*This was originally posted on October 1, 2016
One of my absolute favorite ways to spend the day is exploring uncommon places. I love finding adventure and beauty in a seemingly mundane town. Earlier this summer I spent the day with my sister Hannah exploring some interesting parts of Louisiana.
First on our list - the Old State Capital. This is a pretty big attraction for anyone visiting Baton Rouge. Neither one of us had been so it made the list for the sites of the day.
I wasn't really that excited about the political history that took place in the building. I was more intrigued by the design elements. The Capital is said to be one of the most distinguished examples of Gothic architecture in the United States. The stained glass dome seen from the interior is absolutely stunning. Pictures don't really do it justice so it is definitely a must see on my list. I left feeling super inspired...and like I should have a better understanding of Louisiana's history.
Next on the list and the main highlight of the day - the National Leprosy Museum. So Hannah found out about the Museum from a podcast. Odd small town museums like this intrigue me so I was up for seeing what it was all about.
It was a 30-40 minute drive south from Baton Rouge to get to Carville. Just before arriving at the museum we drove past this magnificent oak tree and stopped to get a better look.
Turns out, it was a cemetery for a prison down the road. It was a really eerie feeling looking at the tiny headstones with doc numbers under each of the names.
But seriously that tree was so big Hannah stood on my car trying to find the best way to take a picture of the whole thing.
Things to know about the National Leprosy Museum:
- GPS will lie and say you have arrived before you actually arrive - just drive further down the road.
- It is located INSIDE of a National Guard Base so you will be greeted by a nice man in a uniform with a gun - me and Hannah were totally not prepared for this.
- You can't take any photos.
I was honestly surprised by the amount of information they accumulated. From how leprosy was portrayed in biblical days and in movies, medical equipment, the nuns who cared for the patients, different types of wheelchairs they used, how they celebrated Mardi Gras. It is extensive! I could have spent the entire day here but it closes at 4:00 so we had about an hour or so to poke around. There are two self guided tours: the first is inside the museum so you can walk around listening to recordings about specific items and documents. The second is a driving tour that goes over what all of the buildings were originally used for.
Last stop - Smallest Church in the World. Carville and Bayou Goula are actually very close together but they are separated by the Mississippi River so to cross over you either have to take the ferry which can take a while or you have to drive a ways south to get to the closest bridge. The commute is about an hour either way.
Somewhere during the day we came across what looked like a large version of the tiny chapel so we stopped and snapped some pictures for comparison!
After doing some research I learned that the church was built in 1903 by Tony Gullo. It is said that Mr. Gullo prayed that if his sick son would be healed he would build a little church. His son was healed and so he built the eight foot square church that is now known as the Madonna Chapel. Mass is held once a year on August 15 in celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. However, there is a key in the mailbox for anyone to visit all year long.