Tag Archives: Temple of Mithras

The Roman London Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras)

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.

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The temple was reconstructed on Queen Victoria Street in 1962.

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It has recently been reconstructed again – inside a specially designed  space in the Bloomberg Building – on Walbrook.

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Some of the finds from the recent archaeological dig on and around the temple site may be viewed in the Bloomberg Space.

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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).

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(*) Carved reliefs of the bull-slaying – or “tauroctony” – are  characteristic  features of Mithraean iconography

The London Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras)

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According to the temporary outdoor exhibition entitled “The Lost City of London” (yes, really), the recently-reconstructed  London Mithraeum in the basement of the Bloomberg building on Walbrook will be opening to the public later this autumn.

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Finds from recent archaeological excavations on and around the site will also be available for viewing.

Temple of Mithras finds

Finds from earlier excavations – undertaken in the immediate post-war period – may be viewed in the Roman gallery in the Museum of London.

The Temple of Mithras

Mithras

Mithras

The (Roman) 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 Second World War, when they were  moved to a new location on the west rather than east bank of the Walbrook (they are  currently in storage and  awaiting a move to another new location, in a specially designed  space in the Bloomberg Building, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2017).

Crowds gather to view the rediscovered Temple of Mithras on Walbrook in 1954

Crowds gather to view the rediscovered Temple of Mithras on Walbrook in 1954

The Temple of Mithras in its old relocation on Queen Victoria Street

The Temple of Mithras in its old relocation on Queen Victoria Street

Mithras, sometimes referred to as the “pagan Christ”,  was originally a Persian god, from the Zoroastrian pantheon, 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 was believed to have sprung.  He eventually came to be identified with the Unconquered Sun, or Sol Invictus, and to epitomise purity, honesty, and courage.  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).

A marble head of Mithras recovered from the Mithraeum in London can be seen in the Museum of London.

Finds display in the Museum of London

Finds display in the Museum of London

Finds depicting images of Mithras from the Temple of MIthras

Finds depicting images of Mithras from the Temple of Mithras