Roman London – 2. The Temple of Mithras

Also known as the Mithraeum, the remains of the Temple of Mithras were only discovered in the City during building work in 1954.

The temple was originally located some 18 feet (5.4 metres) below Walbrook Street on the bank of what was Walbrook but was moved to its current location at the eastern end, and south side, of Queen Victoria Street. It is presently again surrounded by building work hoardings so you’ll have to ignore those if you’re trying to soak up some ancient atmosphere.

The temple was built around 240 AD and remained in use until around 350AD when, after it suffered severe subsidence, it was rebuilt and dedicated to the god Bacchus. The original stone temple was dedicated to Mithras, a Persian sun deity and a particular favorite of Roman soldiers, and perhaps to several other gods as well.

These days all that remains are foundations, but you can see the basic layout with a sunken nave – which would have had benches on either side – leading to an altar, remains of which are at the northern end of the site.

Numerous artefacts have been found at the temple site, including a head of Mithras, a sculpture showing a scene of Mithras killing a bull (he apparently did so in a cave so  Mithraeum were built partly or even totally underground), and heads of the Roman gods Minerva and Serapis, all of which can be seen at the Museum of London.

WHERE: Queen Victoria Street (nearest tube station is Bank); WHEN: Open to the public at all times; COST: Free. WEBSITE: The Museum of London’s website has some good information on the temple,

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