Hidden Rome Gems – Basilica di San Clemente

Ever wondered about Time travel? It definitely is possible!
Near the Coliseum towards the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano exists a magical and enchanted place where you can dive in 2000 years of history moving back in time with every step you take.

basilica-san-clementeThe Basilica of Saint Clement is a Roman Catholic minor basilica as well a unique architectural complex. Its structure is spectacular, the present basilica where you enter, is a 12th century medieval church which has 2 underground levels; the first is a 4th-century basilica that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church, and the basement of which had in the 2nd century briefly served as a mithraeum; and all erected on the foundations of a republican era building that had been destroyed in 64 AD in the Great Fire of Emperor Nero. (wiki)

If you love full immersion history experience as we do and curious about the incomparable underground world of the Eternal City – this hidden gem is waiting for you!

sotterraneiBeTreasure tip: early morning visit is highly recommended!

As the Basilica is a fairly known attraction and is frequented by tourist groups, it’s best to plan your visit early in the morning (the ticket office opens at 9 am) and try to be the first to visit the underground levels before the groups.

The experience is indescribable you must really try it to understand. Complete silence, darkness but not the hostile one, and frescoes that tell stories of long gone times… In the background you will only hear the flowing water of an underground fountain which dates back to the Imperial Rome era and is still running!
Try to follow the sound of the water, it will guide you to the most hidden corners and deep spots of the structure where you can admire the construction of the first century, the ancient State Mint (Zecca dello Stato) and a Roman house with original pavement, windows and frescoes.

altare-del-mitreo-di-san-clementeBeside the domus you will find a “mitreo“, the temple of Mithras with its altar depicting the god.

On the superior level, above the temple you find the construction of the 4th century where is built the first basilica dedicated to Saint Clement.
Here you can admire the affresco painting of the Madonna from the 8th century – and also here lies the tomb of Saint Cyril who was the inventor of the Cyrillic alphabet.

On this level there’s a very special affresco from about 1100 representing the miracle of Saint Clement. It appears like a cartoon and the curious particularity of the fresco is that it reports the first written testimony of profanity (swearing) “traite fili de le pute“.

Climbing back to the street level you can visit the current Basilica of San Clemente. The medieval church features a marvellous 12th-century apse mosaic depicting the Trionfo della Croce (Triumph of the Cross) and some wonderful Renaissance frescoes in the Chapel of St Catherine.


BeTreasure tip: For a snack or breakfast don’t miss Ciuri Ciuri – the art of Sicilian Cannoli in via Labicana, just right in front of the basilica!