Type: Romano-british Temple Or Shrine, Building, Pottery Kiln, Industry, Villa
Although there are no known Roman roads in the immediate area of the Congresbury Temple Complex, the termini of two roads lie eight miles to the north-east at Abona (Sea Mills, Avon) and at Charterhouse in the Mendips, some seven miles to the south-east.
The Congresbury Temple itself lies north of Congresbury village just to the east of Yatton (at NGRef. ST442651), and is situated in the grounds of Cadbury House on the northern slopes of Rhodyate Hill just outside the defences of an Iron-Age hillfort which crowns the hilltop.
There are Substantial Roman Buildings just to the north of the River Yeo crossing at Congresbury village (ST4464) and Romano-British Pottery Kilns at Yewtree Farm along the Yeo upstream on its south bank (ST4462). There was in addition a substantial Romano-British Villa estate at Wemberham on the north bank of the Yeo downstream, to the west of Yatton at (NGRef. ST405652).
From the location of this Romano-British temple it seems possible that the complex may have marked the border between the British tribes the Belgae to the north of the River Yeo and the Durotriges to the south. At rural shrines such as this, it is thought that great fairs and seasonal markets would be held to mark certain pagan festivals such as the solstices and the equinoxes, and especially the so-called fire-festivals, Beltain, Samhain, Oimelc and Lughnasadh. At these special times there was a general truce, during which even neighbouring tribes who would normally be welcomed with unsheathed and wickedly-sharp iron and bronze, were instead greeted with open arms and the best tub of mead. These holy-day truces were absolutely binding, and bloodshed was not allowed to profane the religious nature of the festivities, anyone found doing so would be barred from attending the protective ceremonies which were central to the iron-age world-view, and in being so excluded would subsequently suffer the wrath of the most powerful and vindictive gods.
The modern name for Congresbury village may give a clue to the function of the ancient shrine. The spot was already known by the 9th century as Cungresbyri which is normally rendered 'the Fortified Manor of [saint] Congar' or Congar's Byrig, from a personal name coupled with a Saxon word meaning 'fortified place, defended enclosure, hillfort, etc.' There is, however, an alternative rendition from the Latin root congressus (also the Welsh word cyngres), coupled with the Saxon word byrig, meaning 'the congress at the defensive enclosure'. The Collins English Dictionary defines the word congress as "1. a meeting or conference, especially of representatives of a number of sovereign states. ...". This would be a fair description of the goings-on at a facility such as Congresbury, a rural temple on the border between two sovereign British states, the Durotriges and the Belgae.