Underground Rome: San Clemente Basilica

Rome is the city of some of the world’s most famous ruins from the past, main of which is the Colosseum. Obviously, during your stay in Rome, the most important attractions of the city will capture your eyes, but there is more than that to be seen.  Find out more with our Rome City Tour! One of the amazing places we will visit is San Clemente Basilica, a real journey across underground Rome.

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St. Clemente Basilica in Rome: an underground experience

The Basilica of San Clemente is situated just a few kilometres above the Colosseum, on a road that goes up gradually to St John Lateran. Despite its quite usual look from the outside, this magical place hosts 2000 years of history. Beneath the today’s Basilica, there are two other layers of previous buildings tracing back two centuries of Roman life.

It was only in 1857, when Joseph Mullooly, the then Prior of San Clemente, began excavations under the present basilica that not only the original fourth-century basilica directly underneath was discovered, but also at a still lower level, where the remains of an earlier, first-century building still are to be found. Excavations during the ‘900 uncovered a fourth stratum, constituted by remainings of buildings destroyed in the fire of Nero in 64 A.D.

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History of St. Clemente Basilica

So let’s go back to the beginning of the story to understand where we stand today while visiting this amazing place. After the fire of Nero, the ruins of the buildings were filled in and used as foundations for new houses, probably at the same level of the Colosseum today. Of this first-century level, there is still the complete structure, made up of a noble house and a small Mithraic temple probably to be dated back to the end of the second century. The 4th-century level hosts the first church dedicated to San Clemente, which remained active for 7 centuries. What is left today of this basilica is fascinating. All the ruins of the past mingle with the modifications that happened during this time and the foundation of today’s standing place of worship.

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Today’s visit to the basilica will allow you to discover all of these layers of history and enjoy the great Roman stories from the past! Trust our guide and find out everything we know about that times!

And what about St. Clement? Pope St Clement was the third successor of St Peter in the See of Rome, who died about 100 A.D. His relics are reserved beneath the high altar of the basilica and every year, on 23rd of November, in occasion of St Clement celebration, they are exposed for veneration and carried in solemn procession through the neighbouring streets. So if you happen to be around on that day, you might even enjoy a traditional festivity!