March 3, 2012:
The preserved heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin was stolen from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin Ireland. The culprit cut through two bars, pried the cage loose, and made off with the relic. O’Toole’s heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century. It was stored in a heart-shaped wooden box and secured in a small square iron cage on the wall of a chapel dedicated to his memory.
O’Toole is mainly revered by Roman Catholics, however Christ Church Cathedral has been a centre of worship for the Anglican-affiliated Church of Ireland since the Reformation. O’Toole was Dublin’s archbishop from 1162 to 1180 and gained a reputation as a skilful mediator between rival Gaelic and Norman factions then fighting for power in Ireland. He died aged 58 while travelling in Normandy on a peace mission.
Pope Honorius III canonized O’Toole in 1225 on the weight of many claims of miracles at his original grave site. O’Toole’s heart had been the last surviving part of his remains. His bones were reinterred in an English church yard in 1442, but were dug up and disappeared during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
Ireland’s churches have suffered several similar robberies of irreplaceable religious artifacts. Three relics believed to be fragments of the cross used to crucify Jesus were stolen from Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. In a northside Dublin church a thief stole the ornate container housing the jawbone of Saint Brigid,one of Ireland’s earliest and most venerated saints. The container or reliquary was bolted down to the altar. However, it had just been cleaned and so the jawbone of Saint Brigid wasn’t inside.
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