Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Continue shopping

Article: The slightly different church in Rome - Basilica of San Clemente

Die etwas andere Kirche in Rom – Basilika San Clemente | paigh | Fair & gemütlich

The slightly different church in Rome - Basilica of San Clemente

Today I would like to introduce you to the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. It's not an ordinary church, believe me!

Anyone traveling to Rome for the first time probably has a long list of things that are worth seeing: from the Colosseum to the Vatican, including St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon and the famous Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. There's definitely a lot to do there. But if you're still not exhausted or have already been to Rome and would like to see something new, look around for places that might not be on the first page of every travel guide.

I would like to introduce you to exactly such a place today: The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. You might be thinking, “Ugh, another church? There's really enough of that in Rome...”  Indeed, but that Basilica San Clemente al Laterano is no ordinary church. At least not what's hidden beneath her. But more on that later.

Basilica of San Clemente in Rome: Lage

The basilica is about a 10-minute walk east of the Colosseum, so we are in the south of the city. Between a tax office, a park and numerous restaurants, it's not exactly where you would pass by anyway. When I was in Rome with my family a few weeks ago, we visited the church because a relative recommended it to us. After we had visited the Colosseum, we went to Via Labicana.

By the way, the basilica is dedicated to the martyr Clement I, who was Bishop of Rome from 88 to 97, hence the name of the church.

Innenhof der Basilika San Clemente in Rom


The Upper Church

From the outside, the church does not initially look special or spectacular; it is simply designed and consists mainly of flat bricks. Even from the inside it doesn't seem to be any different from other basilicas (to the average tourist). An ornately decorated chancel, marble decorations in the floor and an adjoining forecourt do not necessarily indicate an extraordinary history of this place.

But here's the highlight: The church - or better: the building complex - does not just consist of the basilica itself. It is primarily due to its multi-layered structure that it becomes a remarkable sight. Because below the church at street level, which is directly visible to us, there are two additional underground floors. The ancient buildings hidden here, which are up to two thousand years old, now slumber invisibly beneath the buildings of the new Rome.
The building complex therefore consists of three levels:

  • The medieval Basilica of San Clemente at our current street level, built from 1108. This part is also Upper church called
  • Among them is the Underground church, an early Christian basilica from 384
  • One floor lower you will find remains of Roman buildings from the 1st to 3rd centuries, which also contain a temple of the Mithras cult, also known as the Mithraeum
Innenraum der Basilika San Clemente in Rom


The lower church

While entry to the above-ground basilica is free, you have to shell out a few euros to visit the underground layers. In my opinion, it's totally worth it because this building and its history are truly unique.

A few steps take you to the lower church. Damp, musty air and dark, winding corridors are probably the first things you notice here. However, if you look closer, you can see some really beautiful and centuries-old frescoes. They are located on the stone walls and some of them are still surprisingly easy to see. The small brochure that you get at the checkout after paying helps you find your way down there and breathes life into what you see.

gut erhaltene Nikolaus Freske in der Basilika San Clemente in Rom


Once you have explored the first basement floor, you descend further steps and delve even deeper into the history of this place. If you wind your way through the numerous, winding corridors, you not only get to see Mithraeum, but also a former Mithraic school. You also discover a water source that can be heard from a floor above. For some of the rooms, we still don't know what they were used for back then. However, part of this exposed floor is quite certain to have been a mint at the time.

Mithras-Altar in der Basilika San Clemente in Rom



I find it very fascinating to imagine that where the church of San Clemente in Rome stands today, a very unique life once took place. The entire city was at this level at that time! Then you start to wonder and ponder what was going on under all the other ancient streets of Rome back then...

If you want to learn more about healthy eating, mindfulness or sustainability, check out more exciting blog articles on these topics here .

*Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take photos anywhere inside the church. That's why I use external photo sources.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

All comments are moderated before being published.

Darf ich vorstellen: Loop, der neue zero waste Onlineshop | paigh | Fair & gemütlich
Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit

May I introduce: Loop, the new zero waste online shop

The bad news comes first: the zero waste platform Loop will initially only be available in the USA and France. That means we probably have to be patient a little longer. Nevertheless, I would like...

Read more
Der wohl einfachste Weg zum Glück… | paigh | Fair & gemütlich
Spiritualität und Achtsamkeit

The easiest way to happiness ...

... is gratitude! Find out why being grateful makes you happy and how you can practice gratitude in this blog post! What does gratitude do for me? Gratitude is one of the main pillars of happ...

Read more
Ein kleines bisschen “The Notebook” | paigh | Fair & gemütlich

A little bit “The Notebook”

Today we are taking a trip to Rome to Villa Borghese. When I came to this place, an image immediately came to mind: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in a canoe on the lake. Almost everyone knows the...

Read more