The remains of an ancient Roman temple to the god Mithra can now be viewed by the public right in the center of London.
A museum displaying the reconstructed remains of London’s nearly 2,000-year-old Roman temple to the god Mithra was opened to the public on November 14 in Bloomberg Space, Walbrook.
The building is now a museum, using lighting, sound and mist effects to recreate the atmosphere of the temple when it was active in around AD240.
The underground, windowless temple was a center for the performance of the “Mithraic Mysteries,” a set of religious rituals connected with the cult of Mithra — a solar deity from the Near East and likely to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran).
These rituals are believed to have included the swearing of an oath of secrecy about the religion’s ceremonies, as well as symbolic feasts similar to the Christian Eucharist.
Its symbolism revolved around Mithra, depicted as a man with a halo slaying a sacred bull and is also believed to have influenced the celebration of Christmas, as December 25 is often cited as Mithra’s birthday.
The site was discovered in 1954 by Professor W.F. Grimes during the excavation of parts of London bombed during the Blitz in World War II, and has been undergoing restoration since. A total of 14,000 artifacts have been uncovered, shedding light on life in London during the Roman Period.
In the first, second and third centuries AD, Mithraism was an early competitor of Christianity to become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. It was mostly practised by soldiers in the Roman army, merchants and high officials.
It was however a religion generally restricted to men. This is seen by experts as a likely explanation for its decline and why Christianity eventually triumphed as it was initially adopted by women, slaves and members of the lower classes.