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Mainz’s Sacred Sites of Antiquity:
The Temples of Isis and Mater Magna
Cults, Sacrifices & Divinities:
“The aroma of incense and burnt fruits hangs heavily in the air as the flickering flames of oil lamps cast shimmering shadows on the walls of the
This sounds like a Gothic novel. But in fact it is a valid description of actual happenings in Roman Mainz which the city’s soil has recently surrendered
revealing part of every day culture experienced by the Romans in Mogontiacum.
These recent discoveries made in 2000 occurred when excavations in the heart of Mainz’s downtown shopping center struck the hidden remains of two temples celebrating ancient female divinities: Isis, the ancient Egyptian Goddess of Fertility and Renewal and that of the Mater Magna or Great Mother whose worship originated in Asia minor and was favored by soldiers.
The temples were still in use during the 3rd Century A.D. The discovery was sensational based on the numerous objects in good condition that were excavated. Among them were more than 300 oil lamps and sacrificial items including fruits such as dates and figs, certainly not local or even European produce, and pine nuts and grains which also burnt on the altars. Animal sacrifices were also performed here as countless chicken bones attested.
Beneath the buried statues of thee Goddesses were discovered statues of Venus, a pair of lovers in a tight embrace, a steer with a sacrificial lead, and a bronze of Mercury holding a money sack in his hand.
All of this cultural treasure revealing Roman religious practices was discovered in the course of the construction of a new shopping passage or mall. During the course of the next three years, the walls, stones and found items were carefully preserved and safely stored. In 2003 the Temple, with all its artifacts was then re-created in its original site in a presentation area called the “Taberna archaeologica.”
A visit to the site will transport the viewer back to a world which all-but-disappeared almost two millennia ago. This trip into the past awakens all the senses to the ways in which religious life were celebrated and piety practiced in Rome on the Rhine.
The Sacred Site of Isis- Mater Magna
Hours of Admission
Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Free of charge
Special Tours & Groups
Special tours can be arranged by appointment.
Groups must register in advance.
Mainz Central Tourist Office/TCM