St Michan’s church doesn’t look much from the outside but underneath in its vaults is a different story.
It was originally founded in 1095- bulit to serve a Viking population and is the oldest parish church on the north side of Dublin, Ireland. The church was rebuilt in 1685 and contains a large pipe organ which Handel is said to have played during the first ever performance of his ‘Messiah’. The church is still a fully functioning church with mass every second Sunday.
Under the church, through large metal chained doors and down a narrow stone stairway, are burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families.
The legendary Sheares brothers are down here, the highly decorated coffins of the Earls of Leitrim and even Wolf Tone’s death mask.
No one’s sure quite how the bodies have been preserved. Perhaps the constant dry atmosphere is responsible, the limestone walls or the methane gas that leaks up from the soggy ground. The vaults were owned by wealthy families and some coffins are highly decorated with gold studs and fancy plaques.
The most visible mummies are “the big four”: four mummified corpses which have no lids on their coffins and are displayed together.
Still very life-like, their leathery skin is covered by a layer of dust. One of them, six-and-a-half foot tall, is believed to have been a soldier who returned from the Crusades. 800 years ago his height would have made him a veritable giant. He lies with his legs broken and crossed under him in order to fit in the coffin. He lies with one of his hands slightly in the air, stretched out of the casket; legend has it that those who touch his finger will have good fortune. Visitors were once encouraged to give it a shake…
Bram stoker (creator of ‘Drauclua’ is believed to have visited the vaults and his mother’s burial plot is here.
Several people have reported hearing whispering around them while others report the feeling of being watched. Some people have apparently even experienced “being touched by unseen hands”.