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New resting place for the heart of St Laurence O’Toole

By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 November, 2018

The heart of St Laurence O’Toole. Photo: The United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough.

Next Wednesday, the heart of St Laurence O’Toole will go on permanent public display in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

A special ecumenical service of dedication and thanksgiving will mark the occasion, which takes place on the Saint’s feast day, 14 November.

The public are being offered free entry to Christ Church Cathedral from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that day and this will offer Dubliners a chance to pay their respects to their patron saint.

The ecumenical service of dedication and thanksgiving will see Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin bless and dedicate the redesigned cathedral grounds incorporating a new stone labyrinth.

Following this, the Archbishop will preside at a service of Festal Choral Evensong, sung by the cathedral choirs, during which he will bless and dedicate the new resting place of the heart of St Laurence O’Toole.

St Laurence’s heart will be housed in a specially designed art piece, crafted by Cork-based artist Eoin Turner.

The service is open to the public.

Commenting ahead of the special day of celebration, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Very Rev Dermot Dunne said he was delighted that there are two reasons for celebration.

“We are deeply grateful for the grant funding from Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland that has enabled the redesign and landscaping of our grounds. Further it is my great privilege and joy at this time to be able to return the heart of St Laurence to the people of Dublin.”

Dean Dermot Dunne, Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy, Archbishop Michael Jackson and the then Lord Mayor of Dublin Micheal Mac Donnacha with the heart of St Laurence O’Toole. Photo: United Diocese of Dublin & Glendalough.

The heart relic of St Laurence was stolen from the cathedral in March 2012 from the iron-barred cage on the wall of the Chapel of St Laud, which had been its resting place for many years.

Following a long-running investigation, the heart was recovered, undamaged, by the Gardaí.

After a six-year absence from the cathedral, it was officially handed over by the Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy to the Archbishop of Dublin at a service of Choral Evensong on 26 April 2018.

St Laurence O’Toole is the Patron Saint of Dublin and is closely associated with the early years of Christ Church Cathedral.

He was born at Castledermot, Co. Kildare, in 1132, the youngest of four sons of Maurice O’Toole, a Leinster chieftain, who was engaged in rivalry with the powerful Mac Murchada family.

When he was ten years old, Laurence was handed over to Diarmait Mac Murchada as a hostage for his father’s loyalty.

When his father was suspected of treachery, Laurence was imprisoned and became very ill.

He was eventually rescued and cared for by the Bishop of Glendalough and decided to join the church. He was ordained a priest and became abbot of the monastery at Glendalough at the age of 25.

In 1161 he became Archbishop of Dublin and was consecrated the following year at Christ Church Cathedral.

The Anglo–Norman invasion of Ireland, led by Strongbow, in 1169 resulted in two sieges and a famine in Dublin. St Laurence played an important part in the negotiations when an Anglo–Norman victory became inevitable.

He has traditionally been given credit for the rebuilding of Christ Church in the 1180s, although it is now considered more likely that his successor, Archbishop John Cumin, was responsible.

In 1180, St Laurence left Ireland for the last time to travel to Normandy. He became ill on arrival and was brought to the Abbey of St Victor at Eu where he died on 14 November 1180. He was made a saint in 1226.

Following Laurence’s canonisation, some relics of his were returned to Dublin, where they lay in the cathedral’s relic collection until the Reformation.

Before it was stolen in 2012, the heart had been on display in the Chapel of St Laud in the cathedral.

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