"Stolen heart" takes on a literal meaning after the preserved vital organ of St. Laurence O'Toole was pilfered from a church in Dublin, Ireland.

The 900-year-old heart was kept inside a wooden heart-shaped box inside an iron cage bolted to a wall for the past 800 years. The thief pried it open to steal the heart, but left other valuables inside Christ Church Cathedral behind, according to the Catholic News Agency.

"The outpouring of emotion of horror at such a crime is quite notable," said church dean Rev. Dermot Dunne. "It's showing how much Laurence O'Toole is in the hearts of people."

St. O'Toole is heralded as "the person who established the faith in Dublin." He died in Normandy, but his heart was returned to Ireland to symbolize his love for Dublin.

 

Dunne described the theft as "something that you couldn't do on a whim or just on the spot."

"It would need to be prepared with a proper wire cutters and so on, so it looks like it was planned," he said.

Preserved relics of saints, like clothing, artifacts or body parts, are commonplace within Catholicism.

St. Anthony's 780-year-old bone was stolen from a Long Beach Catholic church last year. Three relics, believed to be part of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, were snatched from the Holy Cross Abbey in Co Tipperary last year, but later returned.

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