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The Temple of Mithras
The ancient Roman Temple of Mithras, discovered in 1953.
This mid 3rd century AD structure is the only known Mithraeum from Roman London and one of only a handful discovered in Roman Britain. It was one of the most important and popular archaeological discoveries of the immediate post-War era - crowds queued for hours for a chance to visit the site when it was excavated.
The temple was rediscovered and excavated in the 1950s due to the redevelopment of the City of London, which was badly damaged by a severe German bombing raid in 1941. It was then reconstructed in 1960s in its current location at Bucklersbury House.
The Roman fabric is of definite historical and architectural importance notwithstanding the fact that it was reconstructed in the 1960s.
Found within the temple where they had been carefully buried at the time of its rededication were finely-detailed third-century white marble likenesses of Minerva, Mercury the guide of the souls of the dead, and the syncretic godsMithras and Serapis, imported from Italy. There were several coarser locally-made clay figurines of Venus, combing her hair. The artefacts recovered were put on display in the Museum of London.
Among the sculptures the archaeologists found was a head of Mithras himself, recognizable from his Phrygian cap. The base of the head is tapered to fit a torso, which was not preserved. Another discovery was a marble relief, 0.53 m, of Mithras in the act of killing the astral bull, the Tauroctony that was as central to Mithraism as the Crucifixion is to Christianity. On it Mithras is accompanied by the two small figures of the torch-bearing celestial twins of Light and Darkness, Cautes and Cautopates, within the cosmic annual wheel of the zodiac. At the top left, outside the wheel, Sol–Helios ascends the heavens in his biga; at top right Luna descends in her chariot. The heads of two wind-gods, Boreas and Zephyros, are in the bottom corners.