It’s not every day you get to explore the London Mithraeum in the basement of a dynamic City building like the new Bloomberg SPACE in Walbrook Street and discover the remains of a curious stone and brick Temple built during Roman times in London in praise of the God Mithras who ‘slew the sacred bull’.
Above this fascinating remnant from London’s history is an impressive exhibition area, at the base of Bloomberg SPACE’s headquarters. Currently on show is an intriguing sculpture/installation by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh which conjures the memory of a similarly strange temple hurriedly erected in the ancient city of Gyeongju, South Korea at around the same time – the early hundreds, BCE. Doh specialises in installations in spaces which ‘capture the psychological energy of that place and create markers of memory’.
According to legend, the region of Silla in South Korea was under threat of invasion from a massive army from the Chinese Tang Empire. Thousands of soldiers were approaching in hundreds of ships across the sea. What to do? A clever monk came up with the idea of building a temporary temple made from fabric and for everyone to pray hard for salvation. It worked. A fierce storm blew up in the sea and all the invading ships were sunk.
The site of the hastily built temple at Sach’onwang-sa was replaced by a more permanent one but only a few stone foundations of this building remain today. Suh’s creation, made like a multi-layered geometric parasol festooned with colourful silks imagines the way the temple could have appeared when it was hastily constructed. In the centre hang fronds of orange jewels illuminated by an inner light.
The exhibit is on show until 22nd January 2022. www.londonmithraeum.com