Oddities of Christ Church Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

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Oddities of Christ Church Cathedral

The mummified heart of a saint lives on in this church—after a brief hiatus when it was stolen. 


Since the 11th century, Christ Church has been an integral and intriguing part of Irish history, and over the centuries has collected a variety of strange artifacts.

Founded in 1030 by the Hiberno-Norse King Sitriuc Silkenbeard and Dúnán, first Bishop of Dublin, the original Viking church has been a part of Dublin and Irish history ever since. The wooden Viking structure was destroyed during the Norman invasion by King Richard (Strongbow) de Clare, and the stone church was built starting in 1171. Strongbow’s tomb is inside the church walls, and his effigy can be seen just beyond the entrance.

Famed saint Laurence O’Toole was named Archbishop in the 1150s and although he died in France in 1180, his heart remained in the cathedral until March of 2012, when it disappeared. The preserved heart, which resided inside a heart-shaped box enclosed by iron bars, was stolen by a thief who seemed to have no interest in any of the easily nicked valuables surrounding the relic. In April 2018, the heart was located and returned to the cathedral.

A decidedly un-Christian stockade is on display in the crypt (the largest crypt in either Ireland or Britain). Made in 1670, these stocks were used to punish criminals in Christ Church Place. They were moved inside the cathedral in 1870.

Another of the cathedral’s more intriguing inhabitants are the mummified remains of a cat and rat. According to church lore, the cat chased the rat into a pipe of an organ and both became stuck. James Joyce used both cat and rat as a simile in Finnegan’s Wake when he described someone as being “…As stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ…” The cat is chasing the rat in perpetuity behind glass in the crypt of the church.

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