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The heart of Saint Laurence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin, returned to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Tip-off leads Dublin Police to the Stolen Holy Heart of St Laurence

An 800-year-old relic that was taken from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, has been returned by the gardai (police) 6 years after it was stolen. The religious item is believed to be the heart of Dublin’s Patron Saint, Laurence O'Toole.

A Missing Heart

RTE reports that the relic - St. Laurence’s heart - was stolen in 2012, which began a 6 year investigation. It is thought the thief lay in hiding overnight before making off with his bounty, reported RTE. Interestingly, two peace candles were lit on the Trinity altar of the catherdral after the thief had left. The heart, in its heart-shaped wooden box, was removed from the barred cage in which it was kept. It seems the thief was only interested in the holy heart, as other more valuable gold items remained untouched. For some reason, this thief wanted to have the heart of a saint - and for a time they did.

The cage and heart of St Laurence before the robbery. (Garda Release)

The cage and heart of St Laurence before the robbery. (Garda Release)

Working on intelligence they received within the last few weeks, the police organised a search and discovered the heart hidden in Phoenix Park. Although finger print and forensic tests have been carried out, no arrests have been made at this time.

Welcome Return

According to the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Dermot Dunne, the heart has been recovered ‘intact’. He said as RTE reports , ‘the relic’s recovery is incredible and very exciting’.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson also welcomed the recovery of the relic, which he says, “has no economic value, but is a priceless treasure that links the cathedral with its founding father.”

“Laurence left the monastic city of Glendalough, of which he was Abbot, to become Archbishop of Dublin, hence cementing a vibrant relationship that continues unabated to this day,” explained Archbishop the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson as reported in the Belfast Telegraph .

He added, “The return of the heart of Laurence O’Toole to Christ Church Cathedral brings great joy to the people of Dublin as Dubliners.”

The heart of St Laurence O’Toole relic at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. (Image: Tripadvisor).

The heart of St Laurence O’Toole relic at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. (Image: Tripadvisor).

St Laurence O’Toole

St Laurence O'Toole became Archbishop of Dublin in 1161 and was consecrated the following year at Christ Church Cathedral, making him the first Irish archbishop.

Born the son of the king of Leinster around 1125, he was reputedly named Laurence on the instruction of a street prophet who claimed he was destined to be, ‘ magnificent on earth and glorious in heaven’ .

After political maneuvering by his father had led to some appalling treatment by his keepers, he was put into the care of the Bishop of Glendalough and thus began his religious calling.

Upon the death of the bishop in 1150, Laurence replaced him as abbot of a monastery in the city. During this time, he spent all of his money in efforts to counter a local famine, helping the poor and investing in church repairs and hospitals. In 1161 he was called to take the role of Archbishop of Dublin. He conducted this role in the manner of St Augustine, including prayer, silence and a yearly fasting retreat of forty days in a cavern outside the city, restricting his diet to bread and vegetables and drinking only water.

Dublin Christ Church Cathedral Baptistery stained glass window depicting Saint Laurence O'Toole. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dublin Christ Church Cathedral Baptistery stained glass window depicting Saint Laurence O'Toole. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

After miraculously surviving an attempt to martyr him by what seems to have been a misguided zealot, he is reported to have begun performing miracles of healing through his prayer, particularly that of returning alienated souls to their senses.

St Laurence died in northern France in 1180. His body was buried in the church of the abbey at Eu, Normandy while his heart was returned to Dublin. In 1225, he was cannonised by Pope Honorius III due to miracles said to have occurred at his tomb.

The heart had been on display in the Chapel of St Laud in the cathedral until it was stolen.

Christ Church Cathedral. Dublin, Ireland.

Christ Church Cathedral. Dublin, Ireland. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Heart-warming Ceremony

The recovered relic was presented to the Archbishop of Dublin the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson on Thursday evening by Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy. In an official ceremony, hymns were sung as the heart was received back into the cathedral.

Dean Dunn said they are now planning to have a shrine constructed where the heart can be kept safely. Until then it will be kept secure in an inner safe at the cathedral.

Top image: The heart of Saint Laurence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin, returned to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Source: Christ Church Cathedral.

By Gary Manners

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