From afar it almost looks like a Hobbit house, but this ancient rock located nearby Chester, England, is the designated spot of the ancient Romans of Britain as the sanctuary of the Goddess Minerva, deity of the just wars, art, wisdom and protector of the artisans. It is right her last “vocation” to lead her to be represented thousands of km away from Rome, as a protector of those workers that, from the sandstone cave were used to cutting and carrying the blocks of material towards Deva Victrix, the original Roman fort from which nowadays Chester was born.
Minerva’s Shrine is the only place of Roman cult carved into the rock and survived in Great Britain
Below: Picture by John Turner shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
The sanctuary is located in the area of Handbridge, which is divided from the ancient Deva Victrix by the river Dee. The workers of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, that completed the construction of Deva Victrix after the initial work of the II Legio Adiutrix, paied tribute to Minerva and pleaded her protection for their dangerous work.
Below: the ancient Deva Victrix, with tis fort at the centre and the amphitheater next to it, built thanks to the prosperity of the site
The sanctuary to the Roman Gods were not rare back then in the wide Empire, but a series of factors made them extremely rare nowadays. time and vandalism, apart from the religious fanaticism against the gods considered Pagan, led to their almost complete destruction and, even when it comes to the Shrine of Minerva in Chester, it is nothing but a pale shadow of its ancient radiance.
Below: picture by Chris McKenna shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
An attentive gaze though should be able to recognise the proud figure that holds the spear and wears a helmet, while a owl is laying on its right shoulder. The stone columns and the ceiling were added in the 19th century, realised with the hope of preserving the remains of the sculpture from further wear.
Below: picture shared via Wikimedia – licence Creative Commons
On the right from the sanctuary there is a small opening known as Edgar’s Cave. the cave, like the park in which it is located, is called this way in honour of King Edgar the Peaceful, King of England between 959 and 975, as he held a council in the site in 973.
Below: picture by Keith Hobbs shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
If you find yourself nearby Chester and feel the need of spend a word for an ancient Goddess, in the green Park of Chester, you will find one of her extremely rare, even though slightly fading, representation.