Children's pages: The Temple of Sulis Minerva | The Roman Baths

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Children's pages: The Temple of Sulis Minerva

What did the temple look like?

Image: BelatorBelator: "Next to the Spring is the temple of the goddess Sulis Minerva. The temple is built on a mound of earth we call a podium. It makes the temple higher than the other buildings near it. It’s over 50 feet high (you’d call it 14.5 metres). You can get to the temple by running up the steps. The temple has four columns holding up the decorated front. In the centre of the front is a strange carved face."


Image: Owl

Owl: "The only parts of the temple you can see today are three steps that led up to it. Some of the stones that made up the front have been found and fitted back together. The Romans used 'feet' and 'paces' to measure with. A Roman foot is 29.6 centimetres long."

What is a Gorgon?

Image: Apulia

Apulia: "This is what the front of the temple looks like.  The scary face is the god of the waters. Some people say he is Medusa, the Gorgon that Minerva has on her   shield. Gorgons had snakes instead of hair and if you looked at them you turned to stone!  What do you think it looks like?"

Owl: "Around him are all sorts of things carved in the stone:

Victories with wings (they celebrate war victories) hold victory wreaths of oak leaves
Helmets (because Minerva is a warrior goddess) 
Tritons (they’re water gods) blowing trumpets made of shells 
An owl (because Minerva is also the goddess of wisdom)" 

"No one is sure who the face is meant to be... Medusa is usually a woman but this face has a moustache!"

Image: Temple pediment

Where was Minerva's Head?

Apulia: "Inside the Temple of Sulis Minerva is a huge golden statue of her. We’ve never seen it as only priests can go into the Temple. Sulis Minerva looks after all the people who make things, like the potters and blacksmiths in the town, doctors, soldiers and anyone who comes here to be healed."

 "The statue was made of bronze and covered in gold leaf.  It would have been quite an amazing sight.  The inside of the Temple would have been lit by burning coal.  The flickering light from this would have been reflected from the statue and it may have looked as if she was actually moving!"
"We’ve only found the head of the statue. It’s just a bit bigger than an adult’s head. It was probably broken off when people became Christians and stopped believing in Sulis Minerva."

What happened in the Temple Courtyard?

Apulia: "The Temple is in the middle of the open air Temple courtyard. This is where most of the ceremonies take place. In front of the Temple is the great altar where the priests make sacrifices to Sulis Minerva. They kill cows, sheep and pigs and give them to the goddess."
"On each side of the courtyard are other big buildings. The gateway to the Spring building has a picture of the sun at the top. The other building has pictures of the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn."

Image: Computer reconstruction of the Temple CourtyardOwl: "Lots of people would have come to visit the huge Temple. We only have some of the stone from the other buildings but from them we can guess they would have been large and grand."