Basilica of Saint Clement

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of Saint Clement, dedicated to Pope Clement I, is especially notable for its three historical layers. The 12th-century basilica is built on top of a well-preserved 4th-century church (with many frescoes), which was built next to a 3rd-century Mithraic Temple. For an admission fee, it is possible to explore the excavations of the lower two levels, which is a fascinating journey into the history of Rome.

This ancient church was transformed over the centuries from a private home that was the site of clandestine Christian worship in the 1st century to a grand public basilica by the 6th century, reflecting the emerging Catholic Church's growing legitimacy and power.

The current basilica was rebuilt by Cardinal Anastasius, ca 1099-ca. 1120. Today, it is one of the most richly adorned churches in Rome. The ceremonial entrance (a side entrance is ordinarily used today) is through an atrium surrounded by arcades, which now serves as a cloister, with conventual buildings surrounding it. Fronting the atrium is the chaste facade of Carlo Stefano Fontana, supported on antique columns, and his little campanile (illustration). The basilica church behind it is in three naves divided by arcades on ancient marble or granite columns, with Cosmatesque inlaid paving. The 12th-century schola cantorum incorporates marble elements from the original basilica. Behind it, in the presbytery is a ciborium raised on four gray-violet columns over the shrine of Clement in the crypt below. The episcopal seat stands in the apse, which is covered with mosaics on the theme of the Triumph of the Cross that are a high point of Roman 12th century mosaics.

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Details

Founded: 300-400 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Michael Lah (10 months ago)
Not one of the more popular stops in Rome, but it should be. You will miss it as you drive by because it lacks the grandeur of the other famous places around the city, but the interior is amazing. Pay for the underground ticket to see the original Basilica and the level below it. So glad we went, and a short walk from the Colosseum.
Dmitri M (12 months ago)
Amazing church nicknamed a Time Machine, just a stone's throw from the Colosseum. Ground level is gorgeous in itself, but the underground is stunningly fascinating. In one complex you have 4 layers of history and archeology. The price is €10 for adults, free for kids under 16. No guided visits, but you can ask for a pamphlet. No photos allowed inside. No wheelchair access to the underground. You will need about an hour to explore the site. Best time to visit in the morning. First underground level is famous for its medieval frescoes, second level is a perfectly preserved pagan temple, third level remains of a Roman insolae or apartment building. Definitely worth your time!
Kent Hargrave (12 months ago)
2,000 years of history on subterranean floors. The main floor is a gorgeous church. On the first subterranean floor you come to a few hundred year old church. Continue down and you eventually hit a pre-Christ pagan worship hall. It is amazing and well worth the 10 Euros.
Holli Dunn (2 years ago)
Definitely a must see in Rome. Beautiful church but the action is below ground showing two levels of history. We were lucky to have a guide explain everything and draw us in, so we could understand and imagine how it once was, and how it got to be the way it is now. I highly recommend finding a guide.
Jeff B (2 years ago)
Wow!! What a fantastic experience. A beautiful basilica in itself but then to have two amazing layers of history to explore makes it all the better. The first level below the current basilica is the old St. Clement Basilica with some great fresco to look at and read about. Then down again to what was a roman house with side streets!! You can see how the buildings were placed around the houses and then built on to create foundations for the first basilica. Wonderful place
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