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The entrance to the crypt at St. Michan's Church Leah Farrell
St Michan's Church

Man charged over fire lit in Dublin church crypt as Archbishop laments 'desecration' of mummies

The scene was sealed off yesterday as a forensic investigation took place.

A MAN HAS been charged and was due to appear in court this morning after a fire was lit in the crypt beneath St Michan’s Church in Dublin yesterday afternoon, in what the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin described as an act of “desecration”. 

The Dublin Fire Brigade was alerted by a tour guide who noticed the flames at around 4:30pm. 

It is believed that the mummies were destroyed by the fire and the water used to extinguish it. 

The scene was sealed off yesterday as a forensic investigation took place. 

“The mummies are very much part of our continuing history at the heart of the old city of Dublin,” Archbishop Michael Jackson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

“They’ve been there since the Middle Ages. One of them is felt to be the remains of a crusader, the other, perhaps of a nun, and then there would be one or two others.

“So they’ve been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s the particular climate conditions, it’s very dry in there, that has enabled them to be preserved. 

“And as I’m sure you know, countless children in their day across Dublin and Ireland would have been to see the mummies, but also visitors from across the world. So they have been very much part of what it is to come and see Dublin, and very much part of the weave of Dublin life.”

St Michans 10_90707242 A sign put up after the fire in the crypt. Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

Jackson was asked what had happened and if he knew what kind of condition the mummies had been left in.

“I understand yesterday afternoon somebody broke into the crypt, started a fire, and then the fire brigade had to be called, and it was the combination of the fire and water [that] have done significant damage to the mummies. I don’t honestly know exactly what the extent of that is, but my fear, like that of others, is that the damage is irreparable.”

Jackson said the news was upsetting to the small number of parishioners and traumatic for the tour guides who work in the area. 

“For me it’s traumatic because it’s very much part of the gift that one of the churches in this diocese,a church dating from the 11th century, can offer as part of history to people who come and visit.”

He also said that the setting of the fire was a form of “desecration”.

“These are the mortal remains of people who once lived and were buried in that crypt.”

The church above the crypt, he said, was not damaged thanks to “the rapid work of the fire brigade”.   

The mummies are due to be examined by experts from the National Museum but Archbishop Jackson said he was not confident they will be salvageable. 

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