Explore Dublin’s Dark Side, the Mummies of St. Michan’s Church

It was my first night back to Dublin since the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This time I was coming back to explore a much darker side of this great city, starting with the iconic Gothic Vampire Novelist, Bram Stoker at the Bram Stoker Festival. A Dubliner, Bram Stoker spent many years of his life growing up, studying, writing and finding his wife in Dublin. Known for one of the most famous vampire novels of all time, Dracula, Bram Stoker found inspiration in Dublin. The more time I spent in this city, the more I began to understand why…

-Excerpt from, The Dark Side of Dublin

Bram Stoker and the St. Michan’s Mummies

On my recent visit to Dublin I attended the Bram Stoker lecture during the Bram Stoker Festival weekend. The lecture’s keynote address by world-renowned Gothic expert Professor William Hughes. I had a brief moment to ask him about the relationship of St. Michan’s Mummies and Bram Stoker. Did this macabre crypt have an influence on Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ in death? Perhaps this was the kind of place that just stirs up the deepest, darkest, and most unspoken corners of the mind. Mr. Hughes replied,

Everyone in Dublin knows about St. Michan’s Church and its mummies, whether Bram Stoker found inspiration here no one can prove with certainty. But if he had visited the crypt, surely it would have influenced his writing.

A Look at St. Muchan’s Church

Above ground, St. Michan’s Church is a small sanctuary wrapped in a nest of headstones. It seems there is more a congregation of the dead here than the living. The chapel is pristine with history dating back nearly a thousand years to its original structure in 1095, but beneath the surface lies an even more grim view.

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Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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Tombstones at St Michan’s Church photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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Tombstones at St Michan’s Church photo by Christa Thompson 2013

The Crypt at St. Michan’s Church

Just through heavy chained iron doors is a stone stairwell leading through a small cellar and into the crypt of St. Michan’s Church. It is here where five long burial vaults contain the mummified remains of some of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families such as the legendary Sheares brothers (hanged and quartered after joining the United Irish movement), the Hamilton Family, and the Earls of Leitrim.

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The heavy iron cellar doors photo by Christa Thompson 2013

Walking into the crypt beneath St. Michan's Church, photo by Christa Thompson 2013

Walking into the crypt beneath St. Michan’s Church, photo by Christa Thompson 2013

Perhaps the most intriguing sight in this dry and dimly lit crypt are the open caskets of 4 mummified bodies. The mummies have mostly unknown origins but come with a few Irish legends to say the least.

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The Hamilton Family vault photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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Coffins in the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin. By Chirsta Thompson 2013

Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

Stretching across the top of the 3 caskets lies “The Crusader”. This casket is said to be the remains of a soldier, a giant, so giant that they had to take him apart.

His lower limbs were placed beneath his upper and his upper limbs were crossed.” -St. Michan’s Church tour guide

It is said that if you touch the hand of the Crusader, you will have good luck for one year. Naturally, I touched his hand. Get back to me in a year.

Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

The “Crusader” Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

During these times, caskets were more of a “one size fits all” deal. If you didn’t fit, well, you were shitouttaluck. The mummy to the right didn’t fit either so they chopped off his feet. In the center, the mummy is missing a hand. It is said that he may have been a thief, his hand chopped off as a penalty of his crime. After he was forgiven, he lived out the remainder of his life with the church and died of natural causes. The mummy to the left is thought to be a woman. There is no documentation for her and her history goes unknown.

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Rub his hand for one year of good luck! Photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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The Unknown Woman photo by Christa Thompson 2013

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The Thief (left) and the footless man (right) photo by Christa Thompson 2013

The exact date of construction of the crypt is unknown but thought to be near the time the church was reconstructed in the late 1600’s. Since Victorian times, spectators have descended through these very cellar doors and into this curious crypt. It is believed that Bram Stoker himself toured the crypt with his family.

Next time you are in Dublin, I highly recommend a visit to St. Michan’s Church. This is an encounter that must not be missed. You can get all the information for tours, times and prices here.

As always your thoughts are enjoyed. Happy Fairytale Travels!

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Skeletal remains in the St. Michan’s crypt photo by Christa Thompson 2013

St.-Michans-Church-Crypt

Skeletal remains in the St. Michan’s crypt photo by Christa Thompson 2013

 


About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

14 Comments on this post

  1. Cracking shots Christa, I tried to go here a few weeks ago, but it was bloody closed. 🙂

    edmooneyphotography / Reply
  2. I love this place, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a couple of times now. And I too was brave enough to touch the mummy’s finger, and of course I have had non-stop good luck ever since (sort of)…great pictures!

    mysearchformagic / Reply
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