Near the Colosseum, along the road connecting the Basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano, we find the basilica dedicated to St. Clement the Pope, the third successor of Peter, who died around the year 100 AD.
The current structure was built in about 1100, above a thick layer of rubble that had sealed the remains of the oldest basilica, which remained unknown for many centuries, as well as the levels underlying it.
In fact this site with its underlying archaeological stratification, about 10 meters thick below the floor of the church, is one of the most interesting monumental areas of the so-called “underground Rome”. Father Joseph Mullooly, in 1857, began excavations, discovering the original basilica built between the late 4th and early fifth centuries, built in turn on structures from the imperial era.
Our journey back in time will therefore begin from the current basilica, rebuilt in the twelfth century, of which we will admire the splendid mosaic of the apse with a golden background, decorated with the tree of life and animated by the presence of various characters including S. Clemente himself.
Many works were added later, such as the tabernacle of 1299 and the fifteenth-century paintings of the chapel of Santa Caterina by Masolino da Panicale, up to the most recent works in Baroque style designed by Carlo Fontana.
The visit can then continue in the archaeological area, upon payment of an entrance ticket, at the second level where we will visit the early Christian basilica built between the fourth and fifth centuries and used for seven centuries or so. We can admire the wall of the apse and various portions of frescoes dated between the eighth and the beginning of the twelfth century including the famous miracle S. Clement (which shows a colorful expression in the vernacular).
Finally we will go down to the third level where we will find rooms from the Roman era. These are two large complexes of the end I century d. C. flanked by one another and separated by a narrow alley: a building with massive perimeter walls in blocks of tufa and rooms defined by walls in mixed work, perhaps interpretable as the Mint and a residential building reused around a century later as Mitreo. This last level was destroyed and buried as a base of the early Christian basilica.
At the end of the visit you move on foot and in about 15 minutes you reach the Basilica of the SS. Giovanni and Paolo, below which we will visit the so-called Celio houses.
According to the tradition this is the complex where in 362 d.C. Saints John and Paul suffered martyrdom.
The excavations below the basilica were begun in 1887 by Father Germano da San Stanislao and brought to light a series of underground rooms that were part of a multi-storey building and a domus with a private spa (III century A.D). At the end of the III century AD the buildings have been acquired by a single owner who has merged them.
Following the martyrdom of the SS. Giovanni and Paolo the senator Pammachius towards 410 d. C. buried the complex and built the present basilica above it. The area preserves interesting original frescoes dating back to the 3rd and 4th century AD.