Roman shrine discovered beneath Leicester Cathedral graveyard
An archaeological dig has uncovered what is believed to be a Roman shrine beneath a cemetery in Leicester.
Excavations at the site of an old singing school on the site of Leicester Cathedral began in October 2021 and have since turned up a “remarkable” amount of information, excavators said.
The basement of a Roman building and an 1,800-year-old altar stone were discovered during excavations led by the University of Leicester (Ulas) Archaeological Service, suggesting the presence of a shrine or cult room.
The basement – now nearly 10 feet underground – is believed to have had a concrete floor and stone walls with decorative paintwork.
“It could be really significant. It’s an area of Leicester that we don’t get to dig up very often. It’s the city’s historic district, so it’s one of those big blank spots on the city map,” said Mathew Morris, who led the dig.
“But it’s also pretty fundamental to understanding the history of Leicester Cathedral. Despite being an iconic building in the cityscape, we don’t actually know all that much about its early history and most of what you see above ground today was rebuilt in the Victorian era.
“So was an excavation next to it really the only way to clarify important questions like when it was founded and what was underneath before then?”
The existence of a Roman temple beneath the cathedral has been a folk tale until now.
With the discovery of the basement and the fragment of a Roman altar stone extracted from it, scientists confirmed that there was definitely a Roman place of worship under the cathedral.
The basement is believed to have been built in the second century and a century or two later purposely filled and used as a place of worship of god or gods.
Several pieces of Roman pottery and coins have also been found.
The excavation was part of the planning terms of the Leicester Cathedral Revealed project, a £12.7million restoration of the building believed to have been first constructed in the 11th century.
The area excavated in the middle of the medieval city was only 14 square meters, but Morris said: “If you dig any hole in Leicester, you will find something.”
In addition to evidence of Roman activity, 1,100 burials dating from the 11th century to the mid-19th century have also been discovered, which will be analyzed and reinterred by the cathedral at a later date.
The excavation has also uncovered rare evidence from the Anglo-Saxon period, including the first coin from this period to be found in the city in 20 years and possibly the first evidence of a building from this period in this part of the city.
“This excavation has produced a remarkable amount of archaeological evidence from a modest area. The project allowed us to venture into an area of Leicester that we rarely get to explore and it certainly did not disappoint,” said John Thomas, Associate Director at Ulas.
“Fortunately, the archeology was very well preserved and while much analytical work remains to be done, we are confident that we will be able to answer all of our questions and more.”
The team hopes to get a much clearer idea of what happened on the site in Roman times when St Martin’s parish church was founded, while also providing a unique insight into the history of Leicester through its residents who have long lived here Time were buried 800 years.
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/08/roman-shrine-discovered-under-leicester-cathedral-graveyard-18403762/ Roman shrine discovered beneath Leicester Cathedral graveyard