#15 The Religions in Roman Cologne – About Mother Deities, Menorah and Jupiter

#15 The Religions in Roman Cologne – About Mother Deities, Menorah and Jupiter The History of Cologne

In this episode, we again leave the strict chronological narrative. We take a look at religion in ancient Cologne in Roman times. But here we have to speak in the plural. For not only is the Roman state religion predominant here, but a local cult of the Ubians is also extremely popular in the Colonia, dethroning even gods like Jupiter and Juno in terms of popularity. And then there are the many small, often exclusive cults from the Orient, which are introduced to the Rhine by soldiers who have traveled far and wide. We look at the oldest Jewish community in Europe north of the Alps, which is said to have existed around the year 300 at the latest. And we take a look at the early followers of a religion that is so completely different, a religion that knows only one God, but at the same time worships an executed Jewish carpenter as the savior of the world: the early Christians.

In this episode, we again leave the strict chronological narrative. We take a look at religion in ancient Cologne in Roman times. But here we have to speak in the plural. For not only is the Roman state religion predominant here, but a local cult of the Ubians is also extremely popular in the Colonia, dethroning even gods like Jupiter and Juno in terms of popularity. And then there are the many small, often exclusive cults from the Orient, which are introduced to the Rhine by soldiers who have traveled far and wide. We look at the oldest Jewish community in Europe north of the Alps, which is said to have existed around the year 300 at the latest. And we take a look at the early followers of a religion that is so completely different, a religion that knows only one God, but at the same time worships an executed Jewish carpenter as the savior of the world: the early Christians.

Ubian Matron Cult: The Mothers

Look how this mother carries a british penny.

Saturnalia

This is how Antoine Callet in the 18th cenutry thought that Saturnalia might have looked like.

Cult of Mithras

Restored stone monument of the sun god Mithars. As I told you several episodes before. Everything was painted, it is only that after two thousand years the color has faded away. By Jona Lendering – Livius.org Provided under CC 0 license (notice under the photograph in the description page of the photograph)., CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73596253

Egyptian Godess Isis (not the terrorist organisation)

What is remarkable here is that Isis is often depicted with her godly son Horus. The similarity in iconography of St, Mary to the Egyptian goddess Isis is absolutely no coincidence.
By Painter of fresco unknown; photographed in 1927 by a University of Michigan archaeological project led by Francis W. Kelsey. – https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Figure-6-Fresco-of-Isis-lactans-at-Karanis-fourth-century-CE-Karanis-Tran-Tam-Tinh-1973-fig_312192708_fig4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65588870

Jews in ancient Cologne

Construction site of the Jewish Museum of Cologne. This picture was taken a while back in 2017. It might be finished in 2022.
Here you can see how the Jewish Museum of Cologne will look like. I’m sorry that there is just a German version of this video. But I promise you, once it is opened, it will be multi-lingual. 🙂

Early Christians in ancient Cologne

A statue from Bishop Maternus from the 18th century.
Maternus von Köln. Image from Egbert Psalter (Gertrude Psalter). Now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Cividale, Italy. 10th century

St. Gereon of Cologne

Representation of St. Gereon on the right side panel of the altar of the city patron saint by Stefan Lochner, today in Cologne Cathedral.
Modern art in Cologne. A sculpture of St. Gereon’s head.
The tomb of St. Gereon in the church of St. Gereon. It is said that already Helena, the Christian mother of Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century created this tomb (not the sarcophagus) along with the late antique church building. However, this was probably done in the later 4th century. On the sarcophagus there is an inscription: “HIC RECONDITA SUNT CORPORA THEBEORUM MARTYRUM” meaning “Here lie the bodies of the Theban martyrs.”
Church of St. Gereon with the decagon central building dating back to the 4th cenutry (!)

6 thoughts on “#15 The Religions in Roman Cologne – About Mother Deities, Menorah and Jupiter

  1. Hi Willem, I’ve been listening to your wonderful podcast since I discovered you (via Pontifax) about two months ago. I live in Atlanta now but used to live in Bonn for a few years, when it was still the capital, and loved Cologne. Great series, thank you! One question: We will be visiting friends in Bonn soon. Where is the Ubian Matron stone that you mentioned seeing in the woods around Bonn? I’d love to visit it.

    Thanks,
    Marcus

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marcus, thank you very much for your kind feedback. The Matronenstein (Ubian Matron Stones) are near Nettersheim but they are in the middle of the forest. Take some hiking shoes with you. It is like in nowhere but Bonn is still the next big town in that region. It takes like 50 minutes per car. (no highway, just rural roads) but I think it’s worth it! There is no real address for it but if you search “Matronenheiligtum Görresburg” in Google Maps, it should take you there. In very close proximity you can also visit several parts of the Roman aqueduct that transported water to Cologne 2,000 years ago. Maybe combine that with your trip to the Matron Stones. 🙂
      I hope to get your feedback about the place soon!

      Willem

      Like

      1. Sorry, I meant the podcast “Pontifacts,” about the history of the popes. I think my autocorrect changed it and I didn’t notice. Their podcast often opens with recommendations for other history podcasts, and I believe you were mentioned there.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, sorry, I meant the podcast “Pontifacts”, about the history of the popes. I’m pretty sure they mentioned you at one point in an episode. They make a habit of mentioning other history podcasts. Thanks again for the tip about the “Matronenheiligtum Görresburg”. I think we’ll go soon; it does not sound like there was any lasting flood damage to the site itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, I didn’t know that. I have to get them some love as well then. If they had only told me I would have done that way sooner. The Matronenheiligtum is well and still there. An acquaintance of mine who is writing a book about goddesses was there just last week when summer solstice was! She also sent me pictures. Everything is fine there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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