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St.Michan's Church

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There are so many reasons to visit St.Michan's, it would be more than a shame to sacrifice visiting it. It's mysterious and rich history intrigues, surprises and shocks. The church was rebuilt in 1686, over the remaining foundations of an 11th century Viking church; the limestone façade of St. Michan's hides a more exciting interior.

As you enter the Protestant church, the most striking feature is the magnificent organ on which Handel is said to have played. However on closer inspection there are intricate and beautiful wood carvings of fruit and violins adorning the church walls. Otherwise the church is deceptively plain.

The macabre and slightly gruesome secrets are hidden below the church, accessed by a steep stone staircase. Beware, this part of the tour is not for the faint hearted, it has often been included as one of the spookiest places in the world! Follow the staircase down into a long narrow tunnel, which branches off into long narrow galleries containing ancient coffins. Some of the iron and wood doors are private and locked; many are open for brave inspection. Some of the wooden coffins have cracked open revealing preserved arms or legs sticking up. Others reveal fully preserved bodies, skin and hair exposed.

Among the mummified bodies are the brothers Henry and John Steares, leaders of the 1798 Irish rebellion who were executed that year. During the bicentennial commemoration of 1998, their coffins were replaced; upon opening the old coffins it was discovered the traitor's punishment had been inflicted by the British: the men had been hung, drawn and quartered.

In one of the open tombs lies the gruesome contents sought out by hoards of visitors. Here the casket lids are off, revealing grisly bodies only partly covered with leathery, taut skin, layered in years of dust. Three of the bodies are particularly gruesome; a man with a single hand and his two feet cut off in the centre - some believe he was caught stealing, others say his body wouldn't otherwise have fit into the coffin. A woman lies on the right, while a nun reposes on the left. The casket against the rear wall is that a mummy believed to have been a soldier who once fought in the Holy Crusades. His torso has been cut, effectively halving him, to squeeze him into his coffin. A single hands is raised up -almost in protest.

In the church graveyard are buried other notorious names including Oliver Bond, a rebel soldier during 1798 Rising and mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. While it can't be proved, it is widely believed that interred in St. Michan's in an unmarked grave are the remains of Robert Emmet, a leader of the 1803 Rising who was executed at Kilmainham jail.

The church is located on Dublin city's aptly named Church Street. It is still an active church so ensure to time your visit around any services.

Entrance is free but there is a charge for the guided tour.

Opening times are:
Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri 12:30-2:30pm, Sat 10am-1pm
Mar-Oct: Mon-Fri 10am-12:45pm and 2-4:45pm, Sat 10am-1pm  

 

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