San Clemente, Rome - Inside the Time-Machine

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

For half a millennium, 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, a prior of the church who initiated archaeological excavations in the middle of the 19th century, this medieval building reviled elements of the Early Christian basilica hidden underneath.

The Church of St. Clement is a unique, sacred place. According to the modern archaeologists, the building is a kind of a pyramid containing three tiers from different historical periods:

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

Lower Tier of San Clemente, Rome

This tier has reviled to us amazing discoveries from 1-3 centuries AD.

First, the temple of Mithra dated 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 secretly a Christian and was executed during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Possibly, 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 San 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 of San Clemente, Rome

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 could be saved was transferred to a new building. During the excavation, wonderfully 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 kind of 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 represent a linguistic monument.

Upper Tier of San Clemente, Rome

When entering through the door of the basilica, visitors get into the realm of 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, and marble mosaic floors. In the apse of the basilica, a 12th-century mosaic panel depicts the tree of life with birds of Paradise on it and deers near the spring.

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.). Its beauty and multifaceted symbolism of the murals fascinate and make the deepest impression.

How to Get to San Clemente Church

Address: Via Labicana, 95, Roma
Official website:

You can get to the Church of San-Clemente, Rome, by metro: go to the Colosseo station and then walk southeast along Via di San Jiovanni in Laterano, then use Via dei Normanni as your guide. After another block, turn left onto Piazza di San Clemente. Then just around the corner, you will see a gate under a gable roof and a marble sign above them.

Working hours:

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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