The Rudchester Mithraeum was a Roman Temple to the god Mithras. Nothing is visible of the Mithraeum now - the only stone structure visible in the field is clearly the "spring"marked on the maps:
in the late second or early third century AD the mithraeum stood approximately 12m
x 6m about 137m South and West of the fort - about 200ft west of the spring.
The mithraeum was excavated in 1953 and a full account is presented by Gillam, Harrison and Newman in "The temple of Mithras at Rudchester" Archaeologia Aeliana Series 4, Volume 32, 1954 pp176-219 available in the library on the top floor of the Great North Museum; Hancock. There is an excellent photograph which I will ask to show here - it It may have looked like the
temple at Brocolita
Mithraeum at Carrowburgh, further west along the wall:
This is a map of the site from Archaelogia Aeliana drawn br R. F. Gillam from www.tertullian.org:
The site was discovered in
1844 when the local farmer uncovered a statue and five altars. The statue
was broken up (and subsequently lost), but the altars were all saved.
A head of either Cautes or Cautopates, the twin torch-bearers and comapnions
and 3 pilars are on display at the are on display in the Great
This drawing was made by John Bell and is available onwww.tertullian.org:
DEO /L SENTIUS / CASTUS / (centurio) LEG VI D(ono) P(osuit).
To the god. Lucius Sentius Castus, centurion of the 6th legion gave this.
DEO INVICTO / MYTRAE P(ublius) AEL(ius) / TITULLUS
PRAE(fectus) / V(otum) S(olvit) L(aetus) L(ibens) M(erito).
To the invincible god Mithras, Publius Aelius Titullus, prefect, gladly,
willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
3) DEO SOLI INVIC(to) / TIB(iberius)
CL(audius) DECIMUS / CORNEL(ius) ANTO/NIUS PRAEF(ectus) / TEMPLE(um) RESTIT(uit).
To the Invincible Sun. Tiberius Claudius Decimus Cornelius Antonius, Prefect,
restored the temple.
4) SOLI / APOLLINI / ANICETO /
[Mithrae] APON[I]US ROGAT[I]ANUS [PRAEF(ectus) V(otum) S(olvit) L(ibens)
5) No inscription.
J.P. Gilliam relocated the
shrine and excavated it in 1953. He identified two phases of use with
two successive temples on the same site.
Mithraeum Phase I
The first temple was built in
the late second or early third century AD. Orientated east to west, the
shrine formed a rectangle 12 x 6.02m in size with a small apse in the
west end-wall. The plan was typical of mithraic temples in that it consisted
of a central nave flanked by low benches. The building was constructed
in stone with clay used to bond the blocks. A roughly-built narthex (or
ante-chapel) was later added to the outside of the east wall, 3m in depth
and 6m in width. It was placed asymmetrically in line with the south wall
so that there was no direct view from the front entrance into the temple.
Similarly to the shrine at Carrawburgh this ante-room contained a low
stone bench which may have been used in initiation rites. The east wall,
however, was built over a baddly-filled in pit and the subsequent subsidence
caused the collapse of the structure.
Mithraeum Phase II
The mithraeum was rebuilt soon after, but without the ante-room. Access
was now directly into the shrine from the outside and it is unusual that
the community would not have wanted at least some form of ante-chamber
especially as they also reduced the free space within the shrine by extending
the benches. The interior of the shrine was remodelled to include a stone
podium in front of the apse (presumably for the tauroctony) and the lengthening
of the benches. A new roof system was also put in with wooden posts standing
in front of the benches. Five small uninscribed altars were found inside
the nave and the remains of a water-basin were recovered about two-thirds
of the way along the northern bench.
Gilliam found two heads of Cautes and Cautopates and speculated that this
was the result of a deliberate decapitation of the statues. The lack of
any trace of the tauroctony was also used to argue for a deliberate desecration
of the shrine, however in the absence of any single fragment of it and
without knowing what the statue smashed in 1844 was of, it is hard to
say for sure. Certainly pottery evidence spread over the temple shows
that it temple was out of use by the mid-fourth century.
All the finds and altars were placed in the Museum of Antiquities at the
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, however they are in the process of
being moved to the new Museum of the North.
JP Gilliam, I MacIvor &
E Birley. 1954. 'The Temple of Mithras at Rudchester'. Archaeologia Aeliana
(4th series) XXXII, 176-219
Daniels, C. 1989. Mithras and
his Temples on the Wall pp16-19.
Gilliam, J.P., MacIvor, I & Birley, E. 1954. 'The Temple of Mithras
at Rudchester'. Archaeologia Aeliana (4th
series) XXXII, 176-219
Text adapted from theWikipedia page.