The most evocative locations in Rome: discovering the treasures of the Basilica of San Clemente
If you plan to spend a few days in the eternal city, don't forget to visit the Basilica of San Clemente, located along the road that connects the Lateran to the Colosseum, in Monti district. It was dedicated to Pope Clement I; the current building was built in the early 12th century and it is connected to the nearby Dominican convent. It was built above some previous structures, now buried and placed on two different levels: the oldest one dates back to the first century AD, and most of them can be visited. The extraordinary wealth of historical, artistic and architectural elements in the basilica - dating back to the the Christian era - makes it a unique site in Roman archaeology and art history.
The facade and the bell tower
The facade of the Basilica of San Clemente is elegant and sober. It was designed by the architect Carlo Stefano Fontana in 1716 and it is characterised by a central window with a round arch, framed by two lesens. The lower part houses a typically early Christian portico, with arches placed on Roman columns.
Before the eighteenth-century restoration, the facade made of brick, like the rest of the church. On the left side, there is the bell tower, in Baroque style, but lacking the typical decorations of the architecture of the period. It was built during the decade between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before the current one, there was another bell tower on the opposite side, as can be seen in some drawings of the time.
The interior of the current basilica
The modern basilica was built on a project by Cardinal Anastasio in the early 12th century and consecrated around 1120. It was built above an older medieval basilica, demolished due to its poor state of preservation: in 1084 Rome was sacked by the Norman army.
The current appearance depends on the important restoration work carried out at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when Pope Clement XI entrusted the task to the architect Carlo Stefano Fontana, nephew of Domenico Fontana. The internal area of the basilica is divided into three naves and it has a semicircular apses; each nave is delimited by a row of columns from the Roman period. In the middle of the central apses there is a fantastic mosaic dating back to around 1100, depicting Christ crucified with St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin.
The twelve white doves of the apostles are placed on the cross; the decorations are splendid, depicting birds, erotes, dolphins, cornucopias, fountains and flowers. It is a completely new symbolic model, to represent the sacrifice of Christ and the subsequent Redemption of humanity. The fresco of the Apostles, made in the 14th century and located below the mosaic, is also very beautiful. Starting from 1450, several chapels were built, including that of St. John the Baptist, St. Cirillo and the Santissimo Sacramento.
The fresco of Sisinnio and San Clemente
In the central nave, next to the entrance of the left nave, it is possible to observe one of the most famous frescoes in the basilica. It has been the subject of many studies, not only for its great artistic importance, but also because it shows some inscriptions in a language that is a mix of Latin and vernacular. The inscriptions, dated between 1080 and 1100, represent one of the best known and oldest examples of vernacular Italian used for artistic purposes. The painting depicts a passage of history relating to the passion of St. Clement, in which the patrician Sisinnio orders his servants to tie him. The blind servants end up tying and dragging a heavy marble column.
The sentence Sisinnio said is: "Fili de le pute, traite, Gosmari, Albertel, traite! Falite dereto colo palo, Carvoncelle!" San Clemente, instead, says: "Duritiam cordis vestrum, saxa trahere meruistis" that means "Because of the hardness of your heart, you deserved to drag stones". The fresco refers to the history of Sisinnio, the then prefect of Rome: he decided to follow his wife, who used to go away every day without saying what her destination was. The wife of Sisinnio, Theodora, had become Christian, and that day, the prefect saw her entering a catacomb to attend the mass celebrated by the then Pope Clement I.
Seen the scene and blinded by anger, her husband reached her to block her and bring her back home, but at that same time he was struck by blindness. After a few hours, Sisinnio regained his sight thanks to the pontiff. The prefect, however, showed no gratitude, but ordered his servants to capture him. Legend tells even the servants became blind and they finally tied a marble column instead of Pope Clement.
The ancient basilica, situated below the modern one, contains numerous frescoes relating to the period between the 9th and 11th centuries. The paintings of Pope Leone IV date back to tje 9th century, followed by the stories about Saint Clemente and Saint Alessio, dating back a few years before the final abandonment of the church. Recent investigations have brought to light a small early Christian baptistery and a splendid fresco depicting the Madonna and Child.
Don't miss the catacombs, consisting of a central gallery around which several sepulchers overlook, most of which date back to the period from 420 to 480 AD. The underground route is crossed by a small affluent of the Labicano stream, up to a few century ago reaching the Colosseum valley feeding the Velabrum Maius (a marshy area where today the churches of San Giorgio al Velabro and Santa Maria in Cosmedin are situated).
Comfort Stay in Rome
Staying in a hotel offers many advantages, but those who love freedom and independence would never give up a private apartment, especially if perfectly equipped and furnished like those offered by Comfort Stay in Rome. Those wishing to stay in Monti district, in the heart of the eternal city and a few steps from attractions such as the Colosseum, the Basilica of San Clemente, the Trajan markets and the imperial forums, should definitely choose Comfort Stay Colosseum, an apartment equipped with free Wi-Fi. , air conditioning, flat screen TV and a design that will surely let you feel very comfortable.
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