Grand Coteau, a historic town in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette, is a delight for photographers, history and architecture lovers and anyone delighted by small towns and/or Cajun culture. Read on for reasons to earn some Instagram-worthy bragging rights!
1. Grand Coteau is home to the only miracle in the U.S. recognized by the Vatican
The buzz around town is that 70541 is the "miracle zip code." In 1866, novice (prospective nun) Mary Wilson was healed by the apparition of the Blessed John Berchmans. This miracle led to Berchmans' canonization and is the only miracle in the U.S. recognized by the Vatican. Curiosity surrounding the miracle resurfaced when roughly 2,000 attendees witnessed the arrival of the holy heart of St. John Berchmans. The heart traveled all the way from Belgium, in December, to the Academy of the Sacred Heart, where the miracle occurred. Residents of the miracle zip code felt so inspired by these events that as of December 13, 2016, a unanimous vote by the town council declared St. John Berchmans the official patron saint of Grand Coteau. The Shrine of St. John Berchmans is available for tours by appointment year-round. Visitors are also welcome to visit Mary Wilson's grave site in the convent cemetery located on the grounds of the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
2. One of the oldest institutions of learning was founded in Grand Coteau
Founded in 1821, The Academy of the Sacred Heart is the oldest continually operating Sacred Heart School in the world, as well as one of the oldest institutions of learning in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. Even during the Civil War, when many schools closed due to a lack of resources, the Academy continued to operate. Today, you can learn more about the school’s Civil War history in the museum and tour the historic chapel and the Cemetery of the Religious of the Sacred Heart.
3. Grand Coteau boasts historic eye candy for photographers and architecture lovers
Some notable structures include the Church of St. Charles Borromeo, designed by renowned New Orleans architect, James Freret, in 1879. The church is well-known for its empire style and mansard roof, a rare design amongst historic churches in the U.S. The Jesuit Dairy Barn also attracts a lot of attention from visitors. This picturesque barn was built in 1925 when St. Charles College had a farm which was used to feed its residents. If cemeteries aren’t too macabre for your taste, stop by St. Charles Cemetery while you’re on the Jesuit grounds. It’s one of the most beautiful resting places in the South.
4. It is Louisiana’s "Sweet Dough Pie Capital"
You can find this Cajun confection year-round at most shops, eateries and even gas stations, but on the fourth weekend of October the town hosts a Sweet Dough Pie Festival. The festivities take place on the grounds of the Jesuit College with live music, tours of the grounds and cemetery, art vendors and, of course, sweet dough pies! If the anticipation is just too much, you can visit pastry chef, Nancy Brewer, at The Kitchen Shop any day for a pie or another local treat, Gateau Na-Na, a buttery pecan torte made from an old family recipe.
On the first weekend in November, Grand Coteau hosts a Festival of Words with workshops conducted by local musicians, authors and poets for both adults and children.
For more information visit, CajunTravel.com