I rather like Mithras; the subject of my first Undergrad Dissertation, mentored by the late, great Professor Peter Walcot!
Mithraism appeals to my troglodyte tendencies, my love of the dramatic and mysterious. Who isn’t partial to a spot of incantation, initiation, promise of salvation, wearing of masks and a ritual dousing in Bulls Blood; all by the light of flaming torches?
Rome and Ostia have a veritable plethora of Mithraea. There’s a lovely one in Capua. Romanian Museums are full of Petragenetrix stele. Germany is well provided for, I gather. During lambing at Carrawburgh I discovered the local farmers using the Mithraeum as a sheep pen………
Now we can visit once again a Londinium Mithraeum; and visit we have. Twice, with a third on the cards.
One has to begin by walking down Watling Street and across the Walbrook.
The Bloomberg SPACE contains modern art instillations and the famous ‘Wall of Artefacts’.
Entrance is FREE – larger institutions take note!
One receives a FREE guidebook – larger institutions take note!
One receives a FREE electronic tablet; the better to see and learn about each artefact should there be a crowd, invaluable as many items on display are minute – larger institutions take note!
Now online for smartphone or tablet at http://case.londonmithraeum.com/ – larger institutions take note!
We descended as Dionysus and Xanthias, but via a time-line staircase clearly marking each strata of London History.
The waiting area is dark but non-claustrophobic and with useful, interactive learning stations.
Entrance to the actual Mithraeum is strictly timed, visitor numbers strictly limited, free flowing footfall strictly ‘encouraged’. All of which made for a very pleasant experience – Larger institutions take note!
We entered in darkness. There is no βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ or ληκύθιον ἀπώλεσεν; but instead a (recorded) Latin ‘babble’, a whiff of burning herbs or incense, nervous but excited laughter…… not ours! Spooky!
Slowly, very slowly………the ‘babble’ subsides. Slowly, very slowly……..the gloom lifts……clever lighting reveals a hint of inter columnation (seven of course), walls, a doorway, a drain, a sacred pool, an altar……..a Cult Statue! Did something just brush my shoulder?????????
Lights fully up and one can really see the archaeology; and then you are out – an ancient (and modern) ‘Barnum and Baily’. Always leave the punters wanting more!
Our return visit was at a MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) Ambassadors Evening.
We met Caroline Lawrence first for coffee, chatted about our recent Rome Trip, reprised our previous descent into the bowels of Londinium and met other Ambassadors including Tom Holland (Rubicon), author and archaeologist Simon Elliot (Council for British Archaeology & Tour Guide for Andante), Sara, his amazing ex teacher wife and representatives of ‘Classics for All’.
Louise Fowler (Assistant Project Manager) gave a detailed presentation and explanation of ‘The Wall’ artefacts. She was equally as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as when we last met in the Time Truck during the Guildhall’s Summer Roman Festivities.
Outside in the rain Sophie Jackson (Lead Archaeologist) answered my incessant questions. The Mithraeum entrance was actually beneath our feet, the ritual pool beside the altar being merely symbolic; a pseudo pool.
Amy Reid (MOLA Development and Fundraising Executive) gave us all a fabulous book before the throng dispersed for victuals.
An amazing evening! Thank you to Caroline Lawrence for proposing me as an Archaeological Ambassador, thank you to MOLA for accepting me.
Thanks and huge congratulations to MOLA for their sterling endeavours; Prof Peter Walcot would have loved it!
We have already planned a third visit on 19th June as part of the (Free) KCL Teachers Day (details below). This time we will also be visiting the Basilica beneath Leadenhall, perhaps we’ll see you there.
Hellene Travel Photo Report
Further Reading –
Mithras | Hellenic Faith – https://hellenicfaith.com/mithras/
Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About London’s Mithraeum – http://flavias.blogspot.com/2017/12/ten-things-you-probably-didnt-know.html
A journey underground with Tom Holland to discover London Mithraeum | MOLA – https://www.mola.org.uk/blog/journey-underground-tom-holland-discover-london-mithraeum
Prototype of the Temple to Mithras at Carrawburgh: First Build https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfFeh2Rr0taQQkB5ve9zp4M1YklJbguUCE-AlIXCJOWhKeC9w/viewform