Archdeacon of St Michan’s thanks public for help in returning historic remains
Fear remains ‘that once they start drying out they’ll begin to crumble’ after being found ‘saturated’
The Archdeacon said it’s unlikely the head can be reattached to the body because it was completely severed from the neck and spine.
The Archdeacon of St Michan’s Church, from where a mummified head known as ‘the Crusader’ and a nun’s skull were stolen, has thanked the public and the Garda for their help in returning the historic remains.
The break-in was discovered on February 25th when a guide was preparing to open St Michan’s for visitors. The guide discovered the head of the Crusader had been severed from its mummified body and was missing.
The head of a mummified nun, who died 300 years ago, had also been turned 180 degrees to face the wrong direction while a third mummy had been turned on its side.
The Ven David Pierrepoint had a special word of thanks for the person who tipped off gardaí about the whereabouts of the items. “We’re extremely grateful that we have this back and now we can lay him to rest,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
He told of how he received a phone call from the Bridewell Garda station on Tuesday afternoon to say they had received a tip off and had recovered the head and the skull.
“I immediately went to the station and examined the skull and the head, unfortunately they were quote saturated and damp and wet, so they’ve gone to the museum now to begin the process of trying to dry them out, but my fear is that once they start drying out they’ll just begin to crumble.
“We’ll just have to wait and see, possibly we will have to recoffin them and reinter them in the vaults.”
Archdeacon Pierrepoint said he did not know where the remains were recovered as this was on ongoing investigation. “Whoever the culprits are they may be able to use this as part of their arrest process.
“The heads can be put back with the back with the body, the head of the Crusader was completely severed from the neck, spine, it’s very unlikely it can be reattached as such, but it can certainly be laid back in its proper place, whether it can ever be on view to the public again is something that we wait for the experts findings. We’re in their hands now.”
He went on to explain that the vaults at St Michan’s have a preservative quality. “The vaults are always at 14 degrees temperature, that’s winter and summer, they say it’s from the tannin gas. The church was originally built on Oxmantown Bog and the tannin gas mixed with the limestone has this funny preserving qualities so while people have been buried there, no one knew until about 150 years ago that this preserving quality was there.
“We have records for some of the people buried there, obviously there are family crypts there, as regards the Crusader who just know he is approximately 800 years which ties in with the Crusades, he was buried with his legs crossed which was standard. We know the nun for example was about 400 years old.
“The sad part of it is that anybody would do such a thing. Anybody who would do this I don’t believe they’re in their right mind.
“There was a break in at the crypt in 1996, that was just mindless vandalism by some youths. We have particularly good security, we have CCTV cameras, double doors both outside and inside the crypts and the people who did this came prepared to break open those doors.
“The doors on the outside, each of them weighs about 60 kilos and one of them was taken off its hinges. That didn’t just happen.”
He explained that the Parish can’t afford 24 hour security on site. “We’ve done everything we can security wise to keep it safe.
“It is our intention to open the crypt to visitors because we have inherited this great treasure, not just for the parish, for the city and the nation and we maintain it, so it is our intention to have this available for all future generations in whatever form it can be.
“Want to say thank you to so many people from across the globe who have expressed their concern and their support, thanks to the Gardaí, and thank you to whoever tipped the Gardaí off as to where we could find the head and the skull because we’re extremely grateful now that we have this back we can lay him to rest.”
Archdeacon Pierrepoint said that St Michan’s is open for church services. “It’s back open since Monday for tourists including the crypts.”