Travel Tips: London Mithraeum

Head of Mithras - London Mithraeum. Photo by Sandra Alvarez Head of Mithras - London Mithraeum. Photo by Sandra Alvarez.

Planning to visit London? Have an hour to spare? Looking for something affordable, yet historic? Look no further than the permanent exhibit: London Mithraeum. Tucked away in the heart of city, lie the ruins of a former Roman temple of Mithras. Beneath Bloomberg's European headquarters, visitors can enter a modern space, then be transported back in time to the third century AD, to see not only how the ancient Romans lived, but how they worshipped.

Roman copper alloy bells in the display case, alongside educational interactive tablet tool that allows visitors learn about Roman life in London. Photo by Sandra Alvarez. Copper alloy bells displayed alongside an educational interactive tablet tool that allows visitors learn about Roman life in London. Photo by Sandra Alvarez.

While the main feature of the exhibit is the reconstructed temple, the beginning of the visit features a fascinating array of objects from Roman Londinium that were found underneath the Bloomberg building when the temple was excavated between 2010–2014. Curators carefully selected items to convey Roman living in the third century, and have created an interactive educational display for all 600 objects. When you come in, you are given a tablet with a map of the display case. If you want to learn more about an item that you see, you simply tap on the corresponding shape, and a screen pops up with an enlarged view of that object. A quick swipe right, and you're given a brief overview paragraph of the significance of this item to Roman daily life. It's a fun and easy way to learn, using modern technology to present bite sized bits of information to people new to London's Roman history.

Inside the reconstructed temple of Mithraeum where visitors experience a light and sound demonstration. Photo by Sandra Alvarez. Inside the reconstructed temple of Mithraeum where visitors experience a light and sound demonstration. Photo by Sandra Alvarez.

Once you've had your fill of ogling Roman artifacts, you can head downstairs, seven metres below ground, and back through time, to a room with information about the history of Mithras and Roman London. The Mithraeum experience is shown at twenty minute intervals, so while you wait, this is a good opportunity to read about the project and the history behind the temple. The show begins with a dark, misty cavern; suddenly, Latin chanting fills the room. The worshippers of the secretive mystery cult of Mithraeum offer up their prayers, while the room gets brighter, revealing the image of Mithras at the former entrance to the temple. Visitors are free to walk around the ruins and take photos (with no flash). Then it's back above ground to rejoin the modern world.

London Mithraeum offers visitors short on cash, and short on time, a chance to take in some of this city's Roman past. If you work in the area, you could do easily this on your lunch; a much better way to spend an hour than trapped in the office eating lousy takeout.

Although the exhibit is free, you must book your time slot in advance. To plan your visit, please see:

 

www.londonmithraeum.com

 

 

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