Spread throughout multiple layers, the Basilica of San Clemente is one of the few Roman sites where one can actually travel through time to discover ruins from centuries apart. Commonly referred to as the “lasagna church”, there are three distinct levels still intact today.
Perfect for curious adults and children, exploring this Basilica allows visitors the unique opportunity to actually see how Roman life has evolved throughout thousands of years. The ideal place to start exploring the complexities of Rome’s underground, Walks Inside Rome offers a special Underground Rome Tour featuring this time-travelers delight.
Originally built as a mansion and apartments, the first tier of Basilica di San Clemente was erected in the late 1st Century AD. Almost 200 years later, the inner courtyard was transformed into a Temple of Mithras or Mithraeum. Inspired by the Persian worship of the sun god Mithra, the religion of Mithraism had its central hub in Rome.
Located in the subterranean of the Basilica di San Clemente, this ancient Mithraeum is one of the best preserved in all of the world. With plenty of Mithraic imagery throughout, visitors can enjoy various depictions of the Mithra, including the god being born from a rock, sacrificing a bull, and enjoying a feast.
In 313 AD, when Christianity triumphed over Mithraism as the primary religion of the Roman Empire, a hall and eventually a church were built atop the Temple of Mithras. Fully transformed into a Basilica by the end of the 4th Century, it had an atrium, pillars, and an apse. Embellishments continued, with stunning frescoes and inscriptions added over the next few centuries.
Largely due to the Norman Sack of Rome, this mid-level church was severely damaged in 1084AD. Eventually rebuilt, the top tier of the Basilica of San Clemente was completed during the 12th Century.
Filled with ornate mosaics, frescoes, and reliefs, perhaps the most stunning of décor can be found in the apse of the Basilica – a mosaic crucifix surrounded by vines, a throne, a baldacchino, a tomb, and a selection of ancient relics.
In addition to an extraordinary collection of art history, the Basilica also encompasses one of Rome’s original aqueducts, which one can still hear flowing through the Basilica to the nearby Colosseum. When visiting Rome, experiencing this mystical, culturally significant spot is a must.
Walks Inside Rome offers unique private tours of the Basilica di San Clemente, which can easily be combined with a tour of the Colosseum and Saint Peter in Chains. This underground submersion into Roman earth is especially suited to thrill and inspire kids.