DUBLIN – Thieves stole the preserved heart of Dublin’s patron saint, Saint Laurence O’Toole.
One of Catholic Ireland’s most revered relics was stolen from the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. It is part of a rash of thefts of religious artefacts across Ireland and in parts of New Jersey in the United States.
The heart, which once beat in the body of Saint Laurence O’Toole, vanished from the Saint Lauds Chapel within the cathedral grounds between midnight and 12.30 on Saturday afternoon.
There were no witnesses to heart burglars.
The 12th-century relic has no financial value and would be almost impossible to sell (though some said they saw a similar heart for sale on eBay). But the church said the thief or thieves specifically targeted it, ignoring gold candlesticks and chalices to break into its iron cage box. The bars were found bent, probably, staff said, prised open with metal cutters.
Around 40 people visited the church before the alarm was raised at lunchtime, but police have not ruled out the possibility that the culprits hid in the cathedral overnight to give themselves time to break the cage.
There were no signs of a break-in and one member of staff reported a candle still alight when they first arrived to open the cathedral yesterday. Gardai are reviewing CCTV and have asked for witnesses to come forward.
Nobody has had the heart to tell Pope Benedict about it yet.
Rumors that Peter O’Toole’s heart was also stolen have been dismissed. Peter O’Toole (now 79), was seen eating a bran muffin in Galway this morning.
Saint Laurence’s heart has inspired pilgrimages to Dublin since medieval times. Born Lorcan Ua Tuathail in Castledermot, Co Kildare, in 1128, Laurence (Lorcan) O’Toole was appointed archbishop of Dublin after the death of Archbishop Gregory in 1162.
He wore a hair shirt and spent 40 days every year retreating in Saint Kevin’s cave near Glendalough. He died in Normandy in 1180, and was canonised in 1225 after reports of miracles at his tomb. Saint Laurence’s skull was interred at a church in Lancashire, but his bones disappeared during the Reformation.
The dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Rev Dermot Dunne, said he was “devastated” by the theft. “It is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father,” he said. A church spokeswoman added: “It’s completely bizarre. They didn’t touch anything else. They wanted the heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole.”
The United States has gotten involved in the investigation. Producers at The Discovery Channel have launched a reality show, entitled, “Heart Hunters”, which will chronicle the search for the Saint’s heart.
“We want to do everything we can to return the Saint’s heart to Dublin, while at the same time cashing in on this event,” said the Hollywood producer.
Is the stolen heart broken? Only time will tell…