The East Wing
Once a working prison that held and executed many members of the Irish Revolution of 1916, the jail is now a museum that offers guided tours to Dublin's visitors.
It has been the site of many movies as well, including The Italian Job, Michael Collins, and In the Name of the Father.
According to the tour guides, Kilmainham was a pioneer in the prison system, becoming the first jail to strive for less crowded, more hygienic accommodations.
During its early years, debtors were more than half of the prison's population, with the others incarcerated for drunkenness, begging, stealing, and prostitution. Many of the prisoners were en route to Australia; over 4,000 were sent through Kilmainham. Even children could be arrested and sent to jail for petty theft; the youngest on record was seven.
When it first opened, Kilmainham conditions were harsh, with no glass and no lights. Prisoners were given one small candle every two weeks for light and heat, and those convicted of murder and violent robbery were hanged on the gallows outside the front of the prison doors.
Above the balcony, above the doors, on either side of the ornamental design,
are the pieces used in the hanging of prisoners,
which was all but stopped and moved inside to a small cell in 1891.
In the later years of the Irish Famine, the prison saw significant overcrowding, with five or more in one cell. According to our tour guide, many saw the jail as a place of refuge, where, at least, they were guaranteed one meal a day, and the temporary inconvenience was better than starving to death.
The East Wing (pictured above) was state of the art when it opened in 1862. Prison administrators practiced silence and separation, keeping prisoners mostly isolated in the hopes that in their silence, they would read their Bible and repent for their sins.
Guards could monitor inmates via catwalks that allowed them greater supervisory access.
For their part in the 1916 Easter Rising, several revolutionaries were sent to Kilmainham Gaol for their part in the rebellion.
Site in the prison yard where the Rebels were executed.
Fourteen men were executed by firing squad, including Joseph Plunkett, who was given permission to marry his love in the prison chapel, hours before his execution.
The prison chapel where Joseph married Grace.
Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford Plunkett
Joseph's marriage proposal letter.
Grace, herself, was imprisoned at Kilmainham for rebel rousing.
She painted on the wall inside her cell.
Peering through a peephole of a cell.
Cell blocks of the West Wing.
Some prisoners, like Charles Stewart Parnell, were incarcerated due to their political stance. Parnell rejected Britain's Land Act of 1881 and was housed in Kilmainham for seven months. His stay was far less oppressive than his poor compadres.
This illustration, in Parnell's cell, shows Parnell receiving visitors in his suite,
which included a sitting room and a fireplace, in addition to his sleeping quarters.
Access to Kilmainham Gaol by Guided Tour Only. The tour lasts about an hour. Arrive early: tickets are first come, first served, and as of the time we went, they could not be booked in advance. The Gaol is on tour bus lines and is about 3.5 kilometers from the city center.
Have you ever been to Kilmainham Gaol? What did you think?