Archbishop condemns ‘sacrilege’ as Dublin crypt mummies feared destroyed after fire

800-year-old mummy known as The Crusader is believed to be among those destroyed after suspected arson incident

The crypt at St Michan's Church after it was broken into. Picture by RTÉ
The crypt at St Michan's Church pictured after a vandalism incident in 2019.

The destruction of mummies described as national treasures in a Dublin crypt has been condemned as “sacrilege” by an Archbishop.

At least two sets of mummified remains, including those of someone believed to have died around 800 years ago, are feared to have been destroyed after a fire was lit in the historic crypts of Dublin’s St Michan’s Church.

The mummies were left in a “foot of water” after firefighters extinguished the blaze on Tuesday afternoon, it was claimed.

Gardaí arrested a man on suspicion of an alleged offence under the Criminal Damage Act in connection with the incident, and he remained in custody on Tuesday evening.

Among the remains feared destroyed in the incident is an estimated 800-year-old mummy known as The Crusader.

The Crusader’s head was removed and stolen in 2019, which led to the crypts being closed to visitors for a period.

The decapitated head of "The Crusader" mummy, which was stolen from a crypt at St Michan's Church in Dublin earlier this year
The skull of 'The Crusader' mummy, which was stolen from St Michan's Church crypts in 2019. The mummy is now feared to have been destroyed following a fire on Tuesday.

The head was later recovered and a 36-year-old man was jailed for 28 months for burglary, criminal damage and damaging a dead body.

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson said he was “devastated” that further vandalism had occurred at the crypt.

“Significant damage has been done to the mummies,” he said.

“These historic remains are woven into the history of the city of Dublin and emblazoned in the imaginations of visitors and tourists from home and abroad.

“We do not yet know what the future is for the mummies as the Archdeacon of Dublin and I fear that they have been destroyed. These mummies are a national treasure and I am shocked at the sacrilege of the destruction of the remains of people who once lived.”

St Michan’s Vicar David Pierpont said: “The crypt is a crime scene but I have just been given access to see the damage. The mummies are sitting in a foot of water. They need a very specific atmosphere and I fear that at least two of the remains, including the Crusader, have been destroyed.

He added: “I will contact the National Museum to see if anything can be saved.”