HARRY WARREN visits St. Michan’s, the oldest parish church on the north side of Dublin. Both the church and its burial vaults have an interesting history to be told.
Many cultures around the world are known for the preservation of the dead through mummification. The most renowned are the Egyptians who preserved soft tissues by a deliberate action of embalming.
They left the heart in place, due to their spiritual beliefs, removed the rest of the internal organs, rinsed the body with wine, covered and packed the body with natron, a natural salt, leaving it to dry out for 40 days.
The now shrivelled body was then plumped up with padding and perfumed, finally coated in hot resin and wrapped in a football field’s length of linen strips. These techniques were perfected by c.1000 BC and the result of their remarkable preservation skills may be viewed today
Surprisingly, here in Ireland, we have an excellent example of natural mummification and the macabre preserved remains may be viewed in St. Michan’s church vaults in Church Street, Dublin. Both the church and its burial vaults have a history to be told.
The church is the oldest parish church on the north side of Dublin, having been built for the religious needs of a group of Vikings banished outside the city’s walls. It was the only parish on the north side of the river for more than five hundred years.
The church was originally built in 1095 of wood by members of the Danish colony of Oxmanstown situated between the river Liffey and a large oak forest. It was officially consecrated the following year in May 1096.
The church has borne witness to centuries of Christian tradition. Henry VIII placed St. Michan’s under the control of Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral in 1541, and in 1544 they became permanently linked.
St. Michan’s was largely rebuilt in 1685, the oldest part remaining today is the 15th-century battlement tower.Additional renovations were carried out between 1723 and 1725, in 1767, and in 1825 the church was closed for three years while the interior was revised.
Its current incarnation is little changed since Victorian times and today St Michan’s is an active Church of Ireland Parish and part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own