Barberini Mithraeum


In 1936 in the garden of the Palazzo Barberini a Mithraeum was discovered under a house, which is the possession of Conte A. Savorgnan di Brazza.

The excavated room consists of a central room, on either side of which there is a smaller, narrower room; they are of the same size (probably first cent. A.D.). One of these rooms was changed into a Mithraeum later on. The sanctuary is rectangular (H. 4.42 L. 11.83 Br. 6.25) and is divided into a central aisle (Br. 1.95) and two side-benches, sloping towards the walls. Along the front of the r. bench (H. 0.83 Br. 1.40) as well as of the l. bench (Br. 2.45) runs a broad ledge, covered with marble.

The two benches show moreover, approximately in the middle and on floor-level, hollows for the basins. The basin of the l. bench is half-round and covered by a lid. This bench can be ascended via three steps, and it supports four brick columns, which help to support the arched roof. Behind the r. bench, which can be ascended via two steps, runs a small canal.

On the level with the side-benches against the back wall, the arched cult-niche (H. 2.15 D. 1.03) has been constructed. The arch joins the last column of the bench. On its right two fishes are painted, a remnant of the signs of the zodiac. The inside of the niche is covered with sea-shells and pumice to give it a cave-like appearance. At the foot of the niche two projecting elevations have been made (H. 0.82 Br. 0.50-0.70 D. 0.90), which are plastered on the inside and painted with undefiniable motives in blue, green and red.

Martin J. Vermasseren