Thursday, October 16, 2014

Glasnevin Cemetery

Our secret mission at the Botanic Gardens was actually to scout out a (not so) secret back entrance to Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland's most well-known boneyard. The Botanic Gardens and the cemetery share a boundary, and recently a long-locked gate between the two was opened to the public.

I wanted to confirm the location (and existence) of this secret gate before including it in my eBook, and I was glad to find it open and operational. Without this gate, it would be about a mile walk around the southern end of these two properties to get to the main gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the cemetery gate- on the wall to the left of the main Botanic Gardens entrance- we could see the famous and imposing Celtic round tower of the Daniel O'Connell monument. More on him later.

Glasnevin Cemetery and O'Connell Monument
Glasnevin Cemetery and O'Connell Monument

A number of Irish celebrities and heroes are buried here. The 1916 execution victims seem to be the only revolutionaries not to be buried here. I saw name after name on gravestones that I see on streets and bridges around town: O'Donovan Rossa, Markievicz, Griffith, Casement, and the list goes on.

The grave count here is reportedly over a million... and growing. The cemetery is still open for new arrivals. This would be a great place for more dark humor, but we (and dozens of other tourists) walked by a funeral with our cameras and guidebooks, so I'll leave it alone.

It is a marvel that they have buried so many here, but the grave markers are pretty densely-packed so...

Graves at Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
Densely... Populated? 

The story of the cemetery is quite interesting. In the nineteenth century, the English (them again!) did not allow Catholics to be buried with Catholic rites in their own churchyards. The recently-deceased Catholics had to be buried with Protestant rites (GASP!) or unceremoniously buried with no clergy present (DOUBLE GASP!) I guess the English Protestants wanted to keep the Irish Catholics down even in the afterlife.

Until The Great Liberator Daniel O'Connell started his equal rights for Catholics campaign in the British Parliament. He argued that allowing the Irish certain civil freedoms would be beneficial to both sides and would encourage peace. The Brits agreed and, with O'Connell's help, put into law a number of civil rights for Catholics- among them burial rites. He achieved his goals politically- not violently- and his anti-violence platform inspired all future Irish Republicans and British Unionists to pursue their goals peacefully forever... wait, that's not right...

When the cemetery was first founded, it was a cemetery for all- Catholics, Protestants, and those of any other or no religious affiliation. Truly a big step for equality in the 1800s.

O'Connell Monument Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
O'Connell Monument

For the book, I was only researching the free part of the cemetery, that's just the outdoor cemetery. There is a museum on the property with some interpretive cemetery materials, information about O'Connell and the founding of the cemetery, and some genealogy research materials. We also skipped the guided tour, but enjoyed a pleasant and reflective stroll nonetheless. 

Coincidentally, there is a documentary coming out at the end of October 2014 about the cemetery and its... inhabitants. 

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