Mosaic at Lullingstone Roman Villa. Lullingstone Lane, Eynsford
Managed by English Heritage, this is one of the best preserved Roman villas in the country.
Set in the attractive surroundings of the Darent Valley, the villa was begun in about AD 100, and developed to suit the tastes and beliefs of successive wealthy owners. These may have included the family of Pertinax, Governor of Britain and later Roman Emperor for just 87 days in AD 193. Additions included a heated bath-suite and a remarkable underground pagan 'cult-room', including a rare painting of three water-nymphs, by far the oldest wall-painting in English Heritage care.
The villa reached its peak of luxury in the mid-4th century, when a big new dining room was added. This still displays spectacular mosaics, including Europa and the Bull and Bellerophon killing the Chimera. By now Christians, the owners also created a 'house-church' above the pagan cult-room: the wall-paintings discovered here are among the earliest surviving evidence for Christianity in Britain. Pagan worship may however have continued, suggesting a relaxed relationship between the old and new faiths.
All this is appealingly interpreted in the galleries overlooking the fully excavated remains. These display Lullingstone's fascinating and recently-returned collection of Roman artefacts, enlivened by paintings by the award-winning children's illustrator, Jane Ray. Children and others visitors can also play Roman board games, handle original building materials, and try on Roman costumes. A specially-commissioned film and light show brings the villa to life, lighting up areas of the remains as the film reveals how they were once used.
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