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The land for Deansgrange Cemetery was purchased in 1861 and the first burial took place in 1865. The cemetery covers an area of 65 acres and contains the remains of over 140,000 people. 


There are more people of national importance buried here than in any other Irish cemetery with the exception of Glasnevin. There are two former Taoisigh, a Nobel Prize winner, an Oscar winner, the most famous tenor of his day, entrepreneurs, actors, artists, musicians and over 20 writers including Frank O’Connor and Flann O’Brien. In addition there are many other people who have played a part in all the historic events over the last 150 years. These include marine disasters such as the Palme and the Leinster, two World Wars, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War, and all the other events that make up local and national life. 


It is a tradition in this cemetery to inter the deceased facing to the East – towards the rising sun. A member of the clergy is buried in the opposite way so as he will face towards his flock.


When the cemetery first opened if a family could not afford the expense of erecting a headstone the planting of a tree marked the location of the grave.


Located on the left side of the cemetery avenue is the Protestant Church, where people of that faith in the early days of the cemetery were buried in the sections South, South West and West, while those of the Catholic faith were buried on the right side of the cemetery avenue, with their own Catholic Church located in the North section.


The use of symbols is everywhere in the cemetery - the carvings on the stones, the type of memorial and even the trees.

  • The Cross - the ultimate emblem of Christianity. Tradition has it that the shape of the Celtic cross was formed by St Patrick putting the Latin cross over the circle, which was the sign of the moon goddess thus showing the triumph of Christianity over paganism.
  • IHS - the initial letters in Greek for the name of Jesus. In Latin - Jesus Hominum Salvator – Jesus Saviour of Men. There are also other meanings.
  • XP - the initial letters in Greek for Christ


We have the following flowers and they symbolise the following; Ivy - fidelity and friendship, Lily - purity. Oak - generally refers to old age, Palm leaves - the coming of Christ or woven into a garland to signify triumph, Rose - harmony and love or truthfulness and Sheaves of wheat - the Resurrection


  • Dove - shown with a twig in its mouth, it represents the dove sent out by Noah to see if the waves had receded. When it came back it was taken as a sign of forgiveness by God
  • Book - usually the bible but sometimes it is over the grave of a writer or teacher
  • Hand - hands shaking are a sign of friendship; hand pointing upwards to GodAngels - are used to convey many messages such as grief, the resurrection, the judgement and many other subjects
  • Anchor - the cross or a sign of hope
  • Chalice - a clergyman
  • Snake - the Devil but sometimes a medical person 
  • Lamb - the Lamb of God, Christ's sacrifice for mankind or purity and innocence
  • Broken column- a life cut short or that all things, even great civilizations, come to an end
  • Obelisk – associations with Egyptian culture, showing culture and wealth of the deceased
  • Trees – the yew is associated with the tree of life and with eternity; the weeping willow with forgiveness


Do you know why Yew trees are planted in Churchyards? Some Yew trees were actually there before the church was built as the preacher often preached under a Yew tree if the village could not afford a church.In 1307 King Edward 1st ordered Yew trees to be planted in churchyards to offer some protection to the buildings. Traditionally a church has only two Yew trees – one on the gateway to the main door and the second on the path to the minor door. Yews are poisonous so by planting them in the churchyards cattle that were not allowed to graze on hallowed ground were safe from eating Yew. Yew was the traditional wood used for making long bows – planting in churchyards ensured availability in times of need. Yew branches on touching the ground take root and sprout again – this became the symbol of death, rebirth and therefore immortality.

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