The Roman London Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras) was originally built in the early third century, circa 220-40, and abandoned in the fourth, when Christianity came to replace paganism throughout the Roman Empire, the remains only coming to light again during rebuilding after the Blitz.
The temple was reconstructed on Queen Victoria Street in 1962.
It has recently been reconstructed again – inside a specially designed space in the Bloomberg Building – on Walbrook.
Some of the finds from the recent archaeological dig on and around the temple site may be viewed in the Bloomberg Space.
Other finds, from the original post-war dig, including a marble bust of Mithras in his distinctive Phrygian cap, may be viewed in the Roman gallery in the Museum of London.
Mithras and Mithraism
Mithras, sometimes referred to as the “pagan Christ”, was originally a Persian god, from the Zoroastrian pantheon, believed to be an assistant of the powers of good in their struggle against those of evil, who served to slay a bull created by evil, from the blood of which all life sprang (*). He eventually came to be identified with the Unconquered Sun, or Sol Invictus, and to epitomise purity, honesty, and moral and physical courage (whence, presumably, his supposed popularity with Roman soldiers).
Mithraism, the practice and mystery cult of Mithras worship, as by then distinct from Zoroastrianism, came to Rome in around the first century BCE, and spread throughout much of the Roman Empire by the first century AD, becoming most widespread in the third. It was practised in specially dedicated temples or “Mithraea” (sing., “Mithraeum”), many of which were underground (because Mithras slew the bull underground, in a cave).
(*) Carved reliefs of the bull-slaying – or “tauroctony” – are characteristic features of Mithraean iconography