LONDON — Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be a Roman shrine beneath a former graveyard in the grounds of a cathedral in central England.
Experts from the University of Leicester said Tuesday that they found what appears to be the cellar of a Roman building and a fragment of a 1,800-year-old altar stone during excavations in the grounds of Leicester Cathedral.
“There’s always been this folk tale that there was a Roman temple underneath the cathedral,” said Mathew Morris, excavation director for the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services.
“Until now, there’s been no way of being able to say whether there was or not,” he added, but the new findings reveal that “there is definitely a Roman place of worship underneath the cathedral.”
Morris and his team believe the cellar, nearly 10 feet (3 meters) below the ground, was built in the second century. Several pieces of Roman pottery and coins were also found at the site.
The Romans built a fort around A.D. 50 in Leicester, a settlement known as Ratae Corieltauvorum.
The dig was part of a multi-million-pound project to restore Leicester Cathedral, thought to have first been built in the 11th century. The cathedral is now home to the tomb of Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king and the last English monarch to have died in battle. He died in 1485.
The University of Leicester’s archaeological team found the medieval king’s remains a decade ago in a Leicester city center parking lot. He was reinterred in the cathedral in 2015.