“For a moment or two I could see nothing…Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the Abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible… It seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell.”
Bram Stoker Dracula (1897)
There are literary anniversaries a-plenty coming up in 2012 including the Charles Dickens centenary in February and the anniversary of Bram Stoker‘s death in April. Stoker’s spine-chilling description of the churchyard of St. Mary’s Abbey, Whitby and Pip’s visit to the isolated village graveyard where he meets the escaped convict Magwich in Dickens’ Great Expecations, might be enough to put people off visiting cemeteries. But those who have explored Père Lachaise in Paris where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried and Highgate in London, where amongst many other figures from history, you can find the tombs of Dickens’ parents, wife and daughter, will certainly agree that, depending on the purpose of your visit, graveyards can be great!
If you scout the cemeteries of Dublin city, you’ll discover the final resting places of other great writers such as William Carleton and Sheridan Le Fanu in Mount Jerome; Brendan Behan and Christy Brown in Glasnevin and the tombstones of Frank O’Connor and Flann O’Brien, who died within a few weeks of each other in 1966, in Deansgrange.
Prospect Cemetery, Finglas Road, Glasnevin: View showing J.J. McCarthy-designed mortuary chapel and George Petrie’s O’Connell monument (NLI L_CAB_02849)
The present-day entrance gates, offices and mortuary chapel at Glasnevin were designed by J.J. McCarthy (1817 -1882), Ireland’s pre-eminent architect of Catholic churches. Until 1832, due the the legacy of the Penal Laws, Irish Catholics were buried in local Church of Ireland graveyards (indeed this is still the case in smaller rural parishes). Following the passing of Roman Catholic Relief Act in 1829 which granted emancipation to Ireland’s Catholics, Daniel O’Connell set about establishing a cemetery in which any Irish person could be buried. O’Connell himself is buried there, in a crypt below a 51m-tall replica round tower — a symbol of Ireland’s ancient ecclesiastical past. Designed by the antiquarian George Petrie (1790 -1866), the original scheme was intended to include a Celtic cross and a chapel similar to Cormac’s Chapel in Cashel Co. Tipperary. The plan had to be abandoned as construction of the tower used up so much of the budget and today the memorial consists of the round tower with a crypt containing O’Connell’s remains beneath it. Recently restored with the assistance of the Office of Public Works, it is now open to the public.While the O’Connell monument is one of the most popular and well-known architectural features in the cemetery, another monument of equal merit is the nearby Boland Memorial chapel. This highly detailed elaborate miniature Gothic cathedral was designed in 1871 by J.J. McCarthy who was also working on the cemetery’s mortuary chapel designs at the time. The chapel was designed to hold the remains of members of the Boland milling and baking family, whose Grand Canal basin premises, Boland’s Mills were at the frontline of battles during the 1916 Rising. The sculpture programme of the chapel, finely executed in Kilkenny limestone, was carried out by James Pearse, father of a key player in the Rising, republican and writer Patrick Pearse (1879 -1916) – you can read more about sculpture in the Archived Posts section of this blog.
You can see MORE IMAGES from Prospect Cemetery, Glasnevin including McCarthy’s Boland Memorial Chapel and Mortuary Chapel on the Building 19th Century Ireland photoblog http://archimageireland.wordpress.com/ (Images are licenced via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.)
Graveyards can be goulish or great depending on why you visit them – I’m firmly in favour of the latter description!
© Caroline McGee October 2011
The National Library of Ireland Photographic Archive has fantastic archive images of Glasnevin Cemetery including the one shown in this post (L_CAB_02849 ca. 1880 -1914) courtesy of @NLIreland‘s Lawrence Collection They also have a great Flickr stream of images from their collections.
More images of Irish medieval gothic architecture may be viewed on http://gothicpast.com
1-hour tours of Glasnevin Cemetery take place at 2.30pm each day and cost just €6. They also have a lots of other things that capture the spirit of the Halloween season including Ghastly Glasnevin until November 7th and the Gravedigger’s Tours on October 31st (11am & 5pm) Downloadable .pdf files on Glasnevin Cemetery tours are available here
If you are near Whitby next weekend you can see the spooktacular setting for Stoker’s Dracula at its atmospheric best when it plays host to a variety of events as part of the Whitby Goth Weekend