When I heard that our class would be touring a cemetery my first thought was “This is going to be boring.” What I had pictured in my mind compared the the actual cemetery was an utter mistake. I was astounded by the magnitude and beauty of the Glasnevin Cemetery. It first opened in 1832 and is the largest non-denominational cemetery in Ireland. The cemetery originally was only nine acres but has expanded to 124 acres. It is officially known as the Prospect Cemetery. While walking around this massive plot of land I noticed that wherever I stood I could see a gigantic tower. We were informed that this indeed was where Daniel O’Connell (The Emancipator) was buried.
Before the establishment of the Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics did not have any cemetaries of their own. This was due to the repressive Penal Law of the 18th century. (In fact, in 1823 at St. Kevin’s, a Protestant Sexton rebuked a Catholic priest for performing a limited form of a funeral mass. It wasn’t until Daniel O’Connell, a very active Catholic rights activist, launched a campaign and legal opposition, that there was no law that forbid praying for a deceased Catholic in a graveyard. He wanted Catholic and Protestants were finally able to give their dead a dignified burial.
The most amazing fact that I learned would have to be that at Glasnevin Cemetery there are about 1.5 million people buried there. There were marked and unmarked graves scattered throughout. All the land that the cemetery has is being put to use. Even while walking on the grass, there are people buried right beneath one’s feet. It is nice to know that even if one was very poor and could not afford a burial, the person could still come to Glasnevin Cemetery and have a decent burial. While it is a pleasant place, it is still a little unnerving that I was standing atop of many buried dead bodies. Nonetheless it was an amazing, as well as informative, experience.