Exhibition

The Question Of Baptism - A Child's Burial At Fort Hill

A series of younger burials, seen by very small graves in the Balriggan cemetery indicates the site was a medieval children's burial ground or Cillin. A shallow burial of a female child, 9-10 years old found at adjacent Fort Hill is radiocarbon dated AD 1480 - 1670. Perhaps this child was also part of the Cillin burial tradition.

In Ireland, there was a tradition of burying un-baptised children in an unofficial burial area, usually referred to as a Cillin. Aside from the issue of baptism and consecrated ground, burial in a proper cemetery cost money. Many children used to die quite young and these tragedies were dealt with by the immediate family. Occasionally a burial might involve a 'slip', which is the term for slipping a burial into a consecrated cemetery at night while no-one is looking and thus avoiding the church fees.

A Child's Burial At Fort Hill

ASI: Why were children not buried in proper cemeteries?
In the past, those undertaking the ritual of Baptism had to understand they were formally accepting the responsibilities of entering the church. A general minimum age for this understanding was around eight years old, but most baptisms might not occur until people were much older. Many people used to be baptised just before death so that all their sins were washed away. Infant baptism is a relatively modern concept.


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