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Irish police recover stolen head of 800-year-old Crusader

THE CRUSADER
AFP PHOTO | GARDA SIOCHANA
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Returned to its resting place after it had gone missing for a week, it is unclear why the head was stolen.

St. Michan’s Church in Dublin was forced to close its crypt after a display of vandalism saw the defilement of interred remains and the theft of an 800-year-old skull belonging a corpse known as “The Crusader.”

The report from Global News, which came at the end of February, said the skull belongs to remains of what is believed to be a Crusader from as early as the 11th-13th century. The church said that the 400-year-old remains of an Irish nun were also disturbed, with her head turned 180 degrees, and a third corpse was turned on its side.

The Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson released a statement condemning the act:

“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.”

Archbishop Jackson added that, “These are people who have been lying at rest for years and years and to have them desecrated in such a sacrilegious way is so distressing and disturbing.” He told the Irish Times that the vandals broke through a large, heavy steel door in order to gain access to the crypt and dragged parts of the contents of coffins out onto the floor.

The vandalism caused the crypt to be closed to the public, which will hurt St. Michan’s in the long run, as the church’s vault receives about 28,000 visitors a year and provides much of their revenue.

St Michan’s Church Crypt
Jennifer Boyer | Flickr CC by 2.0

Now Global News reports the skull has been recovered by the Gardaí (Irish Police), who did not explain where the information that led them to the skull came from. They did, however, note that they were advised by the National Museum of Ireland, which suggests the thieves may have been attempting to sell the skull.

Archbishop Jackson, pleased that the skull can return to its resting place, called the skull, ” a priceless part of the heritage of the city of Dublin and its citizens.” He said:

“The emphasis will now be able to turn to consideration of future security and display of the remains in the crypt of St Michan’s,” he said in a statement. “Renewed thanks go to all who have shown interest and concern for the mummies.”

St. Michan’s Church has not been vandalized to this extent since 1996, when a group of teenagers broke into the vault in order to play football (soccer) with several of the mummified skulls, including one from a child.

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