The Guildhall Art Gallery: London’s Roman Amphitheatre

The City of London is the oldest area of the capital originating as a settlement in AD43. As you can imagine there’s a wealth of history to explore here.

The Museum of London will of course be your first first stop (more on that in a later blog piece) where you can trace the development of this great city and view many artefacts from its past before journeying on to a plethora of historic sites in the area.

One of those to add to your itinerary is the Guidhall Art Gallery. Here you’ll find many works of art depicting London’s illustrious past with a considerable collection on display by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood including: Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Abraham Solomon, Edward John Poynter and Edwin Landseer. Also here are works by John Constable and John Singleton Copley’s hugely impresssive The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar.

However, follow the steps down to the gallery’s basement and you’ll find yourself transported to what was Londonuium, for here are the remains of the arena and walls of the eastern entrance of London’s very own Roman amphitheatre. Originally built around AD70 with a timber structure, extensive revisions were then made in the 2nd century with the introduction of tiled entrances and quarried stone for walls, some of these remains visible to this today.

Gladiatorial games, animal fighting and criminal executions would have all taken place in the arena which held seating for a 7,000 strong audience.

When the Romans left Britain in the 4th century the amphitheater was abandoned and subsequently the area known as the Guildhall was built in 12th century. The amphitheater was rediscovered in 1988 when building work was being carried out for the Guidhall’s Art Gallery.

An admirable job has been done in recreating the look and feel of the amphitheatre. Informative plaques, effective lighting and sound effects fill in the gaps of the parts lost to the sands of time and also provide some much needed perspective, none more so than through a series of wonderful digital projections on the pillars and surrounding walls.

The Guildhall Art Gallery and the Roman amphitheater are open to visitors daily and admission is free. Discover more here.

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