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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 28 May, 2020

'Horrible vandalism of a peculiar kind': Church leaders make direct appeal for return of mummy's head

Catholic and Church of Ireland archbishops surveyed the damage this morning.

Image: Leah Farrell/

GARDAÍ AND SENIOR church figures are making a direct appeal for the return of the head of an 800-year-old mummy known as The Crusader, which was taken from the crypt of St Michan’s Church on Dublin’s northside at the weekend. 

The thieves who vandalised the crypt also turned the remains over. Other mummified remains, including those of a nun, were also desecrated, the Church of Ireland said.

The Church of Ireland and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin, Michael Jackson and Diarmuid Martin, surveyed the damage alongside Archdeacon of Dublin David Pierpoint and Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy this morning. 

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Leahy appealed to whoever had taken the head to make contact and make arrangements to return it immediately. 

“Anybody who knows anything about where the head is now please, please make contact with An Garda Síochána. 

“The minute it was removed from the crypt itself it started to deteriorate so we need to get our hands on it as quickly as possible.” 


Extensive damage was caused to the crypt during the break-in, which is believed to have taken place sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning last. The damage was discovered at lunchtime on Monday.

The thieves would have had to prise open a heavy steel door in order to access the vaults, which have since been closed to the public. 

Asked about motivation behind the crime, Leahy said gardaí were not treating it as “mindless vandalism” but as a crime that had been planned in advance. He said the level of resources being dedicated to the case reflected that.

Archbishop Jackson described the damage in the crypt as barbaric and said he wanted to reassure the faithful that he would return next week to re-consecrate it.

“I didn’t know what to expect but the damage is significant. The disturbance and the desecration is very alarming.”

Archbishop Martin said whoever had broken in was well prepared. “They have broken up the coffins and so on, and as a Dubliner I feel this is an offence to the city.”

“It’s a sad thing to see and we have to find ways of restoring the harmonies of this place.”

Jackson warned that the head would deteriorate at a rapid rate once it was removed from the microclimate of the crypt, which is kept at around 14 degrees Celsius all year round.

Asked whether there was any known trade in remains of this kind, Martin said he would be very surprised if there was any commercial interest in it. He described the incident as “horrible vandalism of a peculiar kind”.  

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St Michan’s, on Church Street near the Four Courts in Dublin 7, was originally founded in 1095 but the present church dates from 1685 and was renovated just under two centuries ago.

006 St Michans_90565245 The Church of Ireland and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin, Michael Jackson (right) and Diarmuid Martin. Source: Leah Farrell/

There are five long burial vaults underneath the church containing remains, including those of members of influential Dublin families from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The constant dry atmosphere has caused the mummification of the bodies and the preservation of the coffins, the church’s website says. Visitors have descended the steps to view the bodies since Victorian times.

Currently around 28,000 visitors a year visit the the vaults, which remain closed as the garda investigation continues.

Gardaí are examining what’s believed to be a message left by the intruders. Sources said that while the message would be examined, it could just as easily have been left by the thieves to throw investigators off the trail.

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Daragh Brophy

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