Fire at Dublin Church 'Disastrous for History'

Remains of a 'Crusader' mummy have been destroyed, as have other centuries-old remains
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2024 11:30 AM CDT
Remains of 'Crusader' Mummy Destroyed in Irish Crypt Fire
Mummified remains are seen in the crypt of St. Michan's Church in Dublin on June 14 of last year.   (Wikimedia Commons/Olliebailie)

Centuries-old mummified remains, including those of a Crusader, are thought to have been destroyed in a fire deliberately set Tuesday at a historic Dublin church. A man was arrested and charged with an offense under the Criminal Damage Act, per the BBC. He allegedly broke into the the crypt beneath St. Michan's Church on Tuesday afternoon and set a fire inside. No injuries were reported, at least not to the living. But five sets of mummified remains are believed to have been destroyed, the BBC reported on Wednesday. Church vicar and Archdeacon of Dublin David Pierpoint said Tuesday that he feared "at least two of the remains, including the Crusader, have been destroyed," per IrishCentral.

The crypt holds the remains of Henry and John Sheares, brothers executed by the English for leading the Irish Rebellion of 1798, as well as "many of Dublin's most influential 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century families," per the BBC. But perhaps its most famous inhabitant is the 6'5" skeleton of a man who fought during the Crusades. This same skeleton was decapitated and its skull stolen by thieves who ransacked the crypt in 2019. The skull was discovered and returned about a week later. Officials fear the latest damage can't be as easily rectified.

Pierpoint said the crypt's mummies, which require specific conditions for preservation, were "sitting in a foot of water" after the fire was put out, per Irish Central. He told the BBC he was waiting to see if the National Museum could salvage something from the mummified remains but was pretty sure they were "beyond repair." "It's disastrous for Dublin, it's disastrous for history, and it's disastrous for the parish," Pierpoint added, noting the parish depends on tourist dollars. The building is a functioning Anglican church, as well as a popular tourist attraction, per the BBC. "If we've no crypts to show people the various things that are down under the ground, then we have very little money coming in," Pierpoint said. (More vandalism stories.)

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