TOMB RAIDERS have stolen the 800-year-old head of a mummy and damaged the 400-year-old remains of a nun at a church in Dublin.
The head of 'The Crusader' was decapitated before being removed from a crypt at St Michan's Church in Arran Quay over the weekend.
The strikingly tall body is believed to be that of a man who fought in the Crusades – religious wars in the Middle East sanctioned by the Church during the medieval era.
Several other mummies – including the remains of a 17th century nun – were also "desecrated" and the burial chamber itself was "badly damaged", the Church of Ireland said.
A guide discovered the vandalism while preparing to open the church to visitors on Monday afternoon.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, expressed his sadness and outrage at the crime.
Gardai investigating after vandals broke into St Michan’s Church in the city centre over the weekend.
⚫️The head of an 800-year-old Crusader is missing after being decapitated.
⚫️Another skull was also taken.
⚫️The body of a 400-year-old nun trashed and head turned backwards pic.twitter.com/yNurskDDw0
— Robin Schiller (@11SchillRob) 25 February 2019
"I am shocked that someone would target this ancient burial place and desecrate the remains of those lying within it," he said.
"Not only have these individuals desecrated the sacred crypt but they have destroyed these historic mummies which have been preserved in St Michan's for hundreds of years.
"I would appeal to those responsible to examine their consciences and return the head of The Crusader to its rightful place."
St Michan's Church – founded in 1095 – is a popular tourist attraction in the Irish capital and its vaults receive just under 30,000 visitors a year.
Its crypt – which according to local lore inspired Bram Stoker to write 'Dracula' – was previously vandalised back in mid-1990s.
On that occasion, a group of teenagers broke into the vaults and "played football" with heads from several bodies including the remains of a child.
"They have completely destroyed the vault," David says... A nun's body was also destroyed by the vandals. "It's pretty horrific down there...It's not a pretty sight." #liveline
— Liveline (@rteliveline) 25 February 2019
The latest raid saw a solid steel internal gate taken and there are fears the head of 'The Crusader' will deteriorate in the open air as conditions in the crypt had kept it preserved.
Archdeacon David Pierpoint, the Vicar of the Christ Church Cathedral Group of Parishes which contains St Michan's, said he had been left "upset and disappointed" that the church had been targetted yet again.
“The actions of these people are devastating and sacrilegious. We are upset at the amount of damage that has been caused,” he said.
“But also the crypt will have to close so tourists will not be able to visit. It is very frustrating. I would appeal to anyone with information to contact Gardaí.”
A Garda spokesperson added: "Gardaí are investigating a break-in at St Michan's Church on Church Street, Dublin.
"The matter was reported to Gardaí this afternoon. The incident is believed to have occurred between 7pm on Saturday and 8am on Sunday February 24."
Anyone with information is urged to contact Bridewell Garda Station on 01 666 8200, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.