The London Mithraeum, also known as the Temple of Mithras, in London was a Roman temple dedicated to the god Mithras, who was an important deity in the Roman Empire. The temple was discovered in Walbrook, a street in the City of London, during a building’s construction in 1954, it was them relocated 100m to allow continues building.
History of the London Mithraeum
The Temple of Mithras was an important site for the worship of the god Mithras, who was often associated with the sun and was a patron of soldiers and merchants. The temple was used for private ceremonies and rituals by members of the Mithraic cult, which was a secretive and exclusive organization that was only open to men.
The temple was richly decorated with statues, reliefs, and frescoes that depicted scenes from the mythology of Mithras. The most famous feature of the temple was a large relief depicting the god 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. The relief had the following inscription:
RIB 3 - Dedication to Mithras
Ulpius Silvanus, emeritus of the Second Legion Augusta, paid his vow enlisted at Orange.
The temple was constructed around AD 240, during the height of the Roman Empire. The Roman temple, when it was originally built, would have stood on the east bank of the now covered-over River Walbrook, a key freshwater source in Roman Londinium. The original Mithraeum was built partly underground, recalling the cave of Mithras where the Mithraic epiphany took place. The Temple consisted of a series of rooms and chambers that were accessed by a narrow staircase. The temple was relatively small, measuring about 18 meters long and 8 meters wide.
When the building ceased to be used as a mithraeum, the head and hand from a large statue of Mithras, along with parts from other cult statues, were placed in a pit inside the temple near to the entrance. The temple was rededicated, probably to Bacchus, in the early fourth century.
The other inscriptions found here were:
RIB 2 - Dedication to the Mother Goddesses
To the Mother Goddesses the district restored (this shrine) at its own expense..
VICINIA DE SVO RES[...]
RIB 4 - Dedication to Mithras and the Invincible Sun
For the welfare of our August Emperors and most noble Caesar¹ to the god Mithras and the Invincible Sun² from the east to the west.
[...  .] AD [...]ENTEM
RIB 5 - Dedication to the Divinity of the Emperor
To the Divinity of the Emperor the province of Britain (set this up).
RIB 3002 - Altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus (?)
For Jupiter Best and Greatest, Aquilinus freedman of the Emperor, and Mercator and Audax and Graecus, restored (this) [temple] collapsed from age.
ẠQVILINVS AVG ❦
LIB ET MERCATOR
ET AVDAX ET GRAEC ❦
Discovery of the London Mithraeum
The temple was discovered in 1954 during the construction of a new office building in the City of London. Archaeologists were able to excavate the site and carefully remove the remains of the temple, which were then reconstructed and put on display at a new location nearby.
Visiting the London Mithraeum
Today, the Temple of Mithras is a popular tourist attraction and is open to the public for viewing. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the religious practices and beliefs of the Romans who lived in London nearly 2,000 years ago.
The Mithraeum is spread out over three levels, with the Temple located on the lowest of the three. The other levels feature exhibitions of Roman artefacts and information about the cult of Mithras and how they reconstructed the temple.
Entrance to the temple is timed so that visitors can experience the full installation. While entry is free you may wish to book in advance to guarantee your slot (see website).
Plan of London Mithraeum
Sites near London Mithraeum
- London (Londinium) Roman Settlement (0 km)
Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54), Legionary Fort, Palace and Triumphal Arches
- London's Roman Amphitheatre (0 km)
- Billingsgate Roman House and Baths (1 km)
- Watling Street (3 km)
- Highgate Wood Pottery Factory (9 km)
- Crofton Roman Villa (20 km)
- Brockley Hill (Sulloniacae) Roman Settlement (21 km)
Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54), Pottery and Vicus
- Little London, Chigwell (Durolitum) Roman Settlement (25 km)
- Lullingstone Roman Villa (26 km)
Temple Or Shrine and Villa
- Ewell (26 km)