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London Mithraeum / Temple of Mithras




The London Mithraeum also known as the Temple of Mithras, was originally constructed around AD 240.  It was discovered during construction excavation work in 1954. Moved to a new location in 1962 where the foundations were reassembled at street level. It was returned to its original location in 2010 where it now displays a number of artifacts found at the site.


The London Mithraeum also known as the Temple of Mithras, was originally constructed around AD 240.  It is located beneath Bloomberg's European headquarters, in Walbrook, in the City of London, where it was discovered in 1954 during excavation work for the construction of Bucklersbury House, a 14-storey modernist office block to house Legal & General. In order to allow work on the building to continue, the ruin of the temple was dismantled and moved 100 metres to Temple Court, Queen Victoria Street, where in 1962 the foundations were reassembled at street level for an open-air public display, although this did draw many criticisms due to its inaccuracies. 

In 2007 plans were drawn up for the demolition of Bucklersbury House and four other buildings in the block and the creation of a new Walbrook Square development. These plans included the return of the Mithraeum to its original location: Although these hit snags and were put on hold.

The Walbrook Square project was purchased by the Bloomberg company in 2010, which decided to include the Mithraeum in its original site as part of its new European headquarters. Although the new site is 7 metres (23 ft) below the modern street level, as part of an exhibition space beneath the Bloomberg building. The temple is located a little west of its original position to preserve parts of the walls that were not originally uncovered and that are considered too fragile to display.

The ruins are reconstructed as they appeared at the end of the excavation in October 1954, reflecting the first building phase of around AD 240 without any later Roman additions to the site. A large majority of the stones and bricks are original. The wood, render and lime mortar are new, but based on mortar samples from contemporary Roman London structures. 

A selection of Roman artefacts found on the site during the excavations are displayed at the temple: A number of which can be seen in a display cabinet by the entrance. 


Although many other objects were found during the excavations including organic material preserved by the waterlogged soil conditions.  This included leather shoes and a large assembly of wooden writing tablets of which over 400 were found. These originally held a layer of dark wax and messages were scratched into the wax with a stylus that revealed the paler wood underneath. Although the wax has perished, the words were reconstructed from scratch marks left in the wood. Among the messages is the oldest financial document from London, dated AD 57, and two addresses from AD 62 and AD 70 containing the earliest mention of London. 

On descending the steps visitors enter an adjoining room to the temple, which contains and number of other objects.


Within this room are a number of items prominently displayed.  This includes the sculpted head of the young god Mithras from around AD 200 which was discovered on the final day of excavations in 1954.  It is believed that the head was part of a nearly life-sized bull-slaying scene.


The Cult of Mithras was popular among the Imperial Roman army from about the 1st to the 4th century CE. The cult had a system of seven grades of initiation.  Followers met in underground temples, now named mithraea (singular mithraeum), The cult was popular throughout the western half of the Roman empire, including Britain.

Mithraism is viewed as a rival of early Christianity and in the 4th century, it faced persecution from Christians, with the religion subsequently being suppressed and eliminated by the end of the century.

Another model shows the bull-slaying scene which symbolises the creation of life with the bull's blood providing the nourishment for the world.


Next to that is a model and picture of the Mithraeum which was believed to have been part of a larger complex of buildings.


From this room, visitors enter the temple itself.

The temple has a single entrance or vestibule, with raised benches along the side walls where worshippers would have gathered for a ritual meal seated on the benches lining the walls, which formed part of the ceremony. 


At the far end, is a recess, at the back of which would have stood an altar on a pedestal. 


The Mithraeum was normally situated in a natural cave or in a structure constructed to represent one in honour of Mithras, who was considered the creator and father of all. The cave bore the image of the cosmos which Mithras had created, and the things which the cave contained.



              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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