A Romano-Celtic temple (or 'Romano-British Temple') is a sub-class of Roman Temple found in the north-western provinces of the Roman Empire. Many may have had roots in the later Iron Age either in direct relation to pre-Roman structures or on sites with pre-Roman activity.
Each temple normally consisted of a box-like cella, of variable height, surrounded by an ambulatory or veranda built from stone, wood or both. This floor-plan is typically square or rectangular, but triangular, circular and polygonal layouts are also known. In size they vary considerably with the outer ambulatory ranging from 8.5m to 22m in length and the cella from 5.1m to 16m A central tower building, accessible from a door on one side, was usually roofed, as was the ambulatory, though the tower may rise above the height of the surrounding ambulatory or be pitched so that the two features join together. Some features of the Classsical Roman temples are included in the architectural tradition of these temples, such as the addition of columns as part of the exterior wall; ambulatories may remain open or be delineated by a short wall or wall-and-colonnade. The internal features included mosaic floors and decorative wall paintings. Structures often, but not without exception, stand within a temenos or sacred enclosure.
Temples were, of course, centres of religious activity and involved in ceremonies and festivals and may have attracted people from surrounding areas. Each temple would be dedicated to a God (or multiple Gods) with a statue in the cella. Votive offerings such as coins, pottery, statues, miniature votive figurines can be found both within the building and in the surrounding ambulatory and temenos, suggesting that access may be available throughout the structure and that the external architectural components also serve a purpose within the ritual environment of the temple. The temple at Woodeaten produced evidence for multiple hearths within the temple superstructure, suggesting the use of fire within the religious worship at that site.
A priest would perform religious ceremonies within the temple or outside in the enclosure, although the exact daily role they played in Romano-Celtic temples is not well understood. Performing sacrifice, prayers, and overseeing festivals are key features of priesthoods in the Roman Empire. In Bath an altar is dedicated by a haruspex - this religious position may be utilised elsewhere in Britannia. Fragments of priestly regalia have been found during excavations: a copper alloy sceptre-cap from the temple at Farley, a chained headpiece or 'crown' at Wanborough and a bronze crown with an adjustable band at Hockwold cum Wilton.
They are, by far, the most frequently occurring type of temple in Roman Britain in place of the Classical Temple which are few in number: the Temple of Claudius in Colchester, the temple of Sulis-Minerva in Bath and the examples at Maryport, Lincoln, Gloucester, and St.Albans are the only known examples.
Romano-Celtic temples occur across Britannia and are frequently associated with sites with recorded pre-Roman activity, such as at Jordan Hill. Temples may be associated with an extramural settlement within a fort, as at Vindolanda, or along a roadside. Prominent places within a landscape may also be chosen as sites for Romano-Celtic temples, for example the temple on top of the huge Iron Age Hillfort at Maiden Castle, Dorset or the temple on the coastal promontory at Brean Down, Somerset. The distribution of these temples covers both major and minor towns and includes rural sanctuaries. In towns they can occur as individual temples or in groups of two or more within an enclosure.
|Date||Plan or photo||Location||Dimensions||Dedication||Notes||Reference|
|Bourton Grounds||2nd - 4th Century AD||Cella: 7.6m2||Isis||
Excavated in the 1960s. A Figurine of Isis found by metal detector at a later date.
|Brean Down||4th Century AD||Excavated in 1957-8, the temple was constructed c.AD340 and demolished c.AD390. It lies on a promontory off the Somerset coast.|||
|Caerwent||4th Century AD||Cella: 7.5m x 7m||Built in c.AD330, it stood next to the forum and basilica.|||
|Chanctonbury||3rd-4th Century AD||Cella: 9m x 7m||Built on an Iron Age hillfort.|||
|Farley||1st-4th Century AD||Cella: 7.3m x 7.3m
Ambulatory: 14m x 14m
Temenos: Diameter - c. 73m
|Excavated in 1848 by Martin Tupper, and later in 1926 and definitively in 1939. Pre-Roman coinage of Verica, Epaticcus and Tincommius has been found on the site during early excavations. The temple is associated with two pottery kilns. Finds include a possible Priest's sceptre, two Roman coin hoards, a swan-head handle and pottery.|||
|Gosbecks Farm||mid 2nd-4th Century AD||Cella: 7m x 7m||Camulos||
Excavated in 1842. The temple temenos stands at the west and of a much larger walled enclosure stretching 340 metres to the east. The off-central location of the temple has been held to imply that a sacred grove or tree occupied the most important position within the temenos
|Great Chesterford||2nd? - 4th Century AD||Cella: 6.7m x 6.7m||
Discovered in 1847 and excavated under the direction of the Hon RC Neville. Two mosaic floors were located in the cella. The temple was re-excavated in 1978.
|Jordan Hill||1st - 4th Century AD||Cella: 6.8m2
First Excavated by J. Medhurst in 1843. The structure is in stone, with minimal evidence of an ambulatory. An early 1st century pit or shaft was associated beneath the temples structure.
|Lancing||Late 1st - Mid 3rd Century AD||Cella: 6.7m x 6.7m|
|Lullingstone||3rd Century AD||Cella: 6.4m x 5.1m||Water Deities|
|Lydney Park||4th Century AD||Nodons||Excavated in the 1920s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. The site also have evidence for iron ore extraction.|
|Maiden Castle||4th Century AD||Cella: 6m x 6m||Minerva?||Built on top of an Iron Age hillfort|||
|Nettleton||3rd-4th Century AD||Apollo Cunomaglus|||
|Pagans Hill||3rd-4th Century AD||Mercury?||Excavated by Philip Rahtz in 1949-53. The temple was built in c.AD258 with an octagonal cella, but soon fell into decay. A well is associated with the temple, into which objects were deposited. It was the site of domestic occupation by the 5th Century.|||
|Ratham Mill||1st-2nd Century AD||Cella: 4m x 4m
Ambulatory: 8.5m x 8.5m
Temenos: 15.5m x 15.5m
|No excavation; site seen as cropmarks. Roman pottery associated in surrounding area. Outer two walls may not have southern sides. The inner square (here identified as the cella) may, in fact, be an altar or plinth within a larger structure.|||
|Vindolanda||3rd-4th Century AD||Cella: 5.1m x 5.1m
Ambulatory:10.8m x 10.8m
|Wimblington||2nd-3rd Century AD||Cella: 5.6m x 5m
Ambulatory: 11m x 11m
|Epona?||Excavated in 1980s, Wimblington temple comprised a stone and timber cella surrounded by a timber enclosure. Cropmarks hint at a larger earthwork surrounding the temple c50m in diameter. Finds associated with the temple site included a clay figurine of a horse (Epona?), while surface finds included various coper alloy items possibly linked to Mercury, Minerva and others.|||
|Woodeaton||1st-4th Century AD||Cella: 5.8m x 5m
|Excavated in 1952, the temple was found to have to main phases of use. In the first a clay floor and three internal hearths noted. The later phase is marked by the widening of the walls and the addition of an ambulatory. The site is associated with Iron Age activity.|||
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