The Altar of Julius Maximus (c2nd Century AD) was found 100-feet south of the new Byker Bridge (which can be seen from the windows of the Seven Stories building) near where the Cumberland Arms pub is found now, during the construction of a new road in November 1884. It's being installed here at Seven Stories as we will be its official custodian during the 1900 Festival, a celebration of the 1900th anniversary of the construction of Hadrian's Wall.

Alison Fisher, Exhibition Curator at Seven Stories, explains:

“The Altar stone tells us a lot about our local area over the centuries and we can’t wait to share it with visitors. Hadrian’s Wall ran right through the Ouseburn, and this stone was discovered just up the hill from Seven Stories. The stories and artefacts from the Roman rule of Britain have inspired great children’s literature; bringing the facts to life, giving a real sense of how people lived in the past and allowing readers to discover more about our shared heritage.”

The Altar Stone will be on display on Level 3 of Seven Stories from Saturday 25th March (10am – 5pm). The altar’s inscription is thought to read:

“Julius Maximus, a priest, to the unconquered god Mithras, dedicates this altar, in discharging a vow willingly and deservedly.”

Alison continues: It’s believed the altar stone is dedicated to the god Mithras who was popular amongst high-ranking soldiers living along the wall. The stone was likely part of a small cave-like structure which formed a Mithraic temple. The stone also shows marks of being used as a sharpening tool much later in its life in pre-industrial Ouseburn, showing us another side to the area. Thank you to the Ouseburn Trust and the Great North Museum: Hancock for helping us bring these objects back into the area.” 

The Altar stone display has been developed in partnership with The Ouseburn Trust. More information about walking tours ‘In Search of the Roman Wall’ in Ouseburn can be found at ouseburntrust.org.uk.