Glasnevin Cemetery

24 Nov

This weekend, I was fortunate to be able to participate in the visit to Glasnevin Cemetery. I had one of my friends visiting from Paris, and she came with me on this trip. I am so happy that she was able to come as the tour was the perfect way for her to learn a little bit about Irish historical figures via their interesting life stories.

            Daniel O’Connell founded Glasnevin in the early 19th century. As such, the most immediately noticeable monument in the cemetery is the tall rounded tower and crypt dedicated to O’Connell himself. It was such a privilege to be able to visit the resting place of O’Connell since we have learned much about this man in our Irish Life and Cultures class. We were able to go see the enormous crypt that contains O’Connell’s coffin, and our guide informed us that it is “lucky” to reach through the decorative cutouts in the crypt and touch the actual coffin. Of course I had to do it!

            After seeing this impressive crypt, we went on to visit the graves of several other important figures in Ireland’s history, including Eamon de Valera, Charles Stuart Parnell, Kitty Kiernan, Michael Collins, and many more. Seeing the final resting places of these people that I have learned about in history class was a great way to give the history lessons a bit of added potency.

            One site in the cemetery that I’ve found particularly interesting was the circular patch of land which houses a large rock engraved “Parnell.” Unlike the rest of the cemetery that is extremely crowded with headstones, monument walls, and statues, this area is a big grassy circle with nothing but Parnell’s rock situated in the center of it. We were informed that this is the “Cholera Pit,” a group burial site where thousands of bodies who met their demise due to cholera are laid to rest. It was very interesting because it is so different from the rest of the cemetery, and because of the sheer number of people who are buried there (thousands)!

            What I liked most about the visit to Glasnevin was the fact that I learned about some figures pertinent to Irish history that I would have never known about otherwise. For example, when our tour guide began to tell us about Maud Gonne, I was immediately enthralled with her life story. I was previously unaware of the feminist revolutionary known as the “Joan of Arc of Ireland.” Gonne’s history is captivating. As an English born woman who became a champion of Irish revolution as well as the muse of William B. Yeats, she led quite an interesting life! This visit to Glasnevin makes me want to study her even more. 

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