Just because I am not religious doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a beautiful church and San Clemente is certainly a good-looking church.
It isn’t huge, but the beautiful frescoes and gold ceiling more than make up for it. Built in 1084, I imagine Father Mullooly must have had quite a shock when he accidentally discovered a completely different church underneath it in 1857.
During the long process of emptying out all the rubble, he found a Christian Basilica from the 4th century and then below that (10 metres below the current street level) a Mithraic (pagan) temple that was used in the 2nd century as well as public buildings from the 1st century and a natural spring.
There are no pictures allowed – especially once you go underground and my goodness do they mean it. I managed to get some using my stealth-like skills, but if caught, you will get thrown out – so be careful!
It was fascinating to walk around all the old rooms, trying to imagine what life must have been like 2013 years ago.
Apparently there is still a courtyard and a huge area that still hasn’t been excavated, which I think is a terrible shame. Who knows what we would discover there and what could be learnt about life in the BC.
Just a five-minute walk from the Colosseum, this is a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours and is perfect for a rainy day. Make sure you pop into one of the cafes opposite when you come out for a coffee.