St Michan’s Church is a church in Dublin, Ireland. Very touristy, its origins would date back to 1095 (it was then a primitive Nordic chapel), but the church as we know it today dates back to 1686. It is especially famous for its crypts which attract nearly 30,000 visitors every year! One can discover period coffins with mummified bodies covered with dust. Among these burials, one of them is said to belong to a crusader …
Did you know that? St. Michan’s Church has Viking origins. Archaeological digs have revealed that a first religious site was built there around 1095. Although the site was rebuilt under William Robinson in 1686, it is still the only parish church on the north side of the Liffey River to have survived a Viking foundation.
However, we must warn you that the exterior is not necessarily impressive. The spectacle is rather inside: St. Michan’s church has beautiful vaults, beautiful woodwork, as well as an organ from 1724, on which Georg Friedrich Handel is said to have composed his Messiah.
In addition, there are the famous crypts in the basement. It can be reached by going down the steps of a narrow staircase that leads to a tunnel. At the bottom, there are 6 distinct cavities: all of them contain mummified burials. (For your information, the walls of the crypt contain limestone, which has allowed the air to dry out and create optimal conditions for the preservation of the bodies).
Among the preserved remains are :
Most of the coffins are covered with a thick layer of dust. Some bodies are visible, while others are still locked in their coffins. Visiting the crypts is as exciting as it is confusing. One quickly has the impression of entering a sacred place full of history. Some will love it, while others may be embarrassed to be there… (such as the impression of not having been invited to these places where time seems suspended).
Note that these crypts were partially damaged by vandals in 1996 and 2019. Since then, the measures have been reinforced and the reception of the public has been further supervised. The site has regained its splendor, and is really worth the detour.
Note that the church also exhibits the death mask of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798), an Irish revolutionary who was involved in the struggle for Irish independence at the time of the Irish Rebellions.