The last remaining Roman rock cut shrine in situ in Britain
Edgar's Field, Handbridge, Chester.
How to get there:
From the Cross walk downhill to the river along Bridge Street. Go over the Old Dee Bridge to Handbridge. The shrine is located on a sandstone outcrop at the back of a playing field on the right hand side of the road.
Move the mouse pointer over the image to see the outline of the figure.
An image of Minerva by David Heke
About the Shrine
The Minerva Shrine is the only rock cut roman shrine remaining in situ in the UK. The shrine is carved in low relief into the cliff of an old roman quarry. The shrine is 4 feet 9 inches tall. And 2 feet 6 inches wide. Minerva is shown holding a spear in her right hand and owl above her right shoulder, which is said to represent wisdom.
Minerva is the roman goddess of soldiers, knowledge, wisdom and manual and technical skills. In Britain she was invoked as an aquatic goddess. In Roman times an offering was placed in the focus of an altar carved in the bottom left corner, to provide protection during the crossing of the river Dee at the ford. It is said that the old Roman road passed in front of the shrine.
Below is a representation of how the shrine might have looked in Roman times. It is a photo of a drawing in the Grosvenor Museum.
Edgar's Field got its name because according to legend King Edgar stayed at a palace on this field in A.D. 973 and was rowed up the River Dee to St Johns Church by six tributary kings so they could swear allegiance to him.
The opening to the right is known as 'Edgar's Cave'. It is thought that in the Middle Ages the
figure was worshipped as the Virgin and offerings where left there.
The Shrine has weathered badly due to the soft nature of the sandstone. It has been exposed to the elements for
1900 years. A cast of the shrine can be seen in the Grosvenor museum.
Site of the Roman ford
Edgar's Field viewed from the city
Traces of fireIn 1923 the ground in front of the shrine was excavated. Traces of fires were found along with pottery from the second, third and forth centuries. It is thought that the area may have been used for ritual activity for example baptism.
The shrine has been linked to the altar to Nemesis found in the Amphitheatre excavation in the 1960's
It is thought that the stone excavated from the quarry was used to build the Amphitheatre.
This small Roman commemorative inscription was found in Edgar's Field in 1927. It is unfinished and refers to the Roman Emperor Septimius Serverus (AD 194 - 196). It is on display in the Grosvenor Museum. It reads 'SERVERO IMP PATRE PATIAE COS'. Emperor Septimius Serverus, Father of his country, Chief Magistrate.
The Sandstone outcrop on which the shrine is carved.
The Shrine itself.
The owl above the right shoulder represents wisdom.
The focus for offerings.
The Shrine is signposted from the road.
The Roman quarry face.
The Old Dee Bridge is near by. Click on the picture for more information.
These tiles in the Bull and Stirrup Pub show King Edgar being rowed up the River by the Tributary Kings.
Click here for more information about King Edgar from Wikipedia. >>>
The shrine of St. Werburgh