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Archbishops visit desecrated crypt

By Ann Marie Foley - 28 February, 2019

l–r Archbishop Michael Jackson & Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Church of Ireland and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin have appealed for the return of the head of an 800-year-old mummy which was stolen from St Michan’s Church, Dublin, at the weekend.

On Wednesday (27 February) Archbishop Michael Jackson and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin surveyed the damage done during the break-in.

Archbishop Martin described it as desecration and added: “As a Dubliner, this is an offence against the city. All Dubliners know about St Michan’s. This is so sad. We have to find a way to restore harmony. I appeal for the return of the Crusader’s head but I am worried about the damage they did – I wonder about the mentality behind it.”

Archbishop Jackson described the damage as “significant” and spoke of the support the parish has received from the local community since the break-in. He thanked everyone and asked that they keep an eye out in case the head of the Crusader has been dumped.

“On its own the head is useless. But it will mean so much to the people of Dublin to have it restored to its resting place. I want to assure people that I will return here to re-consecrate the crypt. It is right to re-consecrate an area that has been desecrated,” he stated. He expressed his concern that once out of the microclimate of the crypt, the mummified remains would quickly disintegrate.

Whoever broke in damaged the remains of the Crusader mummy, scattered some of his bones outside the coffin and stole his head along with a skull that was also in the crypt.

They also moved the remains of two other people, including a nun who has lain there for 400 years. The intruders broke into the family vault of William Rowan Hamilton, the 19th century mathematician whose studies paved the way for quantum theory.

Archbishop Jackson said that within the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough St Michan’s Church is very important – to those who work in the area, who worship in the church and who gather at the beginning of each legal year.

“Part of the heritage of this place that we have to share is the uniqueness of the mummified bodies in the crypt. I thank the Vicar and the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, who is the Rector, and the parishioners for their custodianship and their patience. I stand with them in the hope that it will be restored,” he said.

St Michan’s Church remains open for regular parish worship, but the tours and access to the crypt have been suspended. Around 28,000 visitors come to the church and crypt every year. Garda investigations into the incident continue.

St Michan’s was founded in 1095 and was the only church located on the north side of Dublin City until 1686. The current structure dates from 1685 and was renovated in 1825. The interior, which has changed little since Victorian times, still has its original organ and the Penitant’s Desk, commissioned in 1724 and used for public confession.

Below the church are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential families from 1600 to 1800. These include the Shears brothers and the highly decorated coffins of the Earls of Leitrim.

Since Victorian times, visitors have visited the vault steps to see the mummies. The renowned Bram Stoker, creator of the “Dracula” stories, is believed to have visited. In one of the vaults are the remains of the Crusader, which were desecrated in the recent incident.

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