Coventine
                                                            Coventina
                                                                                                         A Romano-British goddess of freshwater
Carrawburgh
                                             Brocolitia = Carrawburgh Roman fort part of Hadrian's Wall.

 Key:
 ___  ___  ___   Modern road built over Hadrian's Wall.
 ___________    Roman Vallum
                     +   Site of Coventina's Well
                     +   Mithraeum [temple to Mithras]


The Wall and Vallum did not deviate from their line here, but passed through the upper part of the spring which is thrown out by the geology, a dolerite dyke in the carboniferous limestone.

This is a wild part of the wall and countryside. J. Collingwood Bruce described it as 'all desolation'. Carrawburgh Roman fort lies about three and a half miles west from Chesters, measuring some 460 feet north to south and 360 east to west, an area of about 3.5 acres.
 It had gateways to the east south and west, its northern wall being the great wall of Hadrian itself.
 Coventina's Well
The site is partly fenced-off and is an extremely boggy area. Searchers are warned that their shoe soles could end up being left as a votive offering to the great god gumboot if they venture too far. One of mine, still their from when I walked along Hadrian's Wall in 1964, is by now a veritable archaeological artifact. Probably because of the water- logged nature of the area, unlike the Mithraeum, the well site has not been sign-posted for the benefit of the unwary visitor.
Following an excavation in 1876, it has been recognised that this well site was a sacred shrine to the goddess Coventina.
Coventina's well-shrine lay close to a Mithraic temple, demonstrating the ability for two different, but now extinct religions, to exist coevally. The Romans were tolerant of most faiths, provided they did not threaten the political values of the Roman Empire. If the site can teach us anything, it is religious tolerance. We might think of the present inability of some of today's religions to tolerate one another and  perhaps learn from this. Nature and history dictate that unless they evolve, they will not survive.

       . chi-rho

Although this image is taken from the wall plaster of Lullingstone Roman villa, it here represents Coventina,Image the Romano-British goddess. She was a goddess of a pre-Christian era and as such represented part of the celebration of nature. Late in the occupation of Britain, the old religions were swept away under Emperor Constantine, the chi-rho and the swastika became the symbols of the new religion.
After the fall of the Roman empire, troops were withdrawn from Albion or Britannia, this form of nature veneration  then returned with the later arrival of 
the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes to  dominate the social landscape. From these groups developed the ideas of water-nymphs or fairies, a revival of the Coventinian religion.
The Roman Fort of Brocolitia was garrisoned originally by the first cohort of Cugerninians and  first cohort Aquitanians. Later, by the first cohort of Batavians in the 200-300's.



 Coventina's Shrine
Rather than a well, where the egress of the spring appears, the site structure could best be described as a reservoir or sacred basin [shown in blue]. When this was excavated it was shown to be about seven feet deep, lying on gravel. The internal dimensions of the reservoir were 7'9"' x 8'6".

It was surrounded by a walled enclosure, the wall being  composed of large masonry which was three feet high when excavated. Little of the wall was robbed and there was virtually no evidence of roof tiles suggesting that the structure was open to the sky. The large masonry wall had internal dimensions of 38 feet x 40 feet

The doorway was about 18" wide with no door fittings apparent, the door being removed. Again it seems open to the elements but not directly facing the northerly winds.


 What first met the eyes of the excavators was a mass of votive offerings, mostly copper coins, carved stones, altars, jars, incense- burners, pearls and brooches. This mass of offerings had been hurriedly thrown at random into the spring on top of an already vast mass of coins and votive offerings to Coventina.
All told, there were 13, 487 coins found, four being gold and 184 of silver and the remaining, bronze. The coins ranged from the time of Mark Anthony to that of Gratian. Unfortunately many of the coins were removed during the excavation by thoughtless weekend  robbers and years later old men were to tell of how they had skimmed these coins across the surface of local lochs.
Amongst the coins were 327 brass as of Antonius Pius. It was Antonius who built the turf Antonine wall  between the Forth and Clyde rivers. Later the Romans were to fall back to the present line of Hadrian's Wall, which could be held more securely. The as are dated to the fourth consulship of Antonius Pius, A.D. 145-161 and commemorate  the pacification of Northern Britain. after the disturbance of A.D. 155. On the obverse, Britannia sits upon a rock, her hair is dishevelled, her head droops, her banner is lowered, her shield is left aside. This portrayal differs markedly from that of the Britannia of Hadrian and the earlier Britannia of Antonius Pius.
Later, in 1949, a temple dedicated to Mithras was located and excavated . Here three altars to this deity were found. The temple was built after A.D. 205 and soon enlarged. After its desruction in A.D. 297 it was rebuilt but soon afterwards was deliberately desecrated, presumably by a Christian commandant. South east from the Mithraeum a large hollow indicates the prescence of another, as yet, unknown  important structure.

© Copyright Tim Midgley 2007, revised 9th November 2011.
       
The shrine dedicated to Coventina is similar to temple number three at Springhead, near Dartford, Kent. The Springhead site tells us that the visitors believed that the waters had healing properties, small bronze models of a human arm, hand and thumb have been found .
Besides Coventina there were other Romano- British deities such as Sulis and Nodens, both Sulis and Coventina are represented at Bath in Somerset [Aquae Sulis].

Other Roman Gods were:
1.Venus - goddess of  fertility
2. Minerva
3. Apollo

4. Jupiter
5. Diana
6. Vulcan
7. Hercules
8. Mars - god of war
9. Mercury - patron of 
travellers, merchants, traders and crafts.

                  . swastika
     A Roman mosaic swastika or  fylfot, a type of Christian cross

Sources:
* J. Collingwood Bruce [ed. I.A          Richmond. Handbook to the            Roman Wall. Andrew Reid and      Co. 1957.
* Archaeology Aeliana series 2 viii    1, 20, 43.
* Ibid. series 4 xxix 1.

* Proceedings  of the Society of          Antiquaries of Newcastle upon        Tyne. series 2 x 161.

Further reading:
*
Allason-Jones L. & McKay B.
Coventina's  Well. Clayton Collection Chester Museum 1985.

 See : Birdoswald -
King Arthur's last stand


Chance favours the prepared mind
                 
- Louis Pasteur.

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