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History

My discovery of the Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome

4th May 2015

After living in this magical city of Rome for a few years, I felt I had seen most of what the city had to offer in the way of tourist attractions and sightseeing. You can become quite blasé walking past ruins and after a while they just become part of your normal surroundings, forgetting what historical events actually took place there.

So I decided to discover more of the city that i’d never seen. And I’ve uncovered a lot of amazing places that are well worth a mention. So I thought I would like to share with you a place called Basilica San Clemente.

Situated just a stones throw away from the Colosseum, when you step inside this little Basilica, you will step back in time through 2000 years of history.

San Clemente provides an opportunity to travel back through three layers of history. At street level, there is a 12 th century church, then underneath this lies a 4th century church and below that are ancient Roman buildings, including a Temple of Mithras.

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.

What I find fascinating about this church is that the discovery of the other layers below only occurred in 1860, just over 150 years ago.

The lower levels of the present basilica contain remnants of the foundation of a possibly republican era which were destroyed in the great Fire of 64.

You can also explore what they call the ‘Cult Room’ ( Speleum Cave) which is about 9.6m long and 6m wide. This cave was discovered in 1867 but couldn’t be investigated until 1914 due to lack of drainage. When you first step into this impressive Basilica, you cannot imagine what waits for you beneath your feet. As your wind your way down through the narrow passages and walkways, your are literally stepping back in time.

When you reach the 3rd level underground, its hard to imagine that where you are standing, was once street level.

You can also find what they believe to be the first written record of the latin language engraved on the wall.

So if you are wanting something different to do in Rome, that isn’t so well known, I would definitely put this on the to do list. For me its one of the most interesting sights the city has to offer.

-David Dodd-