Glasnevin Cemetery

In the summer of 2019 our family had the chance to spend almost three months in Dublin and I’ll try to tell you about everything interesting, popular or not, in the city. Overall, I wouldn’t say that I liked Dublin much, unlike Ireland. If you go out of the city everything is gorgeous, but Dublin itself not so much… There were amazing places, of course, and I will tell you about one of them now.

I’ve always loved to take a walk and just to wander around graveyards abroad and my biggest passion are the ones in the UK. It’s no surprise that they look quite different that the ones in my home country, so tidy, clean and nice. Some of the tombstones are pure art and the atmosphere is far from grim or sad.

Glasnevin Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Ireland and the first cemetery museum in the world. It is home to an estimated 1.5 million burials and holds the graves of some of the most significant figures in Irish history. These range from the legendary Irish novelist Brendan Behan, to Éamon de Valera, former president of Ireland. Perhaps the most visited gravesite is that of Michael Collins, the 20th Century revolutionary and politician who fought for Irish independence.You will find the largest collection of Celtic crosses in the world there. 

The cemetery is also home to O’Connell Tower, the largest round tower in Ireland, which contains the remains of the 19th-century Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell. He was known as ‘The Liberator,” and founded the Catholic Association. He was also known for championing Catholic liberation throughout the British empire. The tower opened in 1869 but was sadly destroyed in 1971 in a bomb blast. 

During the 1990s, a clean-up operation began, and in 2009 the marble crypt at O’Connell Tower was restored. By 2018, the tower and its 222-step staircase had been fully repaired and was opened to the public. The top of the tower shows off impressive views of Dublin, Meath, and Wicklow reaching out over the Irish Sea. Though O’Connell’s heart is buried in Rome, the remainder is laid to rest here in a crypt adorned with murals of Celtic imagery.

Around the tower the most famous and prominent people are buried and here are the most decorated and beautiful tombstones.

Nearby is the grave of Michael Collins, surprisingly modest. I expected something more decorated and bold, keeping in mind how important to the Irish history he was.

There are some really interesting graves around the tower:

The Glasnevin Cemetery Museum opened in 2010 and became the first cemetery museum in the world. One of the exhibits visitors can walk around today is the City of the Dead. This immersive display is set in the basement and allows visitors to walk around the graveyard, watching the work of those involved in the burial process.

Visitors may notice the high walls that surround the 124-acre grounds. These were constructed as a deterrent to grave robbers. The cemetery has several areas that are designated for outbreaks of certain disease epidemics, they include smallpox, cholera, and typhoid. Unbeknownst to authorities, the latter area was constructed over underground springs that supplied the local areas with water. Thus spreading the disease even further.

Further inside the graveyard there are more vast, wild part where the not so wealthy Dubliners were buried. Here the graves are quite more modest.

Really impressive, at least for me, are some of the crypts here. They are under the ground and in the shape of a circle.

Behind the tower there is a military graveyard and few memorials dedicated to the Dublin citizens, who lost their life in the World Wars.

The best way to explore the cemetery is by guided tour. Each guide is passionate and very knowledgeable, revealing the stories of Ireland’s history through daily walking tours. Your guide makes a learning experience into a period of magic, with a careful balance of sensitivity and fun, while tailoring the tour to your areas of interest. You can see and book one here.

I wasn’t able to take any tour and saw the graveyard by myself and my son. It was quite difficult to find some of the most famous graves as there are almost no signs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it all, it is really huge and besides that it rained a few times, the weather was getting truly bad.

I was impressed, unlike my son who slept calmly most of the time 🙂

Stay tuned and don’t stop travelling!

Author: marinelapetrunova

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