Press Releases 2014-2015

Public Lecture Explores Secret Druid Cult in Roman Chartres

15.10.2014

The mystery of a possible secret Druid cult operating in the Roman held French town of Chartres will be explored at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) this Friday (17th October) as the general public are invited to a lecture by Celtic expert Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green.

The talk, entitled ‘The Magician’s House. Weird goings on in Roman Chartres’, will take place in the Arts Hall at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus this Friday 17th October, starting at 6:15pm. All are welcome and no booking is required.

It will focus upon the 2005 discovery of a strange basement room beneath a Gallo-Roman house in Chartres. The cellar was found to have been a secret underground shrine, full of ritual objects, including a set of incense-burners. These large pottery vessels bore inscribed prayers and incantations, together with lists of Gallic spirit-names. One of these names was ‘Dru’. The name of the presiding priest was Caius Verius Sedatus, a Roman citizen.

Professor Aldhouse-Green asks the questions: What was going on here, in the middle of a Roman city in the late first-early second century AD? Did ‘Dru’ refer to Druids? Did the cellar reflect a secret, magical cult hidden from Roman authority? And, if so, how come a Roman citizen was involved?

The ancient town of Chartres is located in a region originally inhabited by the Carnutes, a Late Iron Age Celtic tribe who gave Chartres its name. Chartres was a main centre for the Druids, priests of the Gallic religion, and a regional capital of Celtic France. Captured by Dictator of the Roman Republic Julius Caesar after the 52-51 BC revolts of the Carnutes, the Gallo Roman town was named Autricum or civitas Carnotum.

The lecture examines the 2005 Chartres find and seeks to put it into the broader context of complex cultural interaction, subversion and Gallic religious survival.

Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green is a specialist on Celtic religion in the Iron Age and Roman Britain at Cardiff University. Her work on the druids, the Gods of the Celts, on human sacrifice, and on iconology and cosmology has been widely published. She is also well known for her contributions to TV programmes, such as ‘Time Team’, ‘Ancient Britain’ and ‘Britain’s Secret Treasures’.

This public lecture is part of a prestigious conference on Romano-Celtic cults, deities and religion held at UWTSD this weekend, the first time that the event has been held by a Celtic-speaking country.

The 13th ‘F.E.R.C.AN (Fontes Epigraphici Religionum Celticarum Antiquarum) Workshop’ will take place at the University’s Lampeter campus between 17th and 19th October. It will bring together a large number of scholars from the UK and Europe with the aim of providing a better understanding of so-called ‘Celtic’ deities, cults and religion(s) in Antiquity, primarily focussing on the epigraphic, iconographic, sculptural and archaeological evidence from the Iron Age and the Roman period.

Note to Editor

  1. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University.
  2. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University.

Further Information

Steven Stokes
Principal Corporate Communications and PR Officer
07872 423788
steven.stokes@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk