O’Connell & Glasnevin Cemetery

13 Oct

IMG_4748 IMG_4759On 11th October 2013, I had visited Glasnevin Cemetery, the only cemetery in the world which houses a museum on its burial grounds.

Having lived in Dublin for just over a month now, it hadn’t taken long for me to notice how much of Ireland’s rich history remains a very integral part of modern society and the daily lives of its people.

O’Connell, a name so commonly known and mentioned, references more than navigation of the city; catching the bus from the city centre on O’Connell Street, I was about to see the extent to which this famous figure had left his mark on Irish history. For a man whose prominence in history is incomparable in Ireland, Daniel O’Connell (“the emancipator” or “the liberator”) was an Irish nationalist of the 19th century who had led the Catholic Emancipation for Ireland by peace, thus opening opportunity for not only religious toleration within Ireland, but also the opportunity for Catholics to better integrate themselves into society. With the Catholic Emancipation marking the end to the Penal Laws, Catholics were now able to engage in such liberties as earning a degree at a higher institute of learning, improve themselves in the workforce, practice politics and law and inherit land.

O’Connell was so highly regarded for his works that monarchs from all over the world wanted his autograph, which he solely granted to those who he felt ruled justly (the czar of Russia during that time was denied.) He, himself, was viewed at a status comparable to a king for bestowing this type of unification to the people of Ireland.

What O’Connell envisioned was a burial ground at which both Irish Catholics and Protestants could have their dead buried in dignity as the people of Ireland.

In 1832, Daniel O’Connell established a cemetery on 9 acres for the burial of the people of Ireland, now open to anyone of any and no religion. Today the cemetery is home to 1.5 million graves, 800 thousand of which are unmarked. The unmarked graves are often of those unable to afford headstones — many of which were Famine victims.

At the centre of the cemetery, a tower marks Daniel O’Connell’s grave. His tomb, designed fit for a king, is made of Kilkenny Black Marble and Limestone as a protective case over his casket. The ceilings were adorned with traditional Celtic design; in the corner lies a smaller room inset with the remains of some of his family members. The walls surrounding the tomb are decorated by important dates in his life, and on one wall, his last words read: “My body to Ireland, my heart to Rome and my soul to heaven.” [He had passed away on a pilgrimage to Rome.]

Before leaving his burial site, for a drop of good luck, I followed the legend and touched the casket of Daniel O’Connell.

Glasnevin Cemetery is a burial site, which commemorates people from all varying and conflicting religious and political spectrums, backgrounds and stories; it echoes O’Connell’s voice of resonating peace, and unification in the name of Ireland.

Julia Le


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