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.
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.
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.