St Michans (Dublin)

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St Michan's Church
St Michan's Church

St Michan's Church Dublin has a long standing history in the city dating back to the time of the Vikings. The first church to be built on the site was made of wood and was completed in the year 1065. The purpose of the Church in Smithfield was to serve the peope who had been banished from the city which at the time was limited to the south side of the river. It remained the only church on the north side of the river for 500 years. The current embodiment of the church dates as far back as 1685. This was carried out during a period of intense refurbishment of churches in Ireland. 

St Michan's Church is famous amongst Dublin buildings for a number of reasons. Firstly the organ, which is thought to be oldest in Ireland. It was built in 1725 and the local claim is that it was on this organ that Handel first played The Messiah. The organ has been rebuilt over the years but the original casing is still in place. 

The crypt is said to have been visited by a young Bram Stoker, inspiring a certain morbid streak that would later serve quite well for the author.

The second, and perhaps most widely known aspect of St Michan's fame is the curious inhabitants of its crypt. Conditions in the crypt related to the limestone surroundings, have resulted in a natural mummification of the bodies held therein. A number of the accidental mummies are on public display, as the coffins slowly decayed to reveal the bodies within. Four bodies in particular have made the crypt into a tourist hotspot. Though their actual names are not known they are named locally as 'The Unknown', 'The Nun', 'The Thief', and 'The Crusader'. The oldest and most famous mummy is The Crusader whos remains are believed to be 800 years old. His presence there has connected St Michan's with the Knights Templar, as his incredible height of 6'6" indicates that he may have been a military man, but his presence in the crypt means that he must also have been a man of the cloth. 

St Michan's 1955

Photo above: woman shakes hand with mummified remains in crypt of St Michan's Dublin, 1955

In  Spring 2019, the crypt at St Michan's was broken into and a number of the mummies were horrifically desecrated. The Nun was decapitated and had her head placed on backwards, and The Crusader had his body broken apart and his head stolen. As fears mounted for the condition of the head outside of the crypt's preservational abilities, a large scale Garda investigation was launched, which thankfully resulted in the eventual return of the Crusader's head. After intensive restoration work by the team at the National Museum of Ireland, the remains were all reinterred and the crypt re-opened for tours. 

Read more: St Nicholas' Church Galway

Read more: Arrest of Templars in Ireland




Information on Mummies Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Parish History Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Inventory of Architectural Heritage Ireland VIEW SOURCE
News Article - Theft of Crusader's Head Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Dublin City Library Ireland VIEW SOURCE

Some communities associated with this building