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We touched an 800 year mummy! by Ann Treacy
February 22, 2010, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Dublin

So the reason we’re so busy this week is that the girls were off from school Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday we decided to have a church day.

First we went to Whitefriars, where they have bones from St Valentine. We wanted to see this before Valentine’s Day but that didn’t work out. It was fun to see them today. The church is very ornate. They seem to have relics (our word of the day) from lots of saints and plenty of candles to light. Whenever Irish Grandma picks up Aine from school, they go to the church at the school to light candles; so Aine was *very* into lighting candles at Whitefriar.

Whitefriar also has a life size oak figure of Our Lady of Dublin. I tried to get a good picture there. Hopefully it came out.

After Whitefriar, we went to St Michan’s. OK, first let me say that St Michan’s is an untapped gem. The church from the outside is pretty unassuming. It’s just north of the Liffey, kind of near Smithfield, very near a Viking ruin that’s currently being excavated. So while that way too much detail for most readers I guess what I’m saying is that this is pretty much off the tourist path.

According to Wikipedia, “While the exterior of the church may be unimpressive, the interior boasts some fine woodwork, and an organ (dated 1724) on which Handel is said to have composed his Messiah.” We didn’t hear that at the church, but clearly I’ll be adding that from now on. I did take a picture of the woodwork, which apparently was done from one piece of wood. Impressive.

On the altar is a drape that came from the Dublin Castle Chapel. They quit using the Dublin Castle Chapel years ago and folks figured the drape had been tossed – until someone noticed it decorating a stall in the Liberties market! Makes me want to go to more markets.

The coolest part of St Michan’s by far is the crypt beneath the church. Originally (1095) the site was a Danish Chapel. It was rebuilt/reconstructed in 1686 – but the crypt seems to date closer to the original structure – or at least the inhabitants too.

I tried to take some pictures. The walls in the crypt contain limestone, which has kept the air dry, the temperature is very temperate and apparently there is a lot of methane (a natural gas or as the tour guide told us, cow farts) creating ideal conditions for preservation. Among the preserved remains are a 400-year-old nun, a six-and-a-half foot alleged crusader, Henry and John Sheares (leaders of the 1798 rebellion), and a body with its hands and feet severed. The various holders of the title Earl of Kenmare were also interred here.

But the very best part is that apparently it’s lucky to touch the hand of a crusader – so they let you go in and touch the mummy!! It’s supposedly 800 years old. You have to climb over the 3 other mummies to get to it. We all touched his hand. Creepy, but cool!!

The tour guide was fantastic. He was so animated, informed and excited about everything. Never mind turning a blind eye to cameras. In the crypt are burial rooms. Back in the day, families would pay something like 2-3 years’ salary for the right to be buried in the crypt. Essentially they bought a room but then the families could always be buried there. None of them are buried there today – but if an Abbott or Hamilton wanted to be buried (I don’t know if that’s the right word, maybe laid out is better) there they would have to take them.

The Hamilton family is the family of Scientist Sir Wm Rowan Hamilton. What I love about all the stuff we do is that the pieces always fit together. Today we saw a statue of Hamilton – and I knew immediately who it was – or at least where he could be buried. (Also it’s a sign of how good the tour guide was – because really what a boring thing to remember or relay here – but I had to do it.)

To nip it in the bud, it was really good and we all got to touch a mummy. That’s the only thing that will be on the quiz.

1 Comment so far
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I’m not sure what I’m more impressed with -touching a mummy or eating a mussel. Which was the hardest to do?
love, Grandma T

Comment by Grandma Treacy

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