There is a magnificent 12th century old church in central Rome where you could find an even older 4th century basilica below it, and when you go deeper down, you will find an ancient Roman house from 64AD.
This church is called the Basilica di San Clemente di Laterano. Located not too far away from the Colosseo, I think that it is a must-go-to place if you are ever in Rome. To be honest, I’m quite surprised at how long it took for me to discover this place, but better late than never.
Some might ask, what’s so interesting about it? It looks rather unassuming from the outside, and if you’ve been to one church in Rome (and there are lots of them here) it’s like you’ve already seem them all, as they do tend to be quite similar. But believe me, inside, the feel is very different.
By the way, in my haste to reach here, I forgot to bring my SD card with me, rendering my camera useless. But it didn’t matter anyway, as in the end I found out that there were numerous “no photos” signs. Thus, most of the pictures you see in this blog are stolen from foursquare. Two wrongs probably doesn’t make a right, but no matter. All in the name of sharing beauty.
As soon as you enter the church, you will be surrounded by opulence from the frescoes on the ceilings and down to the lovely mosaics on the floor.
As I listened to the guide, I learnt that each fresco has a symbolism and story behind it, such as holy characters has a yellow circle around their head, but there are also those with a blue square that shows that while these people have not attained holiness, are still very faithful to the religion.
After you’ve explored the first floor, you will need to pay 5 euro to continue exploring the floors below.
This level used to be a church built in the 4th Century, dedicated to San Clemente. During the days, those who were not baptised were not allowed inside the church. However, they were able to sit at a special area outside where they could hear the mass.
Inside the church, there were a number of interesting frescoes, where one of them, according to the guide, could possibly be the first example of a comic strip in the world.
As you go a floor down, you will discover an impressively preserved remains of a complete mithraic housing area built before the 4th century.
You could hear the rushing water here, from a natural spring that is still running underneath the housing area after all these years.
The San Clemente Church is probably the only church in Rome that I know of that has a church, built on top of another church, built on top of a house.
With all the multiple layers that this church has, the guide quipped that this place is like a Lasagna City.
- While there might be people asking for donations at the door, you are not obliged to give anything to them.
- As this is a church, please dress appropriately.
- It will get cold as you go deeper in the church, and a warm jacket is highly advised.
Sidenote : If you enjoy alternative places to visit in Rome, you might also enjoy this Crypt of Bones.