The Basilica of San Clemente

Of all the ancient sites scattered around the Italian capital of Rome, there are a few that deserve more attention. One of these is the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano, an ancient church tucked away in suburbia not ten minutes from the Colosseum. This Basilica is quite unique, from an Archeological point of view, but is also one of the most richly adorned ancient churches in Rome.

This church was transformed over centuries, starting as an industrial building and private home in the 1st Century, to a grand public Basilica by the 6th Century, to the current Basilica built in the year 1100 at the height of the Middle Ages. The construction of buildings one on top of another over time is believed to be a common practice in Ancient Rome.

Apart from the the Archaeological significance of the three stacked buildings on the one site, the Basilica of San Clemente houses the largest collections of Early Medieval wall paintings to be found in Rome. The church is regarded as one of the most richly adorned churches and is held in high regard by art historians for the art adorning the walls and cielings on at least two levels.

San Clemente has been under the care of the Irish Dominicans since 1667 when the Irish Catholic Church was outlawed by the English and the order was given refuge at San Clemente in Italy. Today the order is under the guidance of a young Prior named Father Seamus Tuohy. Together with his 16 Dominicans, they are working with the Italian Cultural Ministry on several restoration projects in the church, including the restoration of the St Catherine frescoes.

Mike Briggs  The Basilica of San Clemente, Rome August 2017