Lullingstone Roman Villa
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Some of the finest Roman mosaics in England
The Cult House and Chapel
Perhaps even more exciting than the mosaic was the discovery that one of the villa's chambers contained one of the earliest Christian chapels in the country, dating to the 4th century and situated above an earlier cult-house and a hypocaust. This chapel chamber was decorated with a chi-rho monogram, one of the earliest Christian symbols, and a set of wall paintings that were interpreted as showing Christians at prayer. The cult house has a niche in one wall with a painting of three water nymphs, so it seems quite likely the chamber was associated with a water cult.
But it is the mosaics that will draw most visitors; these decorate a large audience chamber and apse in the centre of the villa. The central figure depicted in the mosaic is Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus and fighting the Chimera. The central figures are surrounded by four dolphins and two seashells, and these figures in turn are surrounded by foliage and geometric patterns. In the apse are further mosaics showing 'The Rape of Europa'. In this scene Europa is abducted by the god Jupiter, disguised as a bull. The pair are flanked by winged figures, one of whom grasps the bull's tail.
The villa was begun around 75AD, at a time when the Romans had finally brought most of the unruly British tribes - at least those in the south and east - under their control, producing a period of relative peace and prosperity. The was rebuilt several times over the ensuing centuries until it was finally destroyed around 420AD, shortly after the last Roman legions left Britain for good.
Summing up Lullingstone
I found the villa fascinating, especially the cult house and chapel, and the mosaics were quite stunning. It was a little strange, to say the least, to have the entire villa under a huge roof, with coloured lights illuminating the excavated chambers like a son et lumiere show. I'd have to say that distracted a bit from getting a real feel for the site, but the exhibits were certainly interesting, including one rather poignant child burial display. I highly recommend combining a visit to the villa with the nearby historic house of Lullingstone Castle and the ruins of Eynsford Castle in the village.
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About Lullingstone Roman Villa
Address: Lullingstone Lane, Eynsford, Kent, England, DA4 0JA
Attraction Type: Roman Site
Location: Signposted off the A225 at Eynsford. Access via a single-lane road with passing places. On-site parking.
Website: Lullingstone Roman Villa
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
OS: TQ530 644
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Lullingstone, St Botolph's Church - 0 miles (Historic Church)
Lullingstone Castle - 0.2 miles (Historic House)
Eynsford Castle - 1.1 miles (Castle)
St John's Jerusalem - 4.1 miles (Historic Church)
Ightham, St Peter - 6.2 miles (Historic Church)
Knole House - 6.3 miles (Historic House)
Hall Place and Gardens - 6.4 miles (Historic House)
Home of Charles Darwin (Down House) - 6.4 miles (Historic Building)
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