London Mithraeum - History and Facts | History Hit

London Mithraeum

London, England, United Kingdom

Perhaps London’s most famous 20th century Roman discovery, the Temple of Mithras is a Roman mithraeum – a temple built by worshippers of the mysterious cult-like god Mithras – built in the late 2nd century and discovered in 1954 during building work in Walbrook, a street in the City of London.

Lily Johnson

09 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Nick Harrison / Alamy Stock Photo

About London Mithraeum

London Mithraeum holds the remains and artefacts of a Roman temple built by worshippers of the mysterious god Mithras, and affords visitors a rare glimpse into the Roman city of Londinium.

London Mithraeum history

In September 1954, during the construction of a huge new office block for insurance firm Legal & General, builders discovered a Roman temple which sat on the banks of the long-lost River Walbrook (now a City of London street), an ancient tributary of the Thames and source of fresh water, vital to the running of the Roman city of Londinium.

At the time, The Temple of Mithras was (and remains) London’s most famous 20th century Roman discovery. It is a Roman mithraeum – a temple built by worshippers of the mysterious god Mithras – built in the late 2nd century and seemingly disused by the early 4th. At this time it appeared to have been filled with religious iconography, sculptures and reliefs (now mostly housed in the Museum of London) and sealed. There it lay untouched for the best part of 1,700 years, until the aforementioned builders found it, stopped work, and wondered what to do!

As did many others it transpired. The find prompted parliamentary debate inside Churchill’s cabinet and in the 2 weeks it was on show, before being painstakingly packed up and relocated, the site owners expected a hundred or so to come and see it. However, on the very first day a vast 35,000 showed up! By the end of the week 80,000 people had seen it, and in total around 400,000 saw the most famous new ‘old’ building in London.

After the temple was unsealed, archaeologists found a veritable treasure trove of magnificent sculptures and reliefs inside. This included a marble tauroctony relief depicting Mithras killing a bull, dedicated by Ulpius Silvanus, a soldier of the Second Augustan Legion, alongside numerous marble heads of Mithras, Minerva, and Serapis, and a statuette of Mercury.

After a somewhat nomadic existence which at one point saw the priceless piece of history stored in a builder’s yard in New Malden, it was eventually relocated to it’s original location alongside an excellent new modern exhibition detailing the history of the temple.

London Mithraeum today

The London Mithraeum can be found on the site of Bloomberg’s European headquarters, and now contains the temple itself as well as a host of Roman artefacts found during the excavations.

The immersive, multi-sensory exhibition brings to life London’s Roman past as it recreates the Temple of Mithras, exploring the mysterious ancient cult that worshipped there.

The artefacts too tell part of the story, and total around 600 objects left or lost by London’s early inhabitants. These include a Roman stylus and writing tablet considered to be Britain’s earliest record of commercial transaction, dated 8 January 57 AD!

Getting to London Mithraeum

London Mithraeum is located in the centre of London, and is well-linked to public transport. Cannon Street train and Underground stations are a 1-minute walk away, while Bank Underground station is a 2-minute walk away. A number of bus services stop on both Cannon Street and Victoria Street, a 2-minute walk away.

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