Venture down into the dark, musty stone vaults beneath St. Michan's Church in Dublin and you'll encounter an unusual sight: a collection of accidental mummies.
Most of the well-preserved bodies belong to Dubliners who lived during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The crypt's dry air and limestone walls have kept their desiccated skin intact, even as their wooden coffins have begun to crumble. Some of the coffin lids have caved in compltely, while others have fractured enough to reveal an arm or leg. A thick layer of dust covers each body.
According to the legends told by tour guides, the mummies in the photo above are, from left, a nun, a man with one hand and both feet cut off—either as punishment for thievery or so he would fit into the coffin—and a woman of enigmatic origin. At the back, placed horizontally, is the six-foot-six body of a man who apparently fought in the Crusades. (Though how he managed to die during the Middle Ages and end up mummified in a Dublin crypt built in 1685 is a great mystery.)
The Crusader, as this mummy with a dubious backstory has come to be known, is something of a talisman these days. Visitors to the St Michan's crypts are invited to touch one of the desiccated fingers on his outstretched right hand for good luck. If you have a whisper-soft grip and a delicate approach, you may shake his hand.
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