One Saturday afternoon in September 1954, a handsome, faintly smiling god looked up from the London mud. His name was Mithras, and the rediscovered Roman temple to his cult became a sensation in a gloomy postwar capital pitted with bombsites and still recovering from rationing.
The temple was also about to become Britain’s most mobile Roman site. Fifty-seven years ago it was in the way of an office block development and was dismantled and moved to the street level roof of a car park, part of the huge Bucklersbury House development. Now it is on the move again, back to the banks of the long vanished Wallbrook stream, to make way for the headquarters of Bloomberg.
In 1954, it was front-page news day after day, attracted half-mile queues and was watched across the nation on Movietone news. Its fate was anxiously discussed at cabinet meetings and watched with close interest by the prime minister, Winston Churchill.
Mithras was a virile young god whose cult spread across the Roman empire from the east and was particularly beloved of soldiers. He was worshipped in cavelike, partly underground spaces where initiates gradually learned of his mysteries in the torchlit darkness.
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