It was my first night back in 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 Mummies at St. Michan’s Church
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 between 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. Michan’s Church
Above ground, St. Michan’s Church is a small sanctuary wrapped in a nest of headstones. It seems there is more of a congregation of the dead here than the living. The chapel is pristine with a history dating back nearly a thousand years to its original structure in 1095, but beneath the surface lies an even more grim view.
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.
Perhaps the most intriguing sight in this dry and dimly lit crypt is the open caskets of 4 mummified bodies. The mummies have mostly unknown origins but come with a few Irish legends, to say the least.
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.
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 for 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.
The exact date of construction of the crypt is unknown but thought to be near the time the church was reconstructed in the late 1600s. 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.
As always your thoughts are enjoyed. Happy Fairytale Travels!