Shrunken Head in Glass Enclosure at Irish Church

Have you ever seen a decayed, shrunken head in real life? That’s what I found in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Drogheda, Ireland.

The church appeared like most other churches with tiled floors and wooden pews scattered with devout heads bowed in prayer. But off to the left there is an unusual shrine dedicated to Saint Oliver Plunkett, a Catholic bishop who was hanged for treason by the English in 1681. Most of him lies buried in England, but his head, shrunken and stark, is encased in a glass enclosure in St Peter’s Catholic Church in Drogheda.

Upon entering the Church, my eyes were immediately drawn to a glass case containg the head of St. Oliver Plunkett, which is in remarkably good condition. The head is not just a bare skull. The teeth are still intact and hairs can still be seen on his chin and head. 

I walked in and paid my respects to Saint Oliver by lighting a candle, saying a prayer, and snapping a few pictures of the unusual scene. The only appropriate way to follow up a day of shrunken heads in Irish churches is to find a pub and drink excessive amounts of Guinness, which is exactly what I did.

11 thoughts on “Shrunken Head in Glass Enclosure at Irish Church

  1. Lesley – I really enjoyed this post. I loved in England for a few years and I regret that I never made it over to Ireland. Thanks for sharing your adventures on the Emerald Isle. – Jeff


    • The people, the beauty, and untameable fun make Ireland similar to my home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. After visiting 34 countries, it still holds a top five spot.

      Did you work in England? I’m thinking now that maybe you are a teacher? I taught high school for 7 years before moving to the US.

      Thanks for your reply; it is appreciated.

      Keep them coming.


      • Oooops… meant to say “I lived in England”. I actually did PR for a mid-market investment bank. Awesome experience all around. I think the Lake District had to have been my favorite spot.


        • I only spend a little bit of time in England, but I loved the Globe Theater. As an English teacher, I always wanted to experience a Shakespearean Play there and it was a spectacular performance.

          What did you enjoy about the Lake District? Since my husband and I have both visited England, I’m not sure we will be returning any time soon, but it is always a great starting point for Europe so only time will tell.

          Thank you for your comments; they are appreciated.



        • I just finished a book about a guy who worked for an investment bank in England, but I have no idea what it was called. I think it was a Ken Follett book. Regardless, it was worth the long read.

          Do you plan on returning to England?



  2. Lesley:

    The best thing about the Lake District is the wildness of it. My buddy and I went on an epic hike- as only two single guys in their 30’s can – and it was just awesome. Hiked all over the place and went over Kirkstone Pass into a little valley where we ate lunch at a pub built in 1492. The pass was so steep that there is a poem written about it where the writer laments that he will never get to see his lass “because she lives o’er Kirkstone Pass”. The country up there is dotted with these mini-Stonehenges, too. Pretty cool.

    London is a fantastic starting point because it is only 45-minutes to an hour or two from the rest of Europe, but is only a six-hour flight from the East Coast. Also accommodation is not that expensive and if one gets a hotel on the Piccadilly line, you can take the tube straight to Heathrow.

    I would like to return to the UK and introduce my wife and (soon to be) new son to a few of the mates that I have over there.



    • When is your wife due? My due date is March 25th but I don’t know if it’s a boy or girl yet.

      Is this your first child? It’s an unbelievable experience and the most amazing feeling to be pregnant. I never loved anything more in my life and I didn’t even really see him/her yet, except in the ultrasound.

      I hope to travel regularly even after the baby is born.

      Keep the comments coming; I really appreciate it.



  3. Best wishes on this new adventure in your life. May your baby be small but adequate (and save growing for AFTER he or she is born) and may your labor be short (just long enough to get comfortably situated in the delivery room — if ‘comfortably’ is even a word that can be used in the same sentence as ‘labor’).

    Thanks for the write-ups on Ireland – I’m planning a trip to Ireland with about 5 of my Louisiana cousins and I don’t know whether Ireland is ready for a bunch of ragin’ Cajuns, but we’ll soon find out!


  4. I live just 20 minutes away from St.Oliver. I and my wife have been there many times to say a prayer and pay our respects ourselves.



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