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New interpretation panel highlights the importance of historic church in Colchester

PUBLISHED: 22 June 2021


Residents and visitors to Colchester can now find out even more about Colchester’s historic past, thanks to a new interpretation panel that has been installed at the site of a Roman Church in Butt Road, Colchester.

This hugely significant archaeological site was awarded Scheduled Ancient Monument status last year by Historic England and can be found next to the Police Station, on Southway. It is thought to be the remains of one of the earliest Christian churches in Britain, dating back to AD 320.

The site was excavated by the Colchester Archaeological Trust in the 1980s and is usually interpreted as a Christian church based on its plan, the presence of possible graves inside the building and a nearby late-Roman Christian cemetery. Recently, an alternative theory that the building was a Mithraeum, or temple to the eastern god Mithras, has been proposed on the grounds that its size, lack of windows and the evidence of feasting that fit better with its use by followers of this religion. 

As part of the council’s commitment to celebrating Colchester’s heritage, repairs to the site have been ongoing since July 2020 and have progressed well, with masonry repairs and the relaying of internal gravel surfaces now complete.

Councillor Darius Laws, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Business and Heritage for Colchester Borough Council, said: “This site is of huge historical significance to Colchester, and it is important that locals and visitors to the town can freely access information about its history. Colchester has a rich past and we are working incredibly hard to make sure its future is better for residents, visitors, and businesses. If you have not visited before, I’d urge you to do so and find out more about this amazing archaeological gem.”

Page last reviewed: 22 June 2021

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