Heart of St Laurence O’Toole Has Joyful Homecoming at Christ Church Cathedral

The heart shaped container which holds the heart of St Laurence O'Toole

The heart of St Laurence O’Toole, Dublin’s patron saint, returned to its rightful home in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

The heart of St Laurence O’Toole, Dublin’s patron saint, returned to its rightful home in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin,  Thursday April 26. The relic was stolen from the cathedral in March 2012 and after a six year absence has been recovered undamaged.

The Heart of St Laurence O’Toole is returned to Christ Church Cathedral. Pictured in the centre are Dean Dermot Dunne and Archbishop Michael Jackson.

A long running investigation by An Garda Síochána led to the recovery of the heart. That investigation is ongoing.

The heart was presented by Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy to the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, at a service of Choral Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral.

Archbishop Jackson said that the return of the heart is of huge significance to the people of Dublin.

“The return of the heart of Laurence O’Toole to Christ Church Cathedral brings great joy to the people of Dublin as Dubliners. For those of us associated with the life of the dioceses, it brings again to the fore the close relationship between Glendalough and Dublin, a relationship of more than 800 years. Laurence left the monastic city of Glendalough of which he was Abbot to become Archbishop of Dublin, hence cementing a vibrant relationship that continues unabated to this day,” he stated.

“Our deep thanks and warm appreciation go to all who have worked tirelessly to make this day of restoration possible, particularly the Garda Síochána,” he added.

The cathedral’s Dean, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne, said he was delighted that the relic had been recovered.

“I am delighted that the heart will be back in the cathedral. I am grateful to the Gardaí for all the work they have done in recovering it. I said at the time it was stolen that the relic has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links the cathedral’s present foundation with its founding father, St Laurence O’Toole. It gives joy to my heart that the heart has been returned to the city,” the Dean stated.

Assistant Commissioner Leahy said it was a privilege to be able to return the relic.

“As Assistant Commissioner for Dublin it gives me enormous pleasure to return such a valuable relic to its rightful place among the people of Dublin. It is not very often that we get an opportunity to engage in such a positive activity that affects the citywide community and in that regard I am acutely aware of the privilege that has been bestowed upon An Garda Síochána on this occasion. It is appropriate to acknowledge the great work of individual Gardaí who kept their radars on and their minds open in this ongoing investigation and I commend them for their commitment and diligence on this matter. I am personally delighted to return the relic to Christ Church Cathedral where it can again provide a most important and tangible link to our past,” he commented

Following the theft of the heart, Dean Dunne appealed to the person who stole it to return it and he would ask no questions. He said he is happy now to let the Gardaí continue their investigations.

A proper shrine to St Laurence will be instituted in Christ Church Cathedral where the people of Dublin can come to honour the memory of the patron saint of the city. Following the theft of the heart, security at the cathedral was reviewed and regular security reviews continue.

The preserved heart was stolen from the cathedral in March 2012. It was kept in a wooden heart-shaped box sealed within a small iron barred cage which was on the wall of St Laud’s Chapel in the cathedral. It was recovered by Gardaí who have been investigating the theft ever since.

Laurence O’Toole is the Patron Saint of Dublin and is closely associated with the early years of Christ Church Cathedral. His feast day falls on November 14.

He was born at Castledermot, County Kildare, in 1132, the youngest of four sons of Maurice O’Toole, a Leinster chieftain, who was engaged in rivalry with the powerful Mac Murchada family. When he was 10 years old, Laurence was handed over to Diarmait Mac Murchada as a hostage for his father’s loyalty. When his father was suspected of treachery, Laurence was imprisoned and became very ill. He was eventually rescued and cared for by the Bishop of Glendalough and decided to join the church. He was ordained a priest and became abbot of the monastery at Glendalough at the age of 25. In 1161 he became Archbishop of Dublin and was consecrated the following year at Christ Church Cathedral.

The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, led by Strongbow, in 1169 resulted in two sieges and a famine in Dublin. Laurence played an important part in defending the city, encouraging his congregation to resist the enemy and helping the wounded. He played an important part in the negotiations when an Anglo-Norman victory became inevitable.

Laurence has traditionally been given credit for the rebuilding of Christ Church in the 1180s, although it is now considered more likely that his successor, Archbishop John Cumin, was responsible.

In 1180, Laurence left Ireland for the last time to travel to Normandy after Henry II, for whom he was a trusted mediator. However, he became ill on arrival and was brought to the Abbey of St Victor at Eu where he died on 14 November 1180. He was made a saint in 1226.

Following Laurence’s canonisation some relics of his were returned to Dublin where they lay in the cathedral’s relic collection until the Reformation. The heart had been on display in the Chapel of St Laud in the cathedral until it was stolen.