Vandals have broken into a historic church in Dublin and stolen the head of a 800-year-old mummy nicknamed "The Crusader."
The grim discovery was made by a guide at St. Michan's Church, as he was getting ready to open the site to the public, according to a statement from the Church of Ireland.
In addition to the Crusader, several other corpses were damaged, including that of a nun dating back to 400 years.
"They broke open that vault, it's a big heavy steel door, and broke open one of the coffins," Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint, told The Irish Times.
The archdeacon added, "These are the people who have been lying at rest for years and years and to be desecrated in such a sacrilegious way is so distressing and disturbing. I can not put it in words, I'm quite disgusted. "
In the Church's statement, Pierpoint had a request for the vandals:" I would appeal to those responsible to examine their consciences and return the head of The Crusader to its legitimate place. "
The church, which was founded in 1095, houses five crypts housing the mummified bodies of prominent Dubliners, dating from About 1600 to 1800. It's a significant tourist draw, with some 27,000 visitors annually, according to RTE.
The site's tours have been canceled for now, the broadcaster reported. Pierpoint told RTE that because the vandal broke open the vault, they're worried that open air conditions will further damage the mummies.
Ireland's police service, An Garda Síochána, is investigating the incident.
This is not the first time the collection of mummies at St. Michan's has been hit by a vandal. In 1996, intruders damaged dozens of corpses. RTE reported at the time that the thieves removed some 40 mummies from their coffins and made piles of their bones.
Pierpoint remembers a chilling detail in an interview with the Times . "They dragged them up the ground and seemed to be playing football with the heads," he said. "Thankfully, at that time, the guards did their jobs very well and they caught the perpetrators."