St. Michan’s Church – I see dead people!

On a cold bright winters Saturday morning in January, we went to visit St. Michans Church.
St. Michans is nestled between The Four Courts and Smithfield on the Northside of the river Liffey in Dublin, Ireland.

St. Michans is a Protestant Church of the Anglican Communion. There’s been a church on this site since 1095 and has served Church of Ireland parishioners in Dublin for more than 300 years.

On arrival you buy your tour ticket (€5) at the church ticket office and then you can wander about the church and view the pews, the pulpit and most impressively the organ, which dates from 1724, on which Handel is said to have composed his Messiah.

Handel's Organ
Church Organ built between 1723 – 1725 by John Baptiste Cuvillié.

It’s pretty cool you can stand in the same church where Handel practiced the well-known Hallelujah chorus.

 

St. Michans Church is also well-known for it’s vaults containing the mummified remains of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th Century families.

Mummification occurs naturally in the burial vaults, due to  the limestone walls which keep the vaults at a constant temperature all year round and by methane gas which rises from the ground.  The mummified bodies were discovered accidentally with the practice of stacking the coffins on top of each other, the lower coffins were crushed and the remains were exposed.

St Michans Church Vaults
Vault at St Michan’s Church, Dublin, Ireland

Buried in the crypts are the Sheares Brothers, Henry and John, who took part in the 1798 rebellion.

Sheares Brothers Coffins
The resting place of brothers John and Henry Sheares, 1798 Rebellion leaders.

Also relevant to the 1798 rebellion and held in the same crypt of the Sheares Brothers, is the death mask taken of Theobald Wolfe Tone.

Also contained in the crypts are the remains of the Earls of Leitrim, an Aristocrat family in their ornate coffins.  If you notice the coffin on the left hand side of the photo below, it is a plain wooden coffin with no elaborate mouldings on it.  The guide explained, this was one of the Earls of Leitrim, who was very unpopular among the family and so they begrudgingly buried him but give him a plain coffin.

Ornate Coffins Vault grave
Ornate Coffins of Earls of Leitrim families in Vaults at St Michan’s Church

The mummies are all in a vault together, they include a 400 year-old nun and a six-foot six Crusader.  St Michan’s church vaults became a popular tourist attraction during the Victorian era and visitors believed if you touched the Crusader’s finger, it would bring you luck, the guide also let us touch them.  The famous Dracula writer Bram Stoker also visited St Michan’s church and crypts with his family.

mummified skeletons Dublin
Mummified bodies of among them a Nun and a Crusader
Down to the Crypts
Entrance to one of the Vaults at St Michan’s Church

The tour is short (about 20 minutes) but great value at €5. The guide is quite dramatic and entertaining with a right touch of macabre about him.

Entrance to St Michans Church
Entrance St Michan’s Church via Church Street, Dublin (the N1 road)

You can easily get to St Michan’s Church by taking the Luas tram red line to the Four Courts stop and walking a short distance from there (Luas directions) or walk 1.5 kilometres from the city centre (Walking directions).

If you are coming from the West Dublin direction, you can get here by train, we took a train into Heuston station and cycled using Dublin Bikes.

St Michan’s Church is opened for most of the year and you can usually visit the Crypts Monday to Saturday. Check out their website for opening times.  If you were looking to do something different at Halloween time, I think this would be an ideal place to visit.

Dublin mummified bodies
St. Michans Church Dublin



 

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