A Look Back Into the Past – Glasnevin Cemetery

30 Nov

Last Friday on 21 November I had a co-curricular trip to Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest denominational cemetery in Ireland with an estimated 1.5 million burials.  Before the cemetery was established in 1832, Irish Catholics had no place to bury the dead, as the Penal Laws placed heavy restrictions on the public performances of Catholic services.  As a result, it became the norm for Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards.  On 21 February 1832, Glasnevin Cemetery opened to the public.  Daniel O’Connell established this burial ground so that both Irish Catholics and Protestants could give their dead a dignified burial.  Touring around Glasnevin Cemetery enhanced my knowledge of Irish history as we stood over the tombs of Irish revolutionaries and learned about their contribution to history from our tour guide.  Tombstones of different sizes and designs were planted next to each other.  Our tour guide brought us to the tombs of noteworthy individuals such as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, and Daniel O’Connell.  Walking into the crypt of Daniel O’Connell and touching his tomb through a portal cut into the stone was surreal.  Seeing the way his children were buried made me quite confused as their tombs laid in a corner stacked on top of each other, almost as if there was a lack of room in the crypt.  The room was ornately decorated, with mosaic patterns embellishing the walls.  However, there was a stark contrast in one area of the wall, as one side appeared more tarnished than the other.  Our tour guide noted that the walls had to be restored after an attempted bombing of O’Connell’s tomb in the 1970s.  The words “My body to Ireland, My heart to Rome, My soul to God” were also on the wall.  This was O’Connell’s dying wish, as he became ill on a pilgrimage to Rome.  Being able to visit Glasnevin Cemetery and learning about the lives of various individuals supplemented what I’ve learned in Irish Life and Cultures and gave me a better understanding of how present-day Ireland came to be.

– Christine Lee


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