March 4th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

900-year-old saint's heart vanishes from cathedral

By Richard Allen Greene and Peter Taggart, CNN

Police in Ireland are studying security camera footage from a cathedral in Dublin after the preserved heart of the city's patron saint was stolen over the weekend, they said Monday.

The 900-year-old heart of St. Laurence O'Toole was taken from the iron cage where it is normally kept in Christ Church Cathedral, police and the Cathedral said.

The bars were wrenched open, allowing access to the heart-shaped wooden box that held the relic bolted to a wall in Saint Lauds Chapel, Irish police said.

Security cameras cover the cathedral's welcome desk, but not the interior of the chapel or the cathedral, police said.
The heart disappeared between Friday evening and Saturday noon, police said.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Cathedral staff called the disappearance of the relic "truly awful and strange" and said they were "shocked and saddened."

An empty cage once held the heart of 900-year-old saint.

Adding to the mystery, there was no sign of a break-in, police told CNN.

Nothing was taken from the chapel other than the heart, although Irish media said gold candesticks and other valuables were there.

Cathedral staff called the disappearance of the relic "truly awful and strange" and said they were "shocked and saddened."

St. Laurence O'Toole, an archbishop of Dublin in the 12th century, was born in 1128, lived until 1180, and was made a saint in 1225, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Christ Church is a Protestant Church of Ireland cathedral.

Catholics often preserve body parts from saints, believing they should be venerated. When Pope John Paul II was declared "blessed" - a step below sainthood - last year, a vial of his blood was displayed as a relic.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Crime • Ireland

soundoff (938 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I guess this person has the heart of a saint.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  2. Alyssa

    If this Saint O'Toole wasn't canonized until 45 years after his death, then how did they know to preserve his heart? I would imagine there's not much to preserve 45 years into decomposition, so they would've had to have done it upon his death, without ever knowing that he'd be a saint.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      Chances are it's not his heart.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Meg

      When someone regarded as a "potential" saint and they pass away, they keep a relic of that person's body. For example, Pope John Paul is not a saint but they kept a vile of his blood. I would bet they kept something of Mother Teresa when she died and she is not yet a saint.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Maryscarey

      it is often, usually a very small piece. It was probably tiny, a sliver. I saw a relic of a saint once, a piece of bone, and it was the size of a splinter.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • bigot

      "When someone regarded as a "potential" saint and they pass away, they keep a relic of that person's body. For example, Pope John Paul is not a saint but they kept a vile of his blood. I would bet they kept something of Mother Teresa when she died and she is not yet a saint."

      You know how ridiculous this sounds when living people are saying other dead people are saints? And keeping a vile of blood is different than keeping an entire human heart.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  3. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    Partial Rapture!?

    March 5, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  4. Yuliq

    Blame the Muslims... No – blame Obama.... No.. Blame all Americans. Heck, blame the Mormans.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  5. godofredo

    I can't believe I have to tell you all this, but Peter O'Toole took it. It's a family heirloom. Didn't anybody see the movie High Spirits?

    March 5, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  6. TheFlatulantOne

    Idolatry !

    March 5, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Angela

      Note :

      Let this simplify this for you .... If you believe in an invisible, ethnic specific deity ... who has no proofs of existence, isn't audible .. shows no truth in interaction with the plight of human beings ...

      One you talk to , praise and confess to... You might want to consider yourself as suffering a schizotypal personality or meta-magical thinking. DO NOT say atheists who believe in no such things- and draw upon reality ... what can be observed and collaborated by all with physical interaction and use of all the senses... in the one possessing a mental illness. You people have a relationship with an invisible 'thing". Nothing. Everything is conjured from yrou psyche and the psyche of its writers. You know nothing of this deity personally – you know and can only repeat what you have read in a book. There is nothing new on this God .. for a few thousand years. You have no personal interaction with the being – just the shared or passed around stories from others. So calling atheists names – for practicing rationality, is foolish. If you want to believe in the possibility of invisible ethnic specific deities and fantastical claims – that logic should be shredding, don't expect rational, reality and fact based reasoners to at your on back for doing so.

      Preserving body parts for display is creepy. It just is – but if you must keep the body parts of people, then so be it. It's no worse than constantly displaying a dead and tortured Jew as an ornament attestation to your delusional faith.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • brixabrax

      Angela makes me wonder about her sanity based soley on the countless bodies perserved in the name of science.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  7. K2

    You could write off the strangeness of Catholic tradition feeling the need to keep a part of someones body thinking it has magical powers in the case of this ancient relic to the ignorance of uneducated people, but then to know they saved a vial of Pope John Paul II blood in modern times, is just creepy. Do they feel these relics have some sort of divine power? Is it an attempt to elevate their leaders to a level near that of Jesus or God?

    March 5, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      As I understand it no, they keep it out of reverence, like a keepsake. It's more akin to, say, a watch you get from your parents, although I do say body parts are rather unusual.

      There are modern examples of such things, though, like the body of Lenin being on display in Russia.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      Maybe a better example of a keepsake like that would be the jar of your grandmother's ashes sitting on the mantle of the fireplace.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Gedwards

      Who said that they think it has magical powers? If you're going to criticize, at least do it in an informed manner, rather than making things up to complain about.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • K2

      Gedwards, If you took the time to read my post, you would have seen that I asked if they thought the relics had magical power. That's what the question mark at the end of the sentence means.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Gedwards

      kt, as opposed to the period at the end of your first sentence. That's a pretty lame attempt to justify YOUR ignorance and uneducated stance.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Maryscarey

      They don't believe it has secret or mystical powers....evidently you can only look at the pictures. The article states they venerate it.... respect it.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • kevin

      gewards in ancient times they DID believe saints body parts had "magical powers" in one form or another. People believed that if they kept said body parts near them, the saints would perform additional miracles, even in death. This is why they were brought into battles and the like.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • K2

      Gedwards, I stand by the statement that it's creepy to save part of the deceased bodies of people believed to be Saints and to revere those body parts or blood.
      The article does say they venerate and respect it, I am puzzled as to why? The body is just a vessel for the soul while on Earth, when we die the body becomes useless and should be allowed to return to dust.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  8. James Steven Patterson

    The collection of artefacts has always confounded me; why collect something if you have no definitive proof it is actually from the man in question? I could say I found the leg of Harald Hardrada, and have a 1000-year-old-leg, but there's no way I nor anyone else could know it's legit.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • K2

      It is still very creepy. I wouldn't keep the ashes of a deceased relative in my house either. The heart was probably taken by a devout Catholic who no longer felt the Church deserved to have the relic of one of their Saints in the wake of the Abuse scandal and resulting massive cover up by the Vatican.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  9. Jason D

    This is rare because its the only heart the catholic church has, they have taken so many millions of others in their past and almost present, maybe someone decided they didnt deserve to keep it although chaining it in a cage does seem to be catholic by nature

    March 5, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      Irish Catholicism isn't actual Catholicism; like Norse Catholicism it was for a long time seen as heretical, because it was really a blend of Christian and Pagan traditions, beliefs, and rituals.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Alyssa

      @JSP, nice of you to decide what actual Catholicism is. I wonder if the Pope considers the millions of Irish Catholics to not be Catholics at all. That would be weird though, given the prevalence of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Christianity has always "borrowed" liberally from Pagan traditions.
      Especially in the early days, it was necessary to usurp Pagan celebrations in order to attract converts.
      For example, well before Easter was associated with the zombification of the Christian deity, it was a widely celebrated pagan holiday marking the rebirth and renewal of spring. The very word "Easter" comes from the Saxon goddess Eastre and the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility, Eastra.
      Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a consort, Attis, who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. Attis was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during a three day period at the end of March.
      Sound familiar?

      March 5, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      I said "for a long time" for a specific reason, ignoramus.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  10. Carmen

    It was probably taken by a bunch of bored kids. They will probably get the box back in a couple of days.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  11. hillbilleter

    I have noticed that there is no one more rabidly offensive to the sensibilities of others as a self-righteous atheist. Atheists have faith that there is no god, but they go down that road kicking and screaming and calling names. Misery loves company, I suppose.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      hillbilliter- old son
      I have noticed that there is no one more rabidly offensive to the sensibilities of others as a self-righteous fundamentalist christian. one example that springs to mind is fred phelps
      you yourself spit out an offensive post, why people like you get their panties in a twist when others refuse to believe your fairy stories is beyond me.
      but what really astounds me is the willingness of some believers to carve post mortem hearts, fingers and teeth etc from their "holy" men

      March 5, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • J.D. Stanley

      I’d like to point out that self-righteousness is not limited to atheists. I’m an atheist and I never try to force my belief on others. I always try to shy away that topic because I don’t want to offend anyone’s belief. But I have found that my being an Atheist tends to cause people of faith try to convert me…

      One of worst examples of this happened to me following the death of my wife “Ida”. A very old and frail neighbor kept coming to my home trying to convince me to go to church with her. I agreed to go to service with her several times because I didn’t want to offend her. But finally it came to a head when I told her to stop trying to convert me because “I simply do not believe there is a GOD.”

      My neighbor became so enraged at me that she screamed as loud as she could that she was guaranteed to see Ida (my wife) again in Heaven, but that I am damned and will never see her again! I asked her why she needed to say such a hurtful thing to me. Why couldn’t she show my belief the same respect I gave her? Instead of answering my questions she stormed out of my home (slamming the door as hard as she could) and never spoke to me again.

      March 5, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • just sayin

      Go with President George H W Bush on that, atheists are not patriots and should not be considered citizens of this country.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      JD Stanley, I'm sorry for your loss, and for the insult to your faith your deluded and unforgivably rude neighbor delivered. As I see it, she insulted your faith, since Atheism is in a sense a religion, in that it is a system of beliefs based not on proof... for how can you prove there ISN'T a god or gods?, but on what one believes to be true.

      I am an atheist too... I acknowledge I believe there is NO such thing as god, nor any supernatural thing, for the same basic reason MOST people who believe there is one (or more) do... someone I considered credible at the time told me. The advantage I see in OUR belief system though, over all of the theist faiths, is that MY beliefs do not require ghosts, spirits, goblins, fairies, angels, demons, or... gods, nor any other exceptions to observable natural laws. I regard this admission that atheism is a religion as being actually a BETTER argument than any I've heard based on rationality, on why someone should NOT believe in the existence of any god or gods.

      Rationality, in essence alternative creation stories, can be denied, but if you consider that people of "faith", meaning people such as Christians, etc., specifically, though not by any means universally or exclusively, believe that they believe BECAUSE they believe. This is at least doubly circular "logic". The truth is, they believe simply because someone, mostly when they were young, or in a time in their lives when they were particularly impressionable, were given what seemed to them at the time a cogent, indeed, a strong argument for why things are as they are, and how the world came to be.

      As for the story, the article above, I buy this "disappearing heart" about as much as I buy one day's oil magically lasting eight days. It's bullspit either way... of course, you could always argue that god removed it, as a sign of his revocation of the great charter, in the wake of the increasingly sinful nature of the Catholic Church. Wouldn't it be funny if a magical occurrence actually drove people AWAY from a church, away from a religion? I'd laugh...

      March 5, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ just spewin .. I mean just sayin ... I spent 21 years in uniform defeinding this country. Just because I am an Atheist does NOT mean I am unpatriotic. If I wasn't a patriot, I never would have enlisted in the first place. Upon enlisting, one swears an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Consti'tution of the United States, and to protect this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. You do NOT need to believe the myth of a 'god' to be a patriot. Tell me, just how many times is the word 'god' mentioned in the Consti'tution? C'mon... tell me... how many times?

      March 5, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • Dan

      Keep believing those fairy tales.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      lol @ AusieSceptic; case-in-point right there. Did you use a cloth to sap up all that seed or did you just let it get all over your face and hair?

      Problem isn't the atheists themselves, so much as the fundamentalists (yeah, rail on me for calling you "fundamentalist" without "fundamentals". I don't give a damn anymore) - and I refer to all involved, religious and non-religious alike.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Jason D

      Theres every right to be an athiest as any other belief, but the religions seem to show more anger to someone who doesnt believe in a god then someone who believes in another religion..."your for me or against me" is the slogan of religion and terrorism.

      I'm agnostic but the religions still see me as an athiest showing their complete ignorance of factuality and understanding, they are bitter to anyone who doesnt have a faith they can quantify or believe they can indoctrinate, even when people fully believe in god unless they belong to a 'fan club' they are evil and pointless, like an independant voter is to a political party, well a right wing one

      March 5, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • JCizzle

      Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby. One can't prove a negative, that burden of proof lies with the believer. Of course, no one can prove there isn't a god, just like no one can prove there isn't a giant, invisible teapot orbiting the earth.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • James Steven Patterson

      Collecting stamps doesn't seem to me to be quite related to the price of tea in China; it's still faith.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  12. Enoch

    Whenever I read comments from the atheist gangs I always ask myself what might be used to brainwash their brains - chemical? Junk-food? Laser? Microwave? Poor souls! God will certainly punish those who made them be the way they have become.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • bobcat

      At least we can say how many gods there are, 0. While christians debate,1?, 3?, 15?, all of the above? 2000 years later christians cannot decide if they are polythiests or monothiests, just one all knowing all powerful god or a biploar dynamic with two pantheons and domains.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • TING

      Our brains are clear of contamination. Your brain is infected with a belief virus.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      don't get your knickers in a twist Enoch.

      at least when you die atheists won't be cutting up your body for parts to put on display.

      weird "hey the holy man is dead, lets cut his heart out" no, most definitely not the act of an atheist

      March 5, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • *facepalm*

      "God will certainly punish those who made them be the way they have become."

      If there is a god, then he/she/it gave me a brain and the ability to reason. So, if anyone is at fault for 'what I have become', god would only need to look in the mirror.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:49 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Enoch: Which god? No-one raised me to be Atheist. I grew up and left the fairy tales behind with my childhood...what's your excuse?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I don't remember anything in the Sermon on the Mount about "blessed are the condescendingly self-righteous", but a whole lotta folk like Enoch seem to exemplify just that...

      March 5, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  13. I think

    He's "truly" a little "bi-curious." Poor little feller.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  14. In your as s, does that sound fun?

    You should try it sometime.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  15. Badda Bing Badda Boom

    This story is a fraud: Everyone knows the Catholic Church has no heart.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  16. Did the deed

    They said I had the heart of a young saint. But I didn't, really. Now I do. I'm keeping it in a jar because it looks really gross.
    Thanks Catholic Church! You won't be getting it back. I'm going to feed it to my hogs tomorrow morning.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  17. Lionel the Hungry

    I thot it was a piece of beef jerky! OMG!!!

    March 4, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  18. Jorge Washington

    LOL, and my name's pronounced W hore-Hey Huh-Washing-Tone. LOL. Who the he ll comes up with this sh$t? Somebody pretend to be Ben-Ha-Meen Fronk-Leen, or Juan Ah-Dams.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    prayer changes things .

    March 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • PIP

      No it doesn't

      March 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      prayer changes things?

      Really? You have proof? What am I saying, of course you do. You wouldn't make an assertion without proof...

      There was a story on CNN about tornadoes tearing up the midwest, and people praying it away... I guess the people the tornado killed just didn't pray hard enough, or maybe god just didn't like them, or maybe he was too busy to bother with them, being infinitely powerful and all knowing, not to mention omnipresent and prescient, he was nevertheless too busy, maybe playing angry birds, right?

      We will never know peace on earth until the stupidity of religion is at last vanquished. Sadly, many people are deliberately ignorant, and won't be swayed. Does that make religion (theism, I mean) a sort of virus? A form of mental, psychological malware? I think it does.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      March 5, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  20. krt

    The comments of atheists here show what their true colors are.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • TING

      Devil red I presume.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • just sayin

      Bull sh it brown

      March 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As do the remarks of sham "Christians" and hypocrites like you and your little cronies here.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Russ Danvers

      @Tom: spoken like a true "ashhole." Thought you were off the board. What happened?

      March 4, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Tomas Jefferson

      I believe their true colors are "red, white, and blue." Many of the founders of America were as athiest as the most flagrant athiest on this board. Including my namesake. And the name's pronounced "Toe-Moss Heff-er-son," NOT "Thomas Jefferson." I'm jus sayin' ese.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Jorge Washington

      HAHA, and my name's pronounced W hore-Hey Huh-Washing-Tone. LOL. Who the he ll comes up with this sh$t? Somebody pretend to be Ben-Ha-Meen Fronk-Leen, or Juan Ah-Dams. Or maybe Beet-see Hrose. The woman who made the first flag.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Kiefer

      How about Alejandro Ehamilton (pronounced Al-ee-hand-roe Hamil-tone) or Juan Jay (pronounced Wan Hey), or Patricio Ehenry ("give me ehliberty or give me ehdeath"), or Juan Pablo Jones (pronounced Wan Pah-blo Hone-ess).

      March 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • In your head, does that seem funny?

      I'm truly curious.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • In your as s, does that sound fun?

      I'd encourage you to try it, if you are "truly curious."

      March 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Benjamin Feanklin

      No, it should be..Bien AMEN Frank Clean.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • just sayin

      President George H W Bush said atheists are not patriots and should not be considered citizens of this country.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:03 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.