Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I have been to ... Lullingstone Roman Villa

Sue and I recently paid a visit to Lullingstone Roman Villa, near the village of Eynsford in Kent.

The villa was built during the Roman occupation of Britain, and it is believed that its construction began at some point towards the end of the first century AD. The site was occupied until the fifth century, when it was destroyed by fire, and in the intervening period it underwent several periods of expansion and rebuilding.

The first remains of the building were re-discovered in 1750 when some workers who were erecting a fence dug post holes through a mosaic floor, and further evidence was revealed in 1939 when a large tree was blown down and its roots unearthed fragments of mosaic tiles. A large-scale archaeological dig took place from 1949 to 1961, and resulted in several major discoveries, the most important of which was probably the Chi-Rho fresco, which contains the only known Christian painting in Great Britain that dates from the Roman era.

The remains of the villa are housed in a specially built building that allows visitors to see the villa's layout very clearly.




A model of the villa as it would have looked towards the end of the Roman occupation of Great Britain.


Many of the artifacts found during the excavation of the site are displayed in glass cabinets ...


... and in reconstructions of parts the interior of the villa.


The remains of two human burials are also on display. The adult body was encased in a lead coffin, the top of which is decorated with scallop shells ...


... but the child's body seems to have been interred without any semblance of a proper or religious burial.


The floor mosaic was very impressive.


The part of the mosaic which was on the floor of the villa's dining room depicts the 'Rape of Europa' when the god Jupiter – disguised as a bull – abducted the Princess Europa.


The other part of the mosaic is in the adjacent audience room, and show Bellerophon killing the Chimera. The scene is surrounded by images of four dolphins (which might represent Neptune or Christ) and two scallop shells.


The site is now maintained and managed by English Heritage.

6 comments:

  1. Did you have time to visit Lullingstone Castle? The garden is worth seeing and the story behind it remarkable.

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  2. Nigel Drury,

    We decided not to go to Lullingstone Castle as the road was blocked by a coach. It had got itself stuck trying to turn round and was causing a traffic jam. After waiting for some time for the situation to be resolved, we gave up and went elsewhere.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Bob,

    I have visited Lullingstone Villa many times over the years and it never fails to move me. The Mosaics are stunning. It's a lovely spot too, I always felt that Life there must have been good.

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  4. 'Lee,

    I last visited Lullingstone Villa back in the early 1980s, and the English Heritage facilities are much improved. Unlike so many Roman remains, this is much more human in scale, and it is not difficult to imagine what it would have been like living there.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Lovely report, Bob. I'd love to see it, another reason to visit England for sure.
    I'm guessing that the scallop shells suggest that the adult male in the lead coffin was Christian - the 4th century date would also suggest that, but the other decorations look pagan.
    Very cool.
    Cheers,
    MP

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  6. Michael Peterson,

    The chances are that the body was Christian. There was a Christian church/chapel in the villa as well as a pagan temple ... and both appear to have been in use at the same time. The probability is that the owners of the villa were Christians and their servants were pagan.

    The UK is full of places worth visiting, so full - in fact - that we don't always notice. I live less than 200 yards from two Neolithic burial mounds and a quarter of a mile from the route of Watling Street, the old Roman road from Dover and London ... and beyond.

    All the best,

    Bob

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