DUBLIN, IRELAND — Less than two months after an 800-year-old mummy in the crypts of St. Michan, an Anglican church in Dublin, was decapitated and the skull stolen, the community of St. Michan’s is looking to move forward.
On April 11, 2019, Archbishop Michael Jackson reconsecrated the crypt in front of a group of more than 20 community members.
Jackson led prayers at the crypt entrance, followed by leading a small group into the crypt itself “so that those who had lain there for many years could once again be at rest,” the United Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough’s communication office said.
The mummy at the center of the investigation is called The Crusader, but very little — including if he was actually a crusader — is known.
According to The Journal, an Irish news site, the mummy was discovered about 200 years ago. The knowledge of the vaults and the mummies have been passed down between guides at the church.
So, while it’s believed that The Crusader participated in the Fourth Crusade, which began in 1202, it’s not certain.
“The basic premise is that he’s of the right era and he has been buried with his legs crossed, which apparently is a traditional sign of crusadership,” the church’s tour guide Peter Condell told the news site. “But other than that, it’s all very vague.”
Three other mummies dating back 400 years, including a nun, were also damaged during the break-in.
In March, the skull was recovered by police. It had been further damaged by rainwater and without the unusually dry air of the limestone crypt, it began to disintegrate. It is currently at the National Museum of Ireland to conserve and restore, with the goal to eventually place it back in the coffin at St. Michan’s.
This isn’t the first time one of the five St. Michan’s crypts have been broken into. In July 1996, RTE reported that about forty of their eighty corpses were removed from their sealed coffins, piling their bones in heaps. It was believed the thieves were searching for valuables.
It was during this 1996 break in that a fire was also started. The Irish Times reported that firefighters poured water on the coffins, unaware of the further damage they were causing.
This crypt has since been closed.
In addition to the reconsecration in April, Jackson also dedicated a new community garden in the churchyard of St Michan’s.
Revd. Ross Styles organized the idea for the community garden, hoping to “bring us to the community and the community to us” while also bringing a “beautiful green oasis” to an area lacking such a space, the communication office said.
“To see a green space and to use it in this way is wonderful,” Jackson said. “It draws together a range of the Five Marks of Mission but particularly nurturing and care of the creation and it is in the middle of an area dealing with justice.”
Together, Styles and Jackson planted an apple tree in front of community members to mark the occasion.
The church was founded in 1095 and is home to five crypts. Two of these crypts are open to the public through tours. With a short walking distance from the Jameson Distillery, the crypt tours draw about 28,000 people annually.
But with the break-in, tours have been limited and security has been increased. Currently, the church is only offering tours of one of the crypts, where attendees learn about brothers, Henry and John Sheares, famous for their involvement in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.
The church is hoping to resume tours of both crypts in June at the earliest. Still, those at Winterfell should take note: the crypts might not be the safest place.