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Sunday 16 June 2019

Search underway for missing head of 800-year-old Crusader after vandals broke into church

  • Search underway for missing head of 800-year-old Crusader after vandals broke into Dublin church
  • 'It’s 800 years there and his body has been pretty much smashed up and his head has been severed from his neck' - Archdeacon David Pierpoint
  • Gardaí investigating incident and examining CCTV footage from the grounds of the church
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside the entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside the entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside a sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of the Crypts in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside the entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
The entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
St Michans Church on Church street which is currently closed due to the break in and vandalism of one the crypts under the church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside a sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of the Crypts in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
A sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of a Crypt in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin pictured outside St Michans Church where a Crypt was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

A search is underway for the missing head of an 800-year-old Crusader after vandals broke into a Dublin church and decapitated his mummified remains.

Gardaí have launched an investigation into the incident in which a large amount of damage was caused to the vault at St Michan’s Church in the city centre.

The body of a 400-year-old nun was also interfered with and her head turned the wrong way around after vandals managed to break through a steel door and a metal gate leading to the crypt.

Several other preserved remains were also damaged while an 800-year-old Crusader was decapitated and his head removed from the vault. A separate skull is also missing.

The mummies at St Michan's Church crypt
The mummies at St Michan's Church crypt

The Church of Ireland’s Archdeacon of Dublin, the Venerable David Pierpoint, described the damage as "vandalism, sacrilege, desecration" and raised serious concerns over the preservation of the Crusader’s head.

"I had a phone call just after one o’clock today from the tour guide who said that the vaults had been broken into," he told Independent.ie at the site this afternoon.

"I went down to the vault and discovered a pretty gruesome scene down there. It is pretty bad. The perpetrators of this vandalism, sacrilege, desecration have turned over some of the bodies.

"The body of a nun who is there for about 300 odd years... she has been pretty much trashed, her head has been turned around the wrong way.

David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside a sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of the Crypts in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin beside a sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of the Crypts in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

"But the worst thing is the Crusader whose mummified body is down there... it’s 800 years there and his body has been pretty much smashed up and his head has been severed from his neck," Archdeacon Pierpoint said.

"So the head has disappeared and there’s another skull missing as well. The Hamilton vault is the first vault in the crypt. The Hamilton family, of the famous mathematician who has a building named after him in Trinity College, he’s buried here as well.

"So we’re not quite sure what the motive behind all of this is. Whether its vandalism or, we don’t know.

"At the moment we’re just waiting for the gardaí to do their job.

The entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
The entrance to one of the Crypts in St Michans Church, which was broken into and vandalised. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

"They came over straight away, they’ve been very good. I can’t fault them, they’ve just been excellent. In fact, they’re coming over again shortly to check up on a few other bits and pieces.

"It’s just a very sad day and we’re completely devastated by what has happened," he said.

A sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of a Crypt in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
A sign advising people the church and vaults are closed due to the the break in and vandalism of a Crypt in St Michans Church. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

"There’s property in the crypts that keeps them preserved for so long. But once it’s exposed to the extremes of the outside world, my fear is the longer it takes before the head is returned or recovered, then the head will just disintegrate.

"And it’s not a skull, it’s a proper head, it’s got skin and a nose and ears and everything else, it’s just a very sad day."

The incident is currently under investigation by officers at the Bridewell garda station, which is across the road from the church.

St Michan’s has six CCTV cameras operating on the grounds, including one pointing directly at the vault doors, which is hoped will help identify those responsible.

In a statement the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Reverend Michael Jackson, appealed for those responsible to return the head of the Crusader.

"I am shocked that someone would target this ancient burial place and desecrate the remains of those lying within it.

"Not only have these individuals desecrated the sacred crypt but they have destroyed these historic mummies which have been preserved in St Michan’s for hundreds of years. I would appeal to those responsible to examine their consciences and return the head of The Crusader to its rightful place," he stated.

"The actions of these people are devastating and sacrilegious.

"We are upset at the amount of damage that has been caused. But also the crypt will have to close so tourists will not be able to visit.

"It is very frustrating," he said adding: "I would appeal to anyone with information to contact the gardaí," he added.

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