refurbished nightclub became the second and most versatile home for the parish. Tranchina's Nightclub on Jefferson Ground Breaking of St. AgnesHighway in the Claiborne Gateway Subdivision was known to have been alive with raucous jazz, gambling, dancing, dining and the merriment of revelers in the late 1920s.

By 1932, the growth of the parish necessitated larger parochial accommodations and after a tour of the now vacant building, Father Moses Habeb, St .Agnes' second pastor, set about converting the gaudy club quarters into a suitable church. For almost thirty-five years the old Tranchina Nightclub would serve the parishioners of St. Agnes as church, rectory, school convent, meeting rooms and housekeeper quarters.

In the fall of 1954, our third pastor, Father Arthur P. Brue, commenced plans for the construction of a new church to be built in Italian Romanesque style and in cruciform shape, with a seating capacity of 1,000. The new St. Agnes Church was dedicated on Pentecost Sunday, June 9. 1957

Unique Features
The bell system is comprised of four bells in the campanile (bell tower). Each bell - consecrated with Chrism - is identified by its own saint's name: The largest bell in the musical key of E is St. Agnes; the next bell in the key of G is Saint Theresa; then comes Saint Francis in the key of A; lastly, is St. Maria Goretti in the key of B.

The windows in St. Agnes Church are executed from the finest mouthblown stained glass from Germany and Czechoslovakia. The four large transept windows depict scenes from the life of St. Agnes. In the nave of the church, the lower windows on the East side depict sequences of the 'Te Deum'. The lower window on the West side depicts 'The Coming Judgment'. The Rose window over the entrance to the church has in it the representations of the seven virtues - the theological virtues of faith, hope, charity; and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The window in the small vestibule at the Claiborne Court entrance commemorates the Battle of New Orleans, and glorifies Our Lady of Prompt Succor who "saved our city from flood, sin, war and fire." Ascending the stairs to the choir loft is a window depicting St. Cecelia, the patroness of music in the Catholic Church.

The altar stone in St. Agnes Church contains relics of the Holy Martyrs Honorius & Eugenius. The main altar with three step platforms, the side altars, the baptismal font with service table and the statues with pedestals were carved from the Finest Italian marble in Pietrasanta, Italy.



Biography of St Agnes

Agnes, our patron Saint, comes to us in differing traditions, but the essence of her spiritual strength is the same in all accounts: complete trust in God, fidelity in time of stress, virtue despite opposing social customs-a saintly life of purity and a martyr's death in faith.
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