A piece of the stone jigsaw which makes up the pediment of
Bath’s Roman Temple has been restored as part of ongoing
conservation work at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run
Roman Baths Museum.
A missing block was found during excavations beneath the Pump
Room in 1982 and has been on display in the Temple Precinct,
separate from the rest of the carvings, ever since. Last week, as
part of the continuing restoration and re-display programme, the
missing piece was reunited with the rest of the pediment.
The pediment is the triangular ornamental section above the
pillars on the front of the Roman building. It was supported
originally by four large, fluted columns and featured the very
powerful central image of the Gorgon’s head glowering down from a
height of 15 metres on all who approached the temple.
Sixteen hundred of year ago the Temple fell into disrepair and
eventually collapsed. Some of the carved stones from the pediment
were re-used as paving slabs in the courtyard and were
discovered during the digging of foundations for the Grand Pump
Room in 1790. They have been on display in the Roman Baths Museum
It is possible that other missing stones may still lie beneath
Stall Street and Abbey Churchyard
Stephen Clews, Manager of the Roman Baths said, “This is the
last piece of the pediment that we have in our possession and it
now makes sense to display it with the others.”
Councillor Nicole O’Flaherty, Executive Member for Tourism,
Leisure and Culture said, “It is vital that we continue the process
of improving the displays at the Roman Baths and I am pleased that
Bath & North East Somerset Council has been able to complete
the restoration of this important façade which is generally
considered to be one of the most important works to survive from
Notes to editors:
(109-0991) Work in progress in the Roam Baths Museum showing the
cut-out for the ancient stone.
(Pediment pix 028) The mising peice reunited with the Gorgon's
The Roman Baths contains the remains of one of the greatest
religious spas in the ancient world and a Roman museum collection
designated as being of outstanding national importance. It is the
most popular heritage attraction in the South West and is among the
UK’s major heritage sites and, together with the Pump Room receives
more than one million visitors a year.
The Temple at Bath is one of only two truly classical temples
known from Roman Britain. It was the place where the cult statue of
the goddess Sulis Minerva was housed. The great ornamental
pediment survives, and has been re-erected in the Roman Baths
Museum. It carries the image of a fearsome head carved in
Bath stone and it is thought to be the Gorgon’s head, which was a
powerful symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva.
The Bath Temple stood on a podium more than two metres above the
surrounding courtyard. It was approached by a flight of steps. As
one approached it there were four large, fluted Corinthian columns
supporting a frieze and decorated pediment above.
The pediment is full of allusions that would have been
understood by a well-educated person in the first century. In
the corners are Tritons, half men and half fish, servants of the
water god Neptune. In the lower left centre ground is a face
helmet in the form of a dolphin’s head. The small owl tucked
away to the lower right of the large central roundel is also almost
certainly perched atop another helmet. The central head is
held aloft by female 'Victories', on a shield ringed with oak
leaves. The Victories stand on globes. The great head
itself has snakes entwined within its beard, wings above its ears,
beetling brows and a heavy moustache. Above all this, in the
apex of the pediment, is a star.
Visit the Roman Baths website at: www.romanbaths.co.uk