The San Clemente Church

- History and description of the San Clemente Church.

Basilica of San Clemente

Basilica of San ClementeThis building is one of the best examples of the numerous stratifications to be found in Rome. Excavations carried out by the Irish priests running this church today have revealed 2 preceding layers of buildings underneath. 18 meters under today's street level, the remains of a mint can be found.

Nearby is a private house from the 3rd century AD which contained a temple to the pagan god Mithras. The cult of Mithras, a religion originating in Syria, had many followers especially among the upper classes of the time. Pope Silicius had a basilica built above these buildings in the 4th century and dedicated it to St. Clement, the third pope after St. Peter and a victim of Diocletian's persecution.
The church was decorated with frescoes in the 9th and 10th centuries using, for the first time on record, written Italian. Although seriously damaged in a fire caused by Norman invaders in 1084, some of the frescoes can still be seen today. After this disaster, Pope Pascal II decided to inter the ancient basilica and to use it as the foundation of a new church, narrower than the original but following its essential layout.
The side entrance to the church is on Via San Giovanni, the street along which the popes used to travel. It was at this point that the legendary Popess Joan was supposed to have given birth. You go through a porch and into the church's interior designed at the beginning of the 18th century by Carlo Stefano Fontana. The apse is decorated with some stunning 12th century mosaics.
On the right of the entrance, you'll see St. Catherine's chapel with the 15th century frescoes painted by Masolino, who was helped by his extraordinarily gifted pupil, Masaccio.
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