A Christ Church Cathedral spokeswoman has described as "completely bizarre" the theft of a preserved 12th Century heart from the Cathedral in Dublin.
The preserved heart of St Laurence O'Toole is kept in a wooden heart-shaped container sealed within a small iron-barred box in St Laud's chapel in the Cathedral.
Gardaí believe the heart was stolen from the chapel between yesterday evening and 12.30pm today.
Today, a spokeswoman said the thieves ignored valuable gold chalices and gold candlesticks in the chapel in favour of the financially worthless relic.
“It’s completely bizarre,” she said. “They didn’t touch anything else. They specifically targeted this…They wanted the heart of St Laurence O’Toole.”
The dean of Christ Church Cathedral and the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, the Rev Dermot Dunne said he was “devastated” by the theft of the treasured artefact.
“It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father, St Laurence O’Toole,” he added.
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 died in November 1180 in Normandy, France.
The former church leader was canonised in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.
Gardaí spent the day scouring CCTV footage of people entering the cathedral.
There were only about 40 visitors between 9.30am and 12.30pm today, when it was noticed missing.
Church authorities say it is possible the thieves had hidden themselves in the building overnight and broke into the relic after the cathedral closed for the day.
A spokeswoman said the thieves would have needed a metal cutter to prise back bars that protected the enclosed heart.
There were no initial signs of any alarms or break-ins at the cathedral.
One member of staff noticed a candle alight when they arrived to open the popular tourist attraction this morning.
St Laurence O’Toole was known as an ascetic, who wore a hair-shirt, never ate meat and ate only bread and water every Friday.
Each Lent he returned to Glendalough, in Co Wicklow, where he lived in St Kevin’s Cell, a sort of cave, over the Upper Lake for 40 days.
He was canonised due to the number of miracles that occurred at his tomb.
In 1442, his skull was brought to Britain and his bones were interred at the Parish Church of Chorley, Lancashire, now called the Church of St Laurence.
However the bones disappeared in the Reformation under Henry VIII’s rule.
His heart has been a major pilgrimage site at Christ Church since the medieval period.