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St Michan's Church

St. Michan's Church is best known for its ancient Viking origins, 18th-century organ on which Handel is said to have composed his Messiah and the mummified bodies on display in the crypt.

St. Michan’s church is situated on Church Street behind Dublin’s Four Courts and is the oldest parish church on the north side of the river Liffey.  Originally founded in 1095, the present church dates from 1685 and was renovated in 1825.  Internally the church retains its original galleried interior and organ.  The interior of the church is little changed since Victorian times.  The pulpit, now displayed at the back of the church retains its original staircase which dates back to 1724 but the original pulpit proper has not survived.  Another remarkable survival is the ‘oak moving desk’ or ‘Penitants desk’.  Used for public confession, it was commissioned in 1724. 

 The Organ

This delightfully ornate instrument was built by John Baptiste Cuvillie between 1723-1725 and Legend has it that Handel composed and practised for the first performance of ‘Messiah’ on this organ. The cost of the organ was £470 (about €550) which included the case, two manuals, eleven stops and three bellows.  In front of the gallery is the ‘Organ Trophy’ a piece of wood depicting 17 musical instruments, possibly carved by Henry Houghton or John Houghton.  The ‘Trophy’ was installed in 1724. 

The Crypt

Underneath the church are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families, including the legendary Shears brothers who were executed during the Rising of 1798.and the highly decorated coffins of the Earl’s of Leitrim, other remains include a 400-year-old nun, a man missing a hand and feet (a thief perhaps?) and a Crusader who had to be sawn in half to fit into his coffin. The early visitors to the vaults were responsible for many of the myths and legends surrounding the bodies, though modern scientific investigations have cast doubts on many of these stories.  Nevertheless, to see the historic mummies is a remarkable experience.

 

 Tours of church and vaults:

 1 November – 16 March
Monday-Friday - 12.30 -015.30

17 March – 31 October
10.00 – 12.45 & 14.00 – 16.30

 Saturday (all year round)
10.00 – 12.45

 Please note: St. Michan’s church is still in use as a parish church and occasionally tours are cancelled due to weddings, funerals and other church events.  The church may also be closed on public holidays and at other times at short notice.