Italian American Digest JT DIGEST Summer 2018 June First (1) - Page 8

I talian A merican D igest PAGE 8 Tricentennial cont. from page 7 identify the elderly Iorlando Jordano and his seventeen-year-old son Frank as her attackers, and they were duly convicted of murder. Frank was sentenced to hang, only to have Rosie retract her accusation nine months later. The serial killer known as the “Axeman of New Orleans” is per- haps most famous for a letter pur- porting to be from the Axeman himself published in the Times- Picayune. He was, he claimed, “a fell demon from hottest hell” who would be walking the streets of the city the next Tuesday night searching for more victims. But, he promised, anyone in a house in which a jazz band played would be safe. The Axeman never struck again, and what the killer might have had against Italian grocers has never been explained. But the idea of a jazz- loving serial killer still haunts the imagination of aficiona- dos of true crime. - Miriam C. Davis, author of The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story CEMETERIES A walk through a New Orleans cemetery is not so much a “step back in time” as many steps through each year of time, piled upon one another in a milieu of the contemporary and the historic. We walk past the work of many hands who have carved tab- lets and constructed tombs. And we recognize the names of those interred therein, gleaning what we can of what their lives were like. Within the landscapes of the more than forty cemeteries in the city of New Orleans are innumerable fin- gerprints of those who constructed them. Among those fingerprints are those of Italian heritage – both native-born and Italian-extracted. The works of Italian artisans, sculp- tors, and laborers are laid together, brick by brick, beside the mortal re- mains of Italians who arrived in New Orleans and forged communities. But the Italian influence on New Orleans cemeteries is even more an- cient than the work of hands and the record of lives. The very origin of above-ground burial can merit a nod to the Roman empire. In the late eighteenth centu- The Italian Mutual Benevolent Tomb SUMMER 2018 ry, as the European continent revo- lutionized cultural understandings of death and burial, the rediscovery of the Appian Way contributed to a shift in burial practices in both France and Spain. This ancient Roman fune- real avenue was lined with above ground tombs, which undoubtedly influenced the rise of contemporary funeral architecture in both Parisian cemeter- ies like Pere Lachaise and Spanish colonial cemeteries. In this way, above ground burial came to New Orleans in the 1790s by way of colonial Spain, Enlight- enment France, and ancient Rome. By the 1850s, the Italian commu- nity in New Orleans was robust and established. Like many who came to the city from elsewhere, they organized into benevolent societies that provided a social safety net for their members. Societies also offered burial support. The first Italian society tomb was built in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in 1857. It was designed by Pietro Gualdi and featured two large sculp- tures: one depicting Charity with two children at her knee, and the other representing Italia, crowned with laurel and holding aloft a sword. The first Italian society in New Orleans was formed by those who had left their home country in the first throes of national unification. By the late nineteenth century, immigration from Italy increased enormously, leading to new societ- ies which were often organized by the members’ city of origin (e.g., Contessa Entellina, Sciacca, Termini, Piana dei Greci). These societies built their own, newer tombs in Me- tairie Cemetery, Odd Fellows Rest,