Thursday, March 6, 2014

Basilica San Clemente

With Carol and George Weinbaum leading the way (okay, I forced them to go)  I finally made it to the Basilica San Clemente, a beautiful church of around 1100, with some of the finest Byzantine mosaics in Rome.  More than enough to justify a visit.  But the church, like so many in Rome, was built upon earlier churches, and earlier Roman sites. offering a 2000 - year layer cake of archaeology.

But like so few, this one has well-preserved layers beneath it, uncured and steadily excavated starting in the mid-19th century.  So passing through the gorgeous "new" basilica of the 1100s, we descend down through the layers -- to the 4th century basilica, and then two 1st century roman buildings (which include a mithraeum, a sacred space below ground for the practitioners of the religion of Mithraism), and, below that, the remains of a building destroyed by the great fire of 64 AD.  When you reach this level, in the winding passageways of the excavations, you start to the heart the sound of rushing water.  And there you come across a madly rushing channel of water, the rushing spring which has been hear long before any of the layers above, and justified building on the site.  Like other places in Rome, which I have approached with lots of expectation and a worry that I will be disappointed, I found my experience exceeded my hopes.  The surprise of discovering this ancient and persistent stream, 60 feet below the current street level, was stunning.

This time I honored the request to take photographs of the church, so these are other people's photographs.

Three of the layers

The present basilica

The mithraeum

The spring

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