Temple of Mithras (Hadrian's Wall)
There’s a fascinating whiff of blood and steel in the air here, where three third-century AD altars to Mithras, the enigmatic, bull-slaying deity worshipped by many Roman soldiers, were uncovered by a farmer in 1949. The temple was built low and dark, representing the cave where Mithras slew the primeval bull and in doing so brought innumerable benefits to mankind. The uninitiated gathered in a small ante-room. Beyond this was the temple, with three altars (those you see today are replicas) and statues of Mithras’s attendants, Cautes, with his torch raised to represent light, and Cautopates, torch down for darkness.One of the altars shows Mithras as the Unconquered Sun. Above the altars there was once a sculpture of Mithras and the Bull – perhaps destroyed by Christians during the fourth century. The seven Mithraic grades of worshippers – Father, Courier of the Sun, Persian, Lion, Soldier, Bridegroom and Raven – would sit or kneel on low wattle and wooden platforms as the mysteries, which included a symbolic meal of bread and water, took place.to see the original altars and a vivid, full-scale reconstruction of the temple, visit the Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Parking onsite
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open at any reasonable time
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About the area
If it’s history you’re after, there’s heaps of it in Northumberland. On Hadrian’s Wall you can imagine scarlet-cloaked Roman legionaries keeping watch for painted Pictish warriors while cursing the English weather and dreaming of home. Desolate battlefield sites and hulking fortresses such as Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Warkworth are reminders that this, until not so very long ago, was a contested border region. The ruins of Lindisfarne bear witness to the region’s early Christian history.
Northumberland also has some of Britain’s best beaches. On summer days, and even in winter, you’ll see surfers and other brave souls making the most of the coast. Inland, there are some great walks and bike rides in the dales of the Cheviot Hills and the Simonsides – just hilly enough to be interesting, without being brutally steep. There's dramatic scenery in the High Pennines, where waterfalls plunge into deep valleys, and there are swathes of heather-scented moorland. Northumberland National Park covers over 400 square miles of moorland and valleys with clear streams and pretty, stone-built villages. It’s just the place for wildlife watching too. You’ll find flocks of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds around the Farne Islands, and seals and dolphins offshore.
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