A visit to St Michan’s Church is arguably one of the most unique things to do in Dublin.
There’s been a Christian chapel here since 1095, and the current St Michan’s Church dates way back to 1686.
The first chapel served the Catholic community until the Reformation, and now St Michan’s belongs to the Church of Ireland.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from the St Michan’s Church tour and when it runs to what to expect from a visit.
Some quick need-to-knows about the St Michan’s Church in Dublin
Although a visit to St Michan’s Church is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
St Michan’s is located on Church Street in Dublin 7, just northwest of the City Centre. Its a 5-minute walk from the Jameson Distillery in Smithfield and a 10-minute walk from both Christ Church Cathedral and Dublinia.
So, we reached out to the folks at St Michan’s Church recently as we couldn’t find any up-to-date info on their site. The tours cost €7 and run:
- Monday to Friday: 10:00 to 12:30 and then from 14:00 to 16:30
- Saturday: 10:00 to 12:30
- Sundays and bank holidays: No tours run
If you take the guided tour, you’ll find out about the provenance of the mummies in the five burial vaults under the church. The bodies are well preserved, even those who are missing limbs!
4. Bram Stoker link
Bram Stoker took much of the inspiration for his macabre writing from the streets and buildings of Dublin, and where better than in the crypts of St Michan’s? It’s said he visited them often. Did he wonder if they were restless at night? Maybe this is how he poked the embers of the Dracula stories?
About St Michan’s Church
St Michan’s is a tiny church with a big history. The altar is adorned with the red frontal that once sat on the altar of the Royal Chapel at Dublin Castle. It disappeared in 1922 but some years later turned up at a flea market when it was restored and installed on St Michan’s altar.
The church is the oldest parish church on Dublin’s north side and is home to the pipe organ on which it’s believed Handel practiced before his first performance of the Messiah. Of course, it’s what’s underneath the church that fascinates and frightens people.
Take a tour into the 12th Century crypts where a constant temperature has helped preserve the mummies’ bodies for more than 500 years.
These remains belong to many of Dublin’s most influential families from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with some coffins decorated with gold. This tour is well worth a look.
What you’ll see on the St Michan’s Church tour
One of the reasons that a visit to St Michan’s is so popular is due to the uniqueness of what’s on offer once you step inside its doors.
From an ancient organ and the dark vaults to the no-famous mummies and much, much more, there’s plenty to discover here.
1. The mummies
The vaults tour is well worth the €7 admission and the professional guide’s stories are fascinating. The coffins are stacked in any old way, with the most noticeable being the four coffins without lids, so the bodies inside are clearly visible – well, under the dust!
One of them would have been considered a giant in his day at 6’5″. His legs were broken and crossed beneath him so he would fit in the coffin. One of his hands is slightly outstretched, and visitors used to be encouraged to shake it for good luck.
2. The vaults
Enter the vaults through chained doors and down a narrow staircase, and be prepared to let your imagination run wild. The atmosphere changes the further you go.
Was that a cobweb on your arm or an unseen hand? These stories abound, many coming from the original visitors to the vaults, including Bram Stoker, who would pop in here for some eerie inspiration after visiting his mother’s grave outside.
Whether or not the stories attributed to the mummies are true, a visit down here is an incredible experience.
3. The organ
The organ at St Michan’s is one of the oldest still in use in the country. The present organ replaced one built around 1724, but the original casing remains.
The installation of the first organ was an intensive process; decision made, funds had to be raised, and an organist with defined duties hired.
Although there’s no recorded evidence of Handel practicing his Messiah on this organ, urban legend maintains he did while preparing for the first performance of his most famous work.
4. Famous figures
Some of those carelessly stacked coffins hold the bodies of the Earls of Leitrim. The locals hated these notables, and when the 3rd Lord Leitrim was ‘done-in’, an article in the New York Times called him a hoary-headed beast and ran a petition to raise money to defend his killers-if they were ever caught.
They raised £10,000, but it went unclaimed. Two local lawyers, the Sheares Brothers, are also here. They joined the United Irishmen 1798 Rebellion, were betrayed by spies, and arrested two days before the Rebellion started. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered before finding peace in the vaults.
5. Interesting tales
What would a place filled with mummies be without a few good stories? Like the Crusader with the outstretched hand, which was supposed to bring good luck to those who touched it. Or The Thief with his feet and forearm cut off.
It’s well known that the Earls of Leitrim were disliked intensely, but even his family hated the Third Earl. The family’s coffins are among the most ornate in the vaults, except for his.
He got a plain coffin, and some of his relatives even gave up their place in the vaults so they wouldn’t have to spend eternity with him.
Places to visit near St Michan’s Church
One of the beauties of St Michan’s Church is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Dublin.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from St Michan’s (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Jameson Distillery Bow St (5-minute walk)
The Bow Street Experience begins with a timeline of the Jameson history and goes on to explain the manufacturing process, and then ends with a whiskey tasting. The tour guides are knowledgeable, and you get the chance to go to the cask room to taste a draw directly from a barrel.
2. The Brazen Head (4-minute walk)
The Brazen Head is said to be the oldest pub in Dublin and to date to 1198. Today it’s a popular destination for tourists and traditional music lovers. Loads of beamed ceilings and interconnecting rooms give it a cosy, historical feel – you might even get to see Robert Emmett’s ghost!
3. Christ Church Cathedral (10-minute walk)
The impressive Christ Church Cathedral is loaded with history. Strongbow’s tomb is here, as is the heart of St Laurence O’Toole. A copy of the Magna Carta is downstairs in the crypt, and you can see the mummified remains of a cat and a rat. Dublinia is the underground museum showing Dublin during Medieval times.
FAQs about visiting St Michan’s Church in Dublin
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Are there really mummies in St Michan’s?’ to ‘Where is there to visit nearby?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
When do the St Michan’s Church tours run?
The tours cost €7 and run: Monday to Friday: 10:00 to 12:30 and then from 14:00 to 16:30. Saturday: 10:00 to 12:30. Sundays and bank holidays: No tours run
How long does the St Michan’s Church tour take?
The tour is relatively short and takes between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on visitor numbers.
Norah is a writer and self-publisher of fiction and non-fiction. She adores the excitement of unknown places and together with several locations in Ireland, has, over 21 years, made her home in London, The Hague and New Zealand, returning to Ireland with her Kiwi rescue dog Barney, in tow.