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Saint Michan's Church, Dublin

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Saint Michan's in Dublin

Saint Michan's in Dublin - Hemmed in by Later Buildings

© 2007 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

This was the first church on Dublin's Northside, though affluent Southsiders still see the other bank of the Liffey as a godforsaken area at times. Which might be the impression visitors could get as well ... Saint Michan's Church is tucked away in a partly redeveloped area behind the historic Four Courts which can be quite uninviting in places. But then most visitors come for a few shivers down their spine anyway. Provided by the famous mummies beneath Saint Michan's Church. Definitely worth a visit for those chills down your spine (in the vaults, not on the way there).

Pros

  • Historic North Dublin church with connections to music and literature.
  • Several historic exhibits almost unique to this church.
  • Vaults hold several mummified bodies.

Cons

  • Inner-city setting is not very inviting.
  • Not for the claustrophobic or squeamish.

Description

  • Saint Michan's Church was built first in 1095 and dedicated to a Danish saint.
  • The church was totally rebuilt (using the old foundations) in 1685.
  • Renovations carried out in 1825 preserved the church but added some bland vistas as well.
  • Händel is reputed to have played his "Messiah" first on the organ in Saint Michan's Church ... note the "trophy" from 1724.
  • Stoker reputedly visited the vaults and took inspiration from the mummies - going off to write "Dracula".
  • Do not confuse this Church of Ireland St. Michan's Church in Church Street with the Catholic St. Michan's in Halston Street!

Guide Review - Saint Michan's Church, Dublin

You are on historic ground here - Georg Friedrich Händel apparently belted his "Messiah" off the old organ for the first time here. Bram Stoker is reputed to have visited some deceased relatives and picked up a few ideas for his "Dracula".

With Saint Michan's Church it is not the stuff you normally look at in churches that provides the main attraction - what lies beneath is far more important. Bram Stoker, Dublin-born creator of Transylvanian evergreen "Dracula" dropped in and took away a good deal of inspiration. Follow in his footsteps, if you dare ...

Your guide will meet you in the church and then take you through the graveyard and down a steep flight of steps into the burial vaults underneath Saint Michan's Church. Dry as dust due to limestone walls, methane gas rising from the ground and a stable temperature. Which all combined means that nothing really rots down here. Coffins got stacked on top of each other, the weight occasionally being too much for the lower coffins. Leading to astonishing discoveries.

Pride of place has to go to the mummified bodies brought together in one room:

  • The Unknown - as the name suggests an anonymous mummy;
  • the Thief - a rather well-fed man in middle age, missing a hand;
  • the Nun - a female reputed to have taken the vows ... and finally
  • the Crusader - if you shake his hand you'll be lucky!

Never mind that historians dispute the true age of the Crusader, the excellent guide will have you convinced in seconds. He'll also detail the method of execution used on the Sheares brothers, Irish rebels buried a few feet away. With glee.

Though most visitors come for the mummies, do not miss the church. Highlights include a medieval bishop's effigy, a penitent's desk and the fabulous organ trophy.

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