By Mark Michael
The Crypt of Saint Michan’s Church in downtown Dublin, reopened to the public last weekend, having been being closed for nearly six months after a thief stole the head of its most famous resident.
After conservation by the National Museum of Ireland, the head of the anonymous corpse known as “The Crusader” was reattached to its body. Dublin police had recovered it along with the head of a female mummy from the crypt on March 5. They had been stolen nine days earlier by Brian Bridgeman, a 35-year old Dublin man, who pled guilty to the crime and will be sentenced this week.
The Anglican church, founded in 1095 and rebuilt in 1686, has opened its crypt to visitors for centuries. The crypt possesses unusual climatic conditions, which have led to the gradual mummification of the bodies entombed there. The process does not preserve the wooden caskets, which have gradually deteriorated, allowing the mummies to be clearly viewed by visitors. “The Crusader” is a six-and-a-half-foot tall man, long thought to be about 800 years old. According to legend, a visit to the crypt inspired Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula.
The Archdeacon of Dublin, the Ven. David Pierpoint, who serves as vicar of the parish, told The Church Times that local people had been supportive, and donations had been sent from around the world to pay for the repairs.
A local undertaker supplied new coffins for the remains, which will no longer be on open display to visitors. Other increased security measures have been put in place to prevent future acts of vandalism. Visitors will no longer be able to shake the Crusader’s hand, a practice that had been a venerable Dublin good-luck charm.
Nearby Christ Church Cathedral, which shares its clergy with St. Michan’s, has a similarly unusual reputation for mummified attractions and for recent grave-robbing. It displays a mummified cat and mouse for visitors, apparently discovered in one of the pipes of its organ in the nineteenth century. The heart of a 12th century Dublin archbishop, St. Laurence O’Toole, was also stolen from the Cathedral in 2012, only to be discovered undamaged by police six years later in a nearby public park.