Aquae Sulis

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nestled in a valley lies the ancient city of Bath. Bath is one of the few cities in England to have been granted city status "time immemorial" which means that for as long as the records have gone back, Bath was always a city.  Bath, being named Bath, has long since been famous for having the only natural hot spring in all of England.   The Romans enshrined the hot springs, building a temple between 60-70 AD over the springs dedicated to Sulis Minerva.  The Romans merged their goddess Minerva with the Celtic goddess Sulis to essentially create Sulis Minerva (who is basically just Minerva).  Whatever her name is, she is the goddess of wisdom.  The Romans named the city Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”).  Because of the famed Roman Baths in Aquae Sulis, the city eventually became more simply known as Bath. Today, Bath has a population just under 90,000.

Much of the original Roman Baths were lost over time.  It appears that they were abandoned after the collapse of the Roman Empire and silt build-up caused the disappearance of much of the baths.  The Great Bath, the biggest hot spring created, remains.  Much of the original site and temple are located below street level and were only recently uncovered.  The entire bath complex was quite large.  It contained numerous baths of varying temperatures and was a major area of social gathering for the Romans (who less than agreed with England's wet and cold weather).  The Roman Baths today have been extensively excavated and the museum does an excellent job showing visitors where the former temple stood.  Some of the remains, other than the Great Bath, are the old floors of the rooms in the temple, as well as the original walkway and stairs leading up to the temple.  The original floors in the temple have collapsed because they were set up so that underneath the floors the warm waters from the hot spring would run, thus warming the temple.

Interesting, in the excavation of the Baths, the archeologists found numerous lead tablets or coins in the baths.  These tablets were inscribed with curses that the writer felt should be bestowed upon someone who had wronged them.  Most of these tablets refer to thefts and describe what type of harm should come upon the thief.  Times haven’t changed much, have they?

Bath is more than just the Roman Baths though.  From the Roman Baths, the city enlarged in the 1700s in an impressive surge of Georgian architecture.  Along with Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, it is this extensive use and preservation of the Georgian style of architecture that established the City of Bath as a World Heritage Site.  Though the city did receive a bit of damage in the Blitz during WWII, the structures have persisted. The Royal Crescent and the Circus are two of the masterpiece examples of the architecture in the city.  The homes in the Royal Crescent will set you back around 450,000 ($733,000).  Across from the Bath Abbey lies the Pulteny Bridge.  Built in 1773, the bridge crosses the River Avon (Avon meaning “river” in Welsh, thus making the name of the river a bit redundant).  Today, the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic and contains numerous little shops.

I also stepped into Bath Abbey.  The current building was completed in the 17th century.  Several small churches stood on the grounds before the current one though.  Today, a choir and orchestra were performing several songs and were quite a good group.  People are buried in every corner of the abbey from the floors to the walls (including the US Senator William Bingham, who died in Bath).  The front of the abbey has an interesting story.  The design on the front of the building was inspired by a dream of Bishop Oliver King in which he saw angels climbing up and down ladders to heaven.  This led him to demolish the previous cathedral and replace it with the current one he envisioned.

Though Bath is “bathed” in the same golden Bath Stone used to create its gorgeous Georgian buildings, it may be homogeny run amuck. From the top of the mountains, it looks beautiful, and it still does at ground level; however, it does get a bit dreary after awhile seeing all the exact same buildings over and over and over again.  That being said, Bath was still a very charming city.
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