Pagan Temple Found Under Cathedral

The people working on excavations in Milan have found a secret under the giant gothic Duomo di Milano: it’s built on top of an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva.

The location shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Cathedral (begun in the 14th century and finished 600 years later) was constructed at the most prominent spot in Mediolanum, which was once the capital of the western empire and is now modern Milan. St. Ambrose had a basilica constructed on the same site in the 5th century.

The temple would have occupied a central place in the square, and would have been a preferred spot for a Christian church, in part because of its location, and in part because pagan temples often were converted to Christian use.

The details so far are maddeningly vague, since they came as part of a general report on the progress of Milan excavations, which are in dire financial straits due to the economy.

If more details or photos emerge, I’ll do a follow-up.

Unusual Christian/Pagan Grave Discovered in England

Ancient Anglo-Saxon “bed burials”–in which the deceased is laid out in a real bed, often with possessions–are rare enough, but they have turned up in England before. Solid gold pectoral crosses are also extremely rare finds in English burials, but again: not completely unknown.

But finding a Christian symbol on a person buried in the old pagan ways? That’s rare enough to make headlines.

How rare? Well, including this one, that makes two. The burials date from maybe the 7th or 8th century, and the cross was found with the body of a young woman laid out in a pagan bed burial. She was probably the Christian daughter of a prominent pagan family:

Forensic work on the first woman’s bones suggests she was about 16, with no obvious explanation for her early death. Although she was almost certainly a Christian, buried with the beautiful cross stitched into place on her gown, she was buried according to ancient pagan tradition with some treasured possessions including an iron knife and a chatelaine, a chain hanging from her belt, and some glass beads which were probably originally in a purse that has rotted away.

The field where she lay, now being developed for housing at the edge of the village of Trumpington on the outskirts of Cambridge, hid a previously unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement. It may have been a wealthy monastic settlement – more of it probably lies under the neighbouring farm and farmyard – although there are no records of any church earlier than the 12th century village church which overlooks the site.

Read the whole thing.