San Clemente In Rome

The Basilica of St. Clement (Basilica di San Clemente) is a church that is worth visiting for everyone who wants to feel that the “Eternal City” is not just a figure of speech, but a reflection of reality. In this small church, located east of the Colosseum (Colloseo),  there is a real treasure of Christian shrines, works of art and thick layer of historical artifacts from the time of emperor Nero to the 18th century.

For half a millennium of embellishment, the Basilica of St. Clement has turned into a real treasure-house. But this is not all that is amazing about this church in Rome. Thanks to the curiosity of Joseph Mauri, the prior of the church, archaeological excavations began in the middle of the 19th century, which made it possible to discover elements of the early Christian basilica under medieval buildings.

The Church of St. Clement is a unique sacred place. According to the data of modern archaeologists, it became known that the structure of the building is a kind of pyramid containing three tiers of buildings:

  • the lower tier (I – III centuries AD)
  • the middle tier (IV century AD)
  • the upper tier (XII - our days)

Lower Tier

During the excavations of the early Christian archaeologists, amazing discoveries dated to the 1-3 centuries of our era awaited.

The temple of Mithra dating back to the 3rd century was excavated - a long grotto with a vaulted ceiling, stone benches for adepts and an altar, which depicts Mithra, an ancient deity personifying sunlight, harmony and friendship. After diverting water from the foundation, it was possible to get to the ruins of civil buildings burned by Nero in 64 AD. It was possible to find out that one of the buildings belonged to the Roman consul Titus Flavius ​​Clement. He was a secret Christian and was executed during the reign of Emperor Domitian. It is possible that it was his name that was considered by the builders of the early Christian basilica as a kind of sacred sign to perpetuate the memory of St. Clement, the fourth Pope.

An anchor is painted on the tomb of St. Clement, located in the lower church of this extraordinary religious structure. This is a symbol of the instrument of his execution - he was drowned by order of the emperor Troyan for preaching Christianity in hard labor, where he was sent from Rome for refusing to fulfill pagan rituals.

Middle Tier

The middle tier of the basilica contains the heavily destroyed early Christian church, created around the 4th century AD, which was damaged during the Norman invasion.

The ruined temple was bombarded, and everything that was saved was transferred to the new building. During the excavation, splendidly preserved frescoes were discovered. One of them tells about the misfortunes of the Roman prefect Sisinius, whose wife took a vow of chastity at the prompting of St. Clement.

We can say that this mural is a medieval comic. The phrases belonging to the characters depicted are almost obscene. One of them, the most loyal, reads: “Trahite, fili de puta!” (“Drag, you sons of bitches”), - so Sisinius orders the servants to expel Clement from his house. These inscriptions became a material confirmation of the existence of the early Italian language and are a linguistic monument.

Upper Tier

Entering through the door of the basilica, visitors enter the realm of splendor of the early Baroque (Seicento). Built according to the standard design - a long narrow nave with a vault on pillars, this church is decorated with all possible splendor. Magnificent bas-reliefs, paintings, murals, marble mosaic floors. In the apse of the basilica, a 12th-century mosaic panel depicting the tree of life: birds of paradise, deer at a watering hole, and heavenly Jerusalem attracts attention.

The floors of the temple are decorated with magnificent mosaics in the style of cosmatesco, and the ceilings are decorated with caisson tiles with drawings (XVIII century). The walls of San Clemente are decorated with a cycle of 10 frescoes dedicated to the deeds of the Equal-to-the-Apostles brothers Cyril and Methodius, as well as Ignatius the Theologian and St. Clement. The main decoration of the apse of the basilica is the fresco "Cross - the tree of life." It depicts Jesus Christ on a crucifix, surrounded by birds, flowers, and vine (XII century.). The beauty of execution and the multifaceted symbolism of the murals fascinate and make the deepest impression.

How To Get There

Address: Via Labicana, 95, Roma
Official website: www.basilicasanclemente.com

You can get on the metro, go to the Colosseo station, and then walk southeast on Via di San Jiovanni in Laterano. On a cobblestone pavement street is almost inconspicuous, use Via dei Normanni as a guide. After another block, turn left onto Piazza di San Clemente. Just around the corner you will see a gate under a gable roof and a marble sign above them.

The working hours of the temple:

Services are held from Monday to Saturday at 8:00 and 18:30 in Italian;

on Saturdays at 9:30 - services in Latin (October-June);

Opening hours of Mitrium: from 9:00 to 12:30 and from 15:00 to 18:00 (Monday to Saturday)

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