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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Lullingstone Roman Villa

Lullingstone Roman Villa  was built during the Roman occupation of Britain, is situated near the village of Eynsford in Kent, in southeast England. Constructed in the 1st century, perhaps around 80-90 CE, the house was repeatedly expanded and occupied until it was destroyed by fire in the 5th century CE. The occupants were wealthy Romans or native Britons who had adopted Roman customs.  

About 150 CE, the villa was considerably enlarged, with a bath block heated by a hypocaust added, and may have been used as the country retreat of the governors of the Roman province of Britannia. Two sculpted marble busts found in the cellar may be those of Pertinax, governor in 185-186 CE, and his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus. 

In the 3rd century, a larger furnace for the hypocaust as well as an expanded bath block were added, as were a temple-mausoleum and a large granary. In the 4th century fine mosaic floors were installed in the dining room including one illustration of Zeus, disguised as a bull, abducting Europa and a second depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera. A room, already in religious use as a pagan shrine dedicated to local water deities depicted as water nymphs in a niche that can still be seen today, was converted to a Christian chapel or house church, the earliest that has been found in the British Isles. 

According to English Heritage: "The evidence of the Christian house-church is a unique discovery for Roman Britain and the wall paintings are of international importance. Not only do they provide some of the earliest evidence for Christianity in Britain, they are almost unique – the closest parallels come from a house-church in Dura Europus, Syria. Perhaps almost as remarkable as the discovery of the house-church is the possibility that pagan worship may have continued in the cult room below. What is not clear is whether this represented the family hedging their bets, trumpeting their apparent acceptance of Christianity, while trying to keep the old gods happy, or whether it represents some members of the family clinging to old beliefs in the face of the adoption of Christianity by others."

The villa complex also includes a Romano-Celtic Temple-mausoleum that was constructed around 300 CE.  It held the bodies of two young people, those of a male and a female, in lead coffins. Although the young woman's coffin was robbed in antiquity, the other remained in situ and undisturbed, and is now on display at the site.

Images from my visit to the villa in 2006 as well as other images by Carole Raddato, and other contributors to Wikimedia Commons:

Overall image of the covered archaeological site of Lullingstone Villa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (no author given)

Complete mosaic in the triclinium of Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (no author given)

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Male burial that I photographed at Lullingston Roman Villa in 2006.

Modern restoration of the fresco containing the Christian symbol of the Chi Rho from the Roman Villa at Lullingstone, now at the British Museum, London courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor udimu

Christian paintings in the former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Carole Raddato

Christian paintings in the former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Carole Raddato

Closeup of a painting of a Christian worshiper found in a former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed at the British Museum in 2008.

Closeup of a painting of a Christian worshiper found in a former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed at the British Museum in 2008.

One of the busts found at Lullingston Roman Villa thought to be possibly Pertinax, governor of Britannia from 185-186 CE or his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Ethan Doyle White

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