An archaeological dig has uncovered what is believed to be a Roman shrine beneath a graveyard.
Excavations at the site of an old song school in the grounds of Leicester Cathedral began in October 2021 and have since produced a ‘remarkable’ amount of information, dig directors have said.
The cellar of a Roman building and a 1,800-year-old altar stone have been discovered during the excavation, led by University of Leicester Archaeological Services, suggesting the presence of a shrine or cult room.
The cellar – now nearly 10ft (three metres) below the ground – is believed to have had a concrete floor and stone walls, with decorative paintwork.
Mathew Morris, Project Officer, said: ‘It could be really significant. It’s an area of Leicester that we don’t get to excavate very often. It’s the historic quarter of the town, so it’s one of those big blank areas on the map of the city.
‘But it’s also quite fundamental in understanding the history of Leicester Cathedral.
‘Whilst it’s an iconic building in the cityscape, we don’t actually know too much about its early history and most of what you see above ground today was rebuilt in the Victorian period.
‘So an excavation next to it was really the only way we were going to get to grips with key questions, like when was it first founded, and what was underneath it before?
‘There’s always been this folk tale that there was a Roman temple underneath the cathedral.
‘Until now, there’s been no way of being able to say whether there was or not, but we’re certainly looking at, with this excavation and the discovery of this cellar and the fragment of a Roman altar stone out of it, that there is definitely a Roman place of worship underneath the cathedral.’
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