Glasnevin Cemetery Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

Dublin, Ireland

Image Credit: Yulia Plekhanova / Shutterstock

About Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum is Ireland’s largest cemetery (124 acres, approximately 1.5 million buried there), and the final resting place of some of Ireland’s most famous figures. It is located in North Dublin, Ireland.

History of Glasnevin Cemetery

The cemetery was founded in the 19th century: at that point, under British rule, Irish Catholics had nowhere to bury their dead. Daniel O’Connell (known as the Liberator for his role in championing Catholic rights) began a petition to find a place in which both Catholics and Protestants could give their dead a proper burial.

Glasnevin was consecrated in February 1832, originally under the name Prospect Cemetery.

Whilst many of Ireland’s most famous figures are buried at Glasnevin, it is also home to mass graves – approximately 800,000 were buried there during the Great Famine, cholera epidemics and the Spanish Flu.

The cemetery also charts the history of funereal architecture, with a variety of different styles of monuments. The high walls which enclose the cemetery was designed to deter 19th century body snatchers: watchmen patrolled the perimeter with dogs regularly to prevent graves being disturbed.

Unusually for many Irish cemeteries, stillborn babies are allowed to be buried here on consecrated ground – look out for the ‘Angels Plot’.

Glasnevin today

The cemetery is still in use, and burials do still occur here: Catholic Mass is celebrated on Sunday mornings. Guided tours run regularly (they can be useful as the cemetery is vast, and there’s little to help visitors otherwise): notable figures from the Irish War of Independence buried here include Constance Markievicz, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Charles Stewart Parnell and Daniel O’Connell amongst others.

The museum is well worth a visit: it charts the history of religion and burial practices across the world, as well as the social and political developments in Ireland through some of those buried on site.

Don’t miss the 55m O’Connell Tower: the top of the tower offers gorgeous panoramic views across Dublin and the surrounding areas on a clear day, and the history of the O’Connell family is fascinating.

Getting to Glasnevin

Glasnevin is located on the Finglas Road, roughly 2.5km north of the city centre. It’s a 30-40 minute walk, or there are several bus routes which stop outside almost directly outside the cemetery. It is also easily accessible by car from the city centre or airport.