Local media in Dublin, Ireland are reporting a shocking story of a church dating back to the early Middle Ages which suffered an attack by vandals. Some mummies in its crypt have been desecrated including the famous 800-year-old cadaver known as the Crusader Mummy, which has been decapitated and the head has been stolen. Understandably, the community is deeply upset.
The vandalism and desecration took place in the Church of St. Michan’s that dates from the 11th century AD and was originally a Viking chapel . It is still a place of worship and is also open to visitors who are drawn to the crypt which holds a number of mummies. According to the BBC, the “discovery was made as a tour guide was preparing to open the church for visitors.”
The Archdeacon of the church has expressed his anger and sadness at the break-in and desecration. In particular, he has expressed outrage over the decapitation of a cadaver. He said he was “shocked that someone would target this ancient burial place and desecrate the remains of those lying within it. Not only have these individuals desecrated the sacred crypt but they have destroyed these historic mummies which have been preserved in St Michan’s for hundreds of years.”
St. Michan’s Crypt and its MummiesThe intruders broke into the crypt beneath the Church, which is the resting place of many long-dead parishioners. Now we typically associate mummies with arid regions like Egypt but the crypt of St. Michan’s has a unique microenvironment that has mummified many of those who were buried there. These include the above-mentioned Crusader and members of leading Dublin families.
As an interesting side note, the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, a native of Dublin, was fascinated by St. Michan’s and it is believed that his visits to the crypt inspired some of his early Gothic horror stories.
Decapitation of the Crusader MummyDuring the break-in, the vandals badly damaged the crypt. The intruders also desecrated the mummified corpses, and many were destroyed. They also damaged a cadaver of a nun and they seem to have particularly targeted the Church’s most famous mummy, the Crusader. According to the Journal.ie the Crusader’s body was turned over and his head had been removed and then it was stolen.
It is not known why the vandals decapitated the Crusader mummy. There is speculation that the criminals removed it in order to sell it on the black market. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin has appealed “to those responsible to examine their consciences and return the head of The Crusader to its rightful place,” reports the Journal.ie.
The break-in was well planned, and an interior steel gate was dismantled and also stolen. This is not the first time that the mummies of St. Michan’s have been defiled, in 1996 some delinquents played football with the heads of the cadavers during a break-in.
The Crusader MummyThe Crusader is believed to have been a local soldier who went on one of the Crusades to expel the Muslims from the Holy Land. The Crusaders saw themselves as doing God’s Will, but they were also interested in gaining wealth and land . There were up to 10 major and minor Crusades between the 11th and the 14th centuries, and apart from the First Crusade , they all failed in their central objective – to capture Jerusalem for the Christian Church.
The identity of the person that is known as the Crusader mummy is not known. It is believed that he went on one of the Crusades and that he returned from the wars and died in Dublin or died in the Holy Land and was returned to his native place. The soldier was a giant of a man for his time, measuring six and a half feet (1.98 meters) tall but is missing two of his legs and one arm. It was possible for visitors to touch the fingertip of the long-dead soldier, before the latest vandalism at the crypt.
There are fears that the damage done to the vault may result changes to its unique environment and this may result in the disintegration of the remaining mummies. It is also feared that if the head of the Crusader is not returned it may also disintegrate. There are now genuine fears that the remarkable crypt may remain closed to the public in the future . The Irish police are investigating the incident and are monitoring CCTV footage for clues on the vandals’ identities.
Top image: People are shocked and outraged by the vandalism in St. Michan’s church and its crypt. They are especially upset by the desecration of the Crusader mummy. Source: Jennifer Boyer/ CC BY 2.0