After being closed to the public for more than a decade, Daniel O’Connell’s crypt below the landmark round tower in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery is open for visits, more than 160 years after his death.
The final resting place of ‘the Liberator’ is set to feature as a major tourist attraction.
Built in 1868, the crypt features a black Kilkenny marble altar and contains the remains of O’Connell and eight members of his immediate family, including sons, daughters and grandchildren.
His last wishes -- “My heart to Rome, my body to Ireland and my soul to heaven” -- appear in gold above the O’Connell family crypt.
O’Connell, who was Mayor of Dublin, and who became the first Catholic in modern history to sit in the House of Commons in London, died in Genoa in 1847 before he had a chance to complete a pilgrimage to Rome.
As he had requested, his heart was buried in the Irish College in Rome and his body interred in Glasnevin cemetery.
Later, his remains, in an Irish oak and lead-lined coffin, were moved to their present location in the family crypt beneath the specially built round tower.
Within the acres of Glasnevin, the remains of the great emancipator lies with many key figures in Irish history, including Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.
Extensive refurbishment work, including more than 70,000 Euro spent in restoring the tower, has now paved the way for the reopening of the crypt.
It is all part of the cemetery refurbishment programme, in advance of the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
“There is something for everyone here and every piece of Irish history since 1842 is represented,” Glasnevin Trust chief executive George McCullough said.
Tours of the famous cemetery have been conducted for more than a decade and because of their popularity are now being conducted daily, he said.
Officially opening O’Connell’s crypt yesterday, President Mary McAleese said it was a fitting tribute to his memory and an appropriate place for those who owed him so much to come in respectful pilgrimage.
“Daniel O’Connell is in distinguished company in Glasnevin cemetery, for many of those who heroically invested their lives in the services of Ireland’s freedom and democratisation are buried here,” said the President.
Considerable inroads had been made into the ambitious 10-year refurbishment and renovation programme of the entire cemetery and will include a new visitor centre, she said.
“The Glasnevin Trust has provided us with a very fine tribute to the history of Ireland contained within these walls and a wonderful facility for the many visitors from Ireland and from around the world who are drawn here by what it represents and who it represents.”