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Mitreo di Santa Prisca

The Mitreo de Santa Prisca houses remarkable frescoes showing the initiates in procession.
17 May 2007
  • General view of the Mithraeum of Sant Prisca 



In 1935 during excavations, undertaken by the Fathers Augustines, a Mithraeum was discovered in the underground rooms of a notable house, situated under and behind the absis of the Church of S. Prisca on the Aventine. This Church lies above the house, in which an early Christian community had its meeting-place next to the house, the underground rooms of which served for the mithraists to held their services.

The Mithraeum is on the east side of the crypt, beyond the foundations of the apse. It faces east, i.e. towards the point of the rising sun, where the altar is situated.

The temple measures 11 by 4.5 metres. The roof is the shape of a barrel vault, originally painted blue; there are raised platforms along the walls, sloping backwards, 1,35 metres wide and 0.75 metres high. There is an aisle running along the centre which is 1.60 metres wide. The podium on the right is 7.50 metres long, while the right podium measures 6 metres in length.

The god Mithras is shown slaughtering the bull. Mithraic mythology narrates that Mithra carries out this task with the approval of the universal gods. Oceanus or Neptune can be seen represented as a river divinity. The dog that was Mithra’s faithful companion during his search for the bull is also depicted. The point of the bull’s tail is shaped like a large wheat ear, symbol of the fertility and flora flowing forth from the blood of the slaughtered animal.

On the left side of the temple there are three rooms. The dressing room or Apparatorium, where the ministers put on their robes and from where they came out in procession to begin the religious functions. The room of Caelus or the baptistery, where there is a vault, at the bottom of which there is a prominence which appears to be an altar with an alcove, at the feet of which there is a type of large basin which no doubt contained the purifying water for the initiations. Lastly the room of the Initiations, where the initiated underwent the various ritual Mithraic trials.

The Mithraeum is managed by the Rome Superintendence.
In order to make an appointment for a guided visit, please contact:

+39 0639967702


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