Touching mummies in Dublin, Ireland – Ireland adventure part V

Mummies are cool.

Mummies are even cooler when you get to touch them.

Warning: some parts of this post might be creepy. I’ll put stars like this (****) above where I start writing about the creepy stuff, and then the same stars at the end of the creepy stuff, in case you want to skip over it but read the rest of the post (I’m looking at you, grandma ;)). There won’t be any pictures in the creepy part of the post because I wasn’t allowed to take pictures there.

On the morning of April 17th, I took a bus from Cork to Dublin. I didn’t get to touch any mummies that day because I wasn’t feeling very well—I couldn’t walk far without feeling dizzy, and my hearing was all messed up.

I figured out later that my hearing was off because I had an ear infection.

Anyways, I slept most of the day and that night went out to an Irish pub to listen to some traditional Irish music.

I enjoy Irish music, but it’s generally better when you can hear it well out of both ears, not just one.

I was feeling slightly better the next day, so I bought a sandwich in the morning and then wandered around Dublin, looking for a bench. I wandered quite far before I found one, but the bench I came across was in the lovely Garden of Remembrance.

After eating my sandwich, I wandered south, back from where I had come. I found the Spire of Dublin quite easily, although truly it’s hard to miss being nearly 400 ft (121 m) high.

I next walked over to Trinity College, but I didn’t go inside because 1) I had to pay, and 2) by that time I had a crushing headache, stemming from the incredible pressure in my ears. At that point all I wanted to do was sit down and put my head in my hands.

I started wandering randomly, without purpose, and somehow stumbled onto Trinity College’s grounds.

I don’t think I was supposed to be there.

To make myself look less touristy and to somehow avoid being taken out by security, I put away my camera and acted like I was supposed to be there.

I also headed straight for where I thought would be the nearest exit.

I managed to exit the grounds without being caught, and so to congratulate myself on my secret entrance and exit from the grounds, I headed towards St. Michan’s Church.

****

Remember my friend Liam, the Australian? He was the one who told me about St. Michan’s Church, and I’m sure glad he did.

St. Michan’s Church has crypts, old crypts. The crypts stay cold year-round, and are also dry because of the surrounding limestone.

This results in, you guessed it, mummies.

At St. Michan’s, the first crypt contains four mummies you can see. Nothing is known about the first mummy because the skeleton is too destroyed. The second mummy is missing both of its feet and one hand.

So, what happened here? A feud? Accident with a sword? Soldier?

Well, about the feet… basically, the mummy was too tall for his coffin. The easy way to correct this is just to lop the feet off.

The hand is more mysterious. It’s possible that this mummy was a criminal, and had to pay for stealing something with an extremity. This criminal could have then repented, which makes more sense as to why he was buried in the crypt of a church.

Or it could have been something else entirely. Nobody’s quite sure.

The third mummy is a nun. This mummy is particularly interesting to look at because her fingernails and toenails are almost perfectly preserved.

The last mummy was thought to be a crusader. Crusaders were generally buried with their ankles crossed. However, because this mummy was a giant for his time (over six feet tall), he couldn’t be fit into the coffin with his ankles crossed. Instead his thighs were crossed, and the lower part of his legs was folded underneath him.

It was considered good luck to shake hands with the crusader, but not in the way you think. Instead of actually shaking hands, visitors would just rub the finger of the crusader.

So, our tour guide let us shake hands with the crusader. Some people didn’t do it, probably because you’re touching the few hundred-year old remains of a body. It probably seems a bit morbid and creepy.

I didn’t even think of not touching the mummy. How many places in the world can you touch a mummy? Not that many, and it certainly wasn’t something I was going to pass up.

And what did touching a mummified finger feel like?

Well, basically it felt like touching wood.

After seeing the mummies, we went into the next crypt. In this crypt were many… well, rooms, I suppose you could call them, although only one of the rooms had a door. Only one room was lit up; all the others were dark and you could only see a little ways into the room.

Each room was filled with coffins, stacked on top of each other. Our tour guide pointed out that in room, you could see a studded coffin that looked like it was resting on the floor.

It wasn’t resting on the floor; however; it was sitting on top of another coffin that you couldn’t see. Imagine stacks and stacks of coffins like this. How many coffins were in there? I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.

Let’s go back to the mummies for a minute. It’s illegal to open a coffin, so why are there four mummies on display? Well, if the coffins were stacked one on top of the other, it’s possible that coffins fell off and were broken open. It’s not illegal to take the remains out of a smashed coffin now, is it?

The people who were buried in these crypts had lots of money. Buying a resting spot in the crypt would cost your wages for three or four years. However, once you’ve paid this fee, you and all the members of your family can be buried in the crypt. That’s why the rooms aren’t lit up—technically, if your ancestor has paid for the crypt, you could still be buried in there, if you wanted. In fact, one of the rooms was still in active use, and two urns were placed into the room within the last twenty years.

I mentioned that one room was lit up. I can’t remember all the details of this story, but one family member died (I think he might have been murdered). Because nobody in the family liked him, he was buried in a plain coffin, and his still-living family members decided they would be buried elsewhere. So, the room is not active and hence can be lit up.

Oh, forgot to mention. In one of the dark rooms I could see that the side of one coffin had broken away, and inside I could see a mummy.

When I was in the crypts, I wasn’t creeped out at all by the four mummies. Wandering around and peering into rooms filled with countless coffins did creep me out, though, as did writing that part of the blog post up. So, I looked into the rooms, and then went back out into the daylight.

****

Being in the crypts helped to relieve the pressure in my ears, so my headache went away and I felt like doing more exploring. I walked past Christ Church and then over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and there I sat in the park for a while.

By this point I was starting to feel sick and tired again, so I took a bus over to the airport and just sat there for a while. I slept over in the airport that night since my flight left quite early the next morning, although I didn’t sleep well due to obnoxious people.

When I woke up the next morning, my throat was so sore I could hardly speak. Luckily I wasn’t asked any questions when I had my boarding pass stamped by customs, because I don’t know that I could have answered.

I slept on the plane, of course, and the change in altitude did not do nice things to my ears.

I went straight from the airport to a class, then afterwards I went home and took a nice, long nap. I was supposed to fly off to Budapest that night, but I decided against it because I felt so sick that I knew I would only sleep in Budapest. It doesn’t make sense to me to travel somewhere if I’m not even going to want to explore and look around.

Another time, Budapest. Another time, soon.

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