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 The mummies at St Michan that have been burned in the fire.

Devastating Attack on Ancient Mummies at St Michan's Church

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In a shocking incident that has stirred both historical and public outrage, St Michan's Church in Dublin has released graphic photographs showing extensive damage to its precious mummified remains. These mummies, preserved for centuries in the church's crypts, were subjected to an alleged break-in and subsequent fire earlier this week. The Church of Ireland archdiocese disclosed these images, taken by Dan Sheridan, on Thursday, bringing the severity of the damage into stark relief. 

Ancient Relics Suffer Irreparable Harm 

The attack has left historians and locals alike in despair. Among the damaged relics is an 800-year-old mummy known as "The Crusader," an irreplaceable artifact representing a significant piece of Dublin’s medieval history. 

The fire, which broke out around 4 PM on Tuesday, caused extensive damage, not just from the flames but also from the water used to extinguish the blaze. In total, five mummified remains suffered ruinous damage, reports The Journal. 

The alarm was raised by a vigilant tour guide who noticed smoke emanating from the vaults of the church, located on Church Street. Fortunately, no physical injuries were reported, but the cultural loss is immeasurable. The photos reveal charred remains and the heartbreaking degradation of these once well-preserved mummies. 

One of several medieval mummies damaged in the attack

One of several medieval mummies damaged in the attack. (Dan Sheridan/ Church of Ireland) 

A History of Vandalism 

This is not the first time the crypt of St Michan's has been victim of crime. In February 2019, the crypt was broken into, and the head of "The Crusader" was stolen, although it was later recovered. 

The crypt, located in the historic Oxmanstown area north of the River Liffey, houses several other notable remains, including those of a 400-year-old nun, the so-called "Thief," and a man reputed to have been buried alive. These remains, rich in history, have drawn visitors from around the world, making the recent attack even more tragic. 

Legal Proceedings and Charges 

The court has swiftly moved to address this grievous act. On Wednesday, Christian Topiter, a 38-year-old part-time security guard, appeared before Judge Shalom Binchy at Dublin District Court. 

Topiter, who holds a Romanian travel card and has used various addresses, faces charges of causing criminal damage to the mummified remains, property of the Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint. 

Judge Binchy underscored the gravity of the accusations while maintaining the presumption of bail, writes the Irish Mirror. Topiter’s bail was set at €10,000, with €2,000 required to be lodged. Additionally, a €10,000 independent surety must be approved, also requiring a €2,000 lodgment. 

Upon securing bail, Topiter is ordered to stay away from St Michan's Church, refrain from contacting witnesses, provide his address to the police, and surrender his identification or travel documents. 

Devastation and Response from Church Authorities 

In response to the attack, Archbishop Michael Jackson visited St Michan's and expressed his sorrow, in a report on Church of Ireland website: 

"I am devastated to say that vandalism has once again struck in the crypt of St Michan’s, Church Street. The Fire Brigade was called and members dealt with the fire. However, significant damage has been done to the mummies. 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." 

Archdeacon David Pierpoint, Vicar of St Michan's, added his concerns about the extent of the damage. 

"Our security system is very tight and thankfully we have CCTV in operation. The footage has been handed to the Gardai and the investigation is in their hands…. 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. I will contact the National Museum to see if anything can be saved." 

The flames and water used to extinguish the fire caused horrendous damage

The flames and water used to extinguish the fire caused horrendous damage. (Dan Sheridan/ Church of Ireland) 

A Community in Mourning 

The local community and historians worldwide are shocked at this act of vandalism. St Michan's Church, a landmark with roots dating back to 1095, has long been a custodian of Dublin's rich history. The mummies, particularly "The Crusader," are more than mere artifacts; they are tangible links to the city's past, offering invaluable insights into its medieval period. 

In the wake of this tragedy, there is a renewed call for better protection of historical sites. The incident at St Michan's Church highlights the vulnerabilities of such treasured locations and underscores the need for stringent security measures. It also serves as a somber reminder of the importance of preserving our shared heritage for future generations. 

The case against Christian Topiter continues, with the next hearing set via video link at Cloverhill District Court. As legal proceedings unfold, the hope is that justice will be served, and lessons will be learned to safeguard other historical treasures from similar fates. 

Top image: The mummies at St Michan’s that have been burned in the fire. Source: Dan Sheridan/ Church of Ireland 

Gary Manners's picture


Gary is an editor and content manager for Ancient Origins. He has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. He has worked in education, the educational sector, social work... Read More

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