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Publish Start Date: 30 May 06

New addition to Gorgon’s head

  

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 since 1897.

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 Roman Britain.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Photo captions:

(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 head.

Roman Baths

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


For More Information Contact:

Stephen Clews, Manager of the Roman Baths, tel: 01225 477774, or email Stephen_clews@bathnes.gov.uk

Patricia Dunlop, Commercial Manager - Heritage Services, on Tel: 01225 477759 or e-mail patricia_dunlop@bathnes.gov.uk

 


Issued by: Bath and North East Somerset Press Office, tel 01225 477827 or 477283, email: pressoffice@bathnes.gov.uk