St. Augustine Church
Built by Nicholas Augustin Metoyer, St. Augustine is the first Catholic Church in the United States to be founded, independently financed, and built by African Americans for their express use. The structure is over two centuries old and still in active use.
According to the first recorded history of the parish, the church was named to honor the patron saint of Nicholas Augustin Metoyer. While the precise year the first church was built is unknown, it is known that the church was built by free people of color using their own money, predominately for their own use, and open to all in the area who wished to share in their Catholic faith with them.
These are the words displayed in the sacristy of St. Augustine Church, which speak to the roots of the Cane River Creoles, or gens de couleur libre (free people of color).
"[T]he parcel of land herein donated to my children. . . the church of St. Augustine. . . built by me and my family principally for our usage. . . it is my desire that others professing our holy Roman Catholic and apostolic religion, have the right to assist at the divine office in the said chapel."
The church is remarkable not only for its age, but also for its racial role reversals. Pew records show that the front rows were occupied by the Creole Metoyer family. Behind them were the families of the community's prominent white planters.
A famous portrait of Nicholas Augustin Metoyer hangs in the church, and though many have tried to purchase it through the years, members of the community have ensured that it remain in the church. The church bell is said to be the only remaining object from the original church that is still in use today.
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