The remains of a Roman Temple dedicated to Mithras in 240AD have been painstakingly reconstructed, and the London Mithraeum will be opening its doors to the public so that history enthusiasts can gaze in wonder at the remnants left behind from a long-gone civilization who once looked to this mysterious religion for truth.
Much of London was still in ruins from the war when the Temple of Mithras was originally discovered in 1954. While those digging weren’t originally sure what the building had once been, it was eventually found to be a Mithraeum after the carefully sculpted head of the god Mithras was discovered.
While excavations were still ongoing, a photographer of a newspaper just happened to be present, and because of this, the public was alerted to the vast riches found on the site. The ensuing enthusiasm of the London public was such that curious onlookers waited patiently to view the site in lines that meandered down the street.
The Temple of Mithras and its remains may very well have ended up being completely demolished if it hadn’t been for the public’s interest, which also included prime minister Winston Churchill. As such, Legal & General finally relented and withdrew their previous plans to build an office block on the ancient Roman site, as the Guardian reports.
Because this was a mystery religion, everything surrounding those worshiping at the Temple of Mithras, both in London and elsewhere, would have been kept absolutely secret. Even today, we are none the wiser when it comes to understanding exactly what went on in these temples, as nothing was revealed nor written on the subject.
One thing that archaeologists can factually state, however, is that there would have been no bulls sacrificed at this particular temple, as the Museum of London Archaeology’s Sophie Jackson explained.
“It was a mystery cult and its rites remain very well guarded mysteries. There is nothing written about what went on in the temples, no book of Mithras. The one thing we do know is that no bulls were sacrificed there. It was a very confined space and I don’t think anyone would have got out alive.”
Those visiting the reconstructed Temple of Mithras today at the London Mithraeum will find at ground level an art installation by Isabel Nolan and be able to gaze into a massive glass case that holds a stunning 600 of the 14,000 objects that were discovered on the original site in 1954. These include items such as a Roman sandal, a large door constructed of wood, a gladiator helmet crafted from amber, and the oldest known financial record in London, which was carved and preserved on a wooden tablet.
Upon entering the temple, visitors will find themselves gliding down stairs to around 23 feet below the city. Here, in Roman times, a river known as the Walbrook once proudly flowed through the center of the city of London until it was eventually lost, having been mostly built over by the 1460s. Situated beside the river Walbrook is where the Romans chose to build their sacred Temple of Mithras in 240AD.
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For visitors curious to see the reconstructed Temple of Mithras for themselves, the London Mithraeum is free of charge and opens to the public on November 14.
[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]