Vandals have stolen the head of an 800-year-old mummy from a historic church in Dublin.
A guide at St. Michan’s Church found the crypt badly damaged on Monday while getting the site ready for visitors, the Church of Ireland said in a statement.
Besides the mummy nicknamed “The Crusader,” the church said vandals desecrated several other mummies, including the 400-year-old remains of a nun. The vandals decapitated “The Crusader” and turned his body over.
“I am shocked that someone would target this ancient burial place and desecrate the remains of those lying within it,” the Archbishop of Dublin said in a statement. “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.”
Five burial vaults rest beneath the church founded in 1095, according to Dublin’s tourism information website. Some of the mummified remains of prominent families date back to 1600.
Dublin’s Archdeacon David Pierpoint said the church is upset at the damage and frustrated as the crypt needs to close. About 27,000 people visited the church last year, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster reported.
This isn’t the first time St. Michan’s has been targeted by “sacrilegious” behavior, Pierpoint said. The crypt was previously vandalized in 1996, when three teenagers dragged mummies into the churchyard and played football with a head, the New York Times reported.
Irish police are investigating the newest incident. Some fear that the head will disintegrate in air with normal moisture levels, the Times reported, as the crypt’s limestone and soil helped preserve the body.
While the motive is unclear, Pierpoint told the Times that the thieves “came prepared, with crowbars and tools,” to move solid iron and steel slabs. Church authorities do not believe the relics are in demand on any market, the Times reported.
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