|Location:||Santa Maria Capua Vetere|
All year Tue-Sun 9-18.
|Address:||Mithraeum, Tel: +39-0, Fax: +39-0,|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Mithraeum of Santa Maria Capua Vetere is a unique site. A mithraeum is a temple of the cult of the Persian god Mitra. Typically those temples are built underground, which is a principle of this religion. Until Roman times hundreds or thousands of those cave temples existed in Europe. The Romans were rather tolerant and allowed other religions, probaly a result of the fact that they had a polytheistic religion anyway. But later, mainly by the Christians, the Mithras cult was pursued and most temples destroyed. As a result this is one of very few still existing Mithras cave temples.
The rectangular underground room with a barrel vault is decorated with green and red six-point stars. There is a legend telling they were peppered with precious stones when the voult was discovered, but they were soon stolen. But little circular pieces of blue glass paste with a hole in the middle were found on the floor, which makes it probable that these glass decorations were once nailed into the stars. Probably there were glas pearls of different colours.
The back wall is decorated with a fresco showing the god Mitra while killing a bull. The clothes of the god are a red Phrygian cap with green and golden border and a colourful oriental toga with a cape. This scene is typical for Mitraeums and called the tauroctony. It is also the reason why those temples are undergound. According to the legend Mithras has hunted the bull, overwhelmed its strength, then ridden it and led into the cavern, where he killed it. The fresco is dated to be from the second century BC.
On the long wall sides are brickwork benches with the surface inclined towards the wall. The believers were sitting here, but they were also used to place food and lanterns in the small basins and pits.