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St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church

The first baptism record available for the St. Gabriel Church is dated April 22, 1773

St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church
Courtesy of the Capital Resource Conservation and Development Council

St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church is perhaps one of the oldest churches in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. Tradition sets the date of the formation of the parish in 1761.

The Capuchin Vicar General, Father Dagobert, directed that a church be established in its present location in 1769, and St.Gabriel was dismantled and moved to its present site in 1772. The Church served an area already settled by French Acadians who had first been exiled from Nova Scotia and then uprooted from Maryland in 1758.

When Spain took over the administration of the territory from France the Church was dismantled and moved to its present location, approximately 14 miles east of Baton Rouge.

A Spanish land grant dates this move from 1772-3, during the administration of Governor Unzaga. It was in this new location, in 1773, that the church was dedicated and placed under the invocation of St. Gabriel the Archangel.

At least four chapels were established under the direction of St. Gabriel Church, as it was the hub of the Catholic Church system of Iberville Parish. These included St. Raphael and St. Paul's in the Bayou Goula area, St. Rose, and the St. John the Evangelist Church in Plaquemine.

The first baptism record available for the St. Gabriel Church is dated April 22, 1773, and the first marriage record is from January 1, 1773. They were recorded by Father Angelus de Revillagodas, a Spanish Capuchin who was at the church at Donaldsonville, a few miles down the Mississippi River.

It was not until August 1779, that the French Capuchin, Father Valentin, became the first resident pastor. Two later prominent pastors were Father Cyril de la Croix, pastor from 1859 to 1865, who founded the first Conference of the Society of St.Vincent de Paul in the South, and Bishop Jean Marius Laval, who was at St.Gabriel from 1884 to 1890.

Architecturally, St. Gabriel is unique because beneath its 19th-century façade lies an extremely rare18th-century French colonial church building. Its exterior is composed primarily of cypress, which remains an abundant material on the site.

Its design is Classical on the inside, representative of its French Acadian origins and its exterior is an example of the Gothic style, which is executed simplistically with its frame construction.

The St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church is located at 3625 Hwy. 75, in St. Gabriel. It is open by appointment only, call 225-642-8441.