Many of us know the City of London as one of the most important financial centres in the world. Did you also know that the City is the oldest part of London? It was founded by Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.
A recently-renovated and re-sited Roman attraction is the Temple of Mithras. Originally discovered 63 years ago and re-opened to the public in 2017, the London Mithraeum is a reconstruction that includes recent finds beneath the site of Bloomberg’s new European headquarters.
The entrance is situated on Walbrook, between Cannon Street Station and Bank Station. The site sits on three levels: the ground floor reception area contains a display of historic pieces found in the recent excavations. These include Roman shoes in perfect condition, jewellery, writing tablets and many other fascinating artefacts.
The writing tablets are probably the earliest manuscripts ever found in Britain and are also thought to be the earliest surviving example of the name Londinium. The wooden manuscripts reveal the cosmopolitan nature of early London and the huge variety of people who lived there. You can get more information about these by using the iPad provided on your arrival.
From here, you descend to the lower floor where, with the help of interactive apps, you will learn more about the Temple of Mithras, which was essentially a Roman bull-slaying Sun cult.
The lowest level, via darkened stairs and an entryway, presents the ghostly outline of an atmospheric temple, with the physical ruins of its foundations visible below.
Through subtle use of light, shadows, and sound, the reconstruction of the Temple of Mithras takes visitors back in time to the ancient Roman London of the 3rd Century. The structure did not always have such a lavish and immersive presentation. It took a collaborative team of experts from across two continents, including archaeologists, historians, stonemasons and light artists, to restore and reimagine the temple, bringing it back to some of its former glory.
For more information visit: londonmithraeum.com . Or you can visit the site in the City of London, post code: EC4N 8AA.
Other significant Roman sites open to public in the City are parts of the London Wall, near the Museum of London, and also near the Barbican, where you can see London’s only Roman Amphitheatre under the Guildhall Art Gallery. Take your family and friends with you to share a lovely day out, finishing with a meal in an historic City tavern.
Photo, top, from the Temple of Mithras © Muhsin Mustafa