Okay, so you’re probably thinking “Why, oh why would I want to stop off to visit a cemetery during a trip to Ireland?” While it’s not your ‘typical’ tourist attraction, a trip to Glasnevin Cemetery is completely worthwhile as it is a place of real significance in Ireland. Wipe those images of a creepy, haunted graveyard from your mind as Glasnevin Cemetery is in fact one of Dublin and Ireland’s best loved tourist attractions. The reason being is that some of the most important figures in Irish culture and history are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery. In fact, the graveyard is almost like a “who’s who” of Irish historical figures.
Republican leader Michael Collins, Daniel O’Connell (who actually secured the original opening of the cemetery), Charles Stewart Parnell, Luke Kelly (of The Dubliners), Christy Brown (whose life story was depicted by Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot), Brendan Behan, Constance Markievicz, Kevin Barry, Roger Casement and Eamon de Valera are all buried at Glasnevin Cemetery. If any of these names don’t ring a bell with you, don’t worry, Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum aptly pays homage to each of the famous persons that are buried at the site. You’ll learn all about their background, life and significant role in Irish history from the materials in the museum.
Amazingly, prior to the opening of Glasnevin Cemetery in 1832, Irish Catholics did not have any cemeteries and were banned under the British enforced penal laws from even having funerals. To this day, mass is performed at the site and yearly blessings of the graves are conducted. What is really obvious and interesting to see is the many different styles of graves and headstones in the cemetery, which have massively evolved through the ages from large stone crosses to Italian marble headstones. You’ll also spot an awesome replica of a round tower that stands by the grave of Daniel O’Connell.
There are over 1.5 million people buried at Glasnevin Cemetery so make sure to where your walking shoes when visiting, as you’ll want to cover all of its notable points of interest. To really understand the significance of the cemetery and those entombed there, the museum offers a meaningful insight into the cemetery’s history. In fact, Glasnevin Cemetery has won several awards for their exhibitions and presentations in the museum as each and every one presents an outstanding level of detail regarding their social and political significance. The City of the Dead section of the museum is particularly impressive, detailing the religious backgrounds and burial practices of the generations of people buried at the cemetery. The Milestone Gallery is a brilliantly interactive digital timeline display that outlines the links between the most famous residents of the cemetery.
If you are interested in learning about some of the key figures in Irish history from the 19th century onwards, a trip to Glasnevin Cemetery is an absolute must, as you’ll find it hard to get such an in-depth history lesson at any other tourist attraction in Ireland. The museum even offers a genealogy centre for those interested in exploring their Irish roots and finding out if any of their distant relatives are buried at the site.
Having read all of the above, I think you’ll agree that the prospect of visiting this graveyard is actually quite an appealing one.