The Mystery of Mithras: Exploring the heart of a Roman cult
Three European museums celebrate Mithras with a continental exhibition featuring more than 200 works of art from Roman times to the present day.
26 Oct 2021
International experts collaborate to present the results of current archaeological research and examine the history of the reception of the cult of Mithras up to modern times. The result is a new and comprehensive view of this deity and his fascinating cult, in the form of a central travelling exhibition complemented by the expertise of each partner institution, and several scientific meetings on the subject.
The exhibition opens at the Royal Mariemont Museum from 20 November 2021 to 17 April 2022. It invites visitors to question this enigmatic cult in an attempt to unravel some of the many mysteries surrounding the god Mithras. Why was this cult organised out of sight? Why was Mithras so successful to the point of appearing as a rival to Christ?
To explain one of the most original cults the ancient world has ever known, the exhibition presents a number of archaeological artifacts, some unveiled for the first time, from public and private collections in more than fifteen European countries. The immersive scenography allows visitors to enjoy a participatory experience and to understand the remarkable story of Mithras through the prism of contemporary social issues, such as the circulation of goods, ideas and people, gender relations or the coexistence of cults.
The exhibition continues at the Saint-Raymond Museum, Archaeological Museum of Toulouse, from 14 May to 30 October 2022. In this case, it focuses on the expansion of the phenomenon of the cult of Mithras in south-western Europe, with selected works from Spain and Portugal.
To address the reasons for the progressive decline of the cult from the 4th century onwards, the exhibition proposes a series of analyses: the eastern origins of the god, the emergence of the cult in the context of Roman polytheism, the main stages of its spread and expansion throughout the Western Roman Empire, the structural specificities of the Mithraic sanctuaries and rituals, and the identities of the devotees and the organisation of their communities. The exhibition also presents the lasting influence of Mithras and Mithraism on contemporary popular culture.
The exhibition closes its tour at the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum. From 19 November 2022 to 15 April 2023, visitors will see there the returned monuments of the Mithras cult from the Roman city of Nida, Frankfurt am Main-Heddernheim, together with other artefacts from the region.
The outstanding finds from the Mithraic sanctuaries in Nida, which attracted the attention of archaeologists as early as the 19th century, are a central component of the exhibition, and together with the Mithras artefacts from the Limes region on the Rhine and Danube, they form the core of the Frankfurt exhibition. Monuments from ancient Gaul and Italy will also show the similarities and differences between the border regions and the western cultural centres of the Imperium Romanum.
The Mithra Project is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
- Musée Royal de Mariemont - Administration Générale de la Culture - Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Préparer sa visite, découvrir les œuvres, les expositions et les collections permanentes, participer aux activités, connaître l'actualité du Musée royal de Mariemont.
- Musée Saint-Raymond. Visitez le musée Saint-Raymond de Toulouse et admirez les oeuvres gauloises et romaines. Découvrez un site archéologique unique en France et un cimetière de la fin de l'Antiquité.
- Archaeologisches Museum Frankfurt
- The Mithra project. The mystery of Mithras
- Creative Europe