Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be a Roman temple beneath a former burial ground in a cathedral courtyard in central England.
Scientists from the University of Leicester say they have discovered what they believe to be the basement of a Roman building and a fragment of an 1,800-year-old altar stone during excavations in the grounds of Leicester Cathedral.
“It has always been said that there was a Roman temple under the cathedral. Until now we have had no way of confirming or rejecting this, but the new findings show that there is definitely a Roman place of worship underneath,” said excavation leader Matthew Morris.
Morris and his team believe that the cellar, which is almost three meters underground, was built in the second century. Several pieces of Roman pottery and coins were also found at the site.
It is known that around 50 AD the Romans built a fortress on the territory of Leicester, a settlement known as Ratae Corieltauvorum.
The dig is part of a project to restore Leicester Cathedral, which is believed to have been first built in the 11th century. It currently houses the tomb of Richard III. He was the last King of England of the Plantagenet dynasty and the last English monarch to die in battle. The king died in 1485.
An archaeological team from the University of Leicester discovered the remains of the medieval king a decade ago when excavating a car park in the city centre. In 2015, he was reburied in the cathedral.
Illustration: Portrait of Richard III of England, painted by Barthel ii (approximate date from tree-rings on panel), after a lost original, for the Paston family, owned by the Society of Antiquaries, London, since 1828.