London Mithraeum Bloomberg Space: a popular new attraction

Bloomberg is conserving more than money with the opening of the Bloomberg Mithraeum Bloomberg Space, a new attraction in the heart of the City of London Financial district which is rapidly becoming a popular place to spend a few hours. When I visited on a recent weekday morning, the space was alive with visitors and groups of all ages, enjoying this new free attraction which opened six months ago. “Brilliant” said one, as we exited into the sunshine.

When the new Bloomberg European Headquarters began construction on a former World War ll bombsite close to the historic Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, a decision was made to preserve remains of the Roman Temple of Mithras a rare example of Roman Britain, which were discovered 9 meters below the new modern glass building. Having survived Pestilence (the Plague 1347), Fire (the Great fire of London 1666) and Wars including the devastation of World War ll (1939-45) the temple has now been preserved for the future, along with many artifacts found during archealogical excavations, thanks to the foresight and philanthropy of the Bloomberg Corporation.

The result is a wonderful cultural space on three floors showcasing the reconstructed temple, many roman artifacts and a series of contemporary art installations reflecting the significance of the site.

The present building lies over a lost River, the Walbrook, now underground, around which Roman London was founded, and where the Temple of Mithras was built in the 3rd century AD. First discovered by a fluke during a bomb clearing exercise after the war in 1952-54, ironically the last shovel before the site closed, the temple aroused great interest but plans stalled to preserve it and in 1962 a reconstruction was unveiled about 100 meters away but was criticized as not being authentic and didn’t attract much attention. When Bloomberg acquired the original site in 2010 they made the decision to restore the temple to its original location and make it as authentic as possible.

Working with the City of London and Conservation specialists the Bloomberg Space more than fulfills this vision.

Not much is known about Mithras, but it is surmised he was a Fertility God, and the central icon of the cult was of Mithras killing a bull. The stone head of Mithras was found in 1954, likely part of a statue and a re creation is on display, adding to the authenticity of the site.

Entering the building on the ground floor a large installation “London in its Original Splendour” by famed Pablo Bronstein, reflecting architectural styles throughout the centuries rendered in wallpaper design, captures the eye, along with many artifacts in glass cases. More than 14,000 roman relics were found during archealogical explorations. A fast elevator takes you down three levels, descending through time from 1941 – AD 410. to the temple remains, seven metres below present ground level. Great care was taken to replicate and repair the original structure, with mortar and bricks created where necessary from original samples to resemble the temple as originally built in AD240. It is a fascinating journey
The exhibition is free

Getting there:

Take Central Line Tube to Bank Station – about a two minute walk

Located right in the heart of the financial district other interesting buildings closeby include the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England and
St. Stephens Walbrook Church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 as the prototype for the dome of St. Pauls Cathedral. One of London’s oldest churches, it was badly damaged during the last war. Benjamin Moore, a leading Sculptor of the day was commissioned to replace the destroyed Altar, which proved to be a large circular design in the centre of the nave. It is made from marble cut from the very quarry used by Michelangelo, but the modern symbolism signifying Community Gathering around God at the centre, caused some controversy with traditionalists who felt the original message had been lost.
Go and decide for yourself.
Nearby LeadenHall covered market is one of the oldest markets in London dating from the 14th century. It was originally a poultry and game market and now caters to the business crowd, with some reasonably priced restaurants and historic pubs where you can enjoy a bite to eat and browse the delectable food stalls.

Tess Bridgwater July 6, 2018

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