Giuseppe Conte

Exploring Basilica of San Clemente

Uncover the layers of history in the Basilica of San Clemente, a unique archaeological and religious site in Rome's Monti area.

Attraction Monti
Basilica of San Clemente in Rome


The Basilica of San Clemente is one of the most fascinating and unique attractions in Rome. It is a complex of three buildings, each from a different era, that reveal the layers of history and culture of the Eternal City. The lowest level is a 1st-century Roman building that was used as a pagan temple and then as a Christian church. The middle level is a 4th-century basilica that contains stunning frescoes and mosaics. The upper level is a 12th-century basilica that features a magnificent apse and a schola cantorum. In this article, you will learn more about the history, art, and architecture of this amazing site, and how to make the most of your visit.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Visiting the Basilica of San Clemente is not for everyone. It can be challenging to navigate the narrow and steep stairs that lead to the lower levels, and some parts of the complex are dark and humid. The site is also not very well-known, so it may not be easy to find or access. You will need to buy a separate ticket to enter the lower levels, which are not included in the Roma Pass or other city passes. You will also need to allocate at least an hour or two to explore the site thoroughly, as there is a lot to see and appreciate.

Tips for your visit of the Basilica of San Clemente

  • Book online in advance To avoid queues and ensure availability, it is advisable to book your ticket online before your visit. You can do so on the official website of the basilica, where you can also find more information about the site.
  • Bring a flashlight Some parts of the lower levels are dimly lit or not lit at all, so bringing a flashlight can help you see better and discover more details. You can also use your phone's flashlight, but be careful not to disturb other visitors or damage the artworks.
  • Hire an audio guide or join a guided tour The basilica does not have many signs or explanations, so hiring an audio guide or joining a guided tour can enhance your experience and understanding of the site. You can rent an audio guide at the entrance for 5 euros, or book a guided tour online or on-site for 10 euros.
  • Visit the nearby attractions The Basilica of San Clemente is located in a central area of Rome, close to other interesting attractions such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Arch of Constantine. You can easily combine your visit with these other sites, or explore the surrounding neighborhood, which has many restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors are to dress modestly, as the basilica is a place of worship; to respect the silence and decorum inside; and to check the opening hours before your visit, as they may vary depending on the season or holidays.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: The basilica is open every day from 9 am to 6:30 pm (last admission at 6 pm). The lower levels are open from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm.

How to Get There: The basilica is located on Via Labicana, 95, in the Rione Monti district. You can reach it by public transport using the metro line B (stop Colosseo) or several bus lines (51, 75, 85, 87, 117, 118).

Price: The entrance fee for the upper level is free, but donations are welcome. The entrance fee for the lower levels is 10 euros for adults, 5 euros for students and seniors, and free for children under 16.

Crowds: The basilica is not very crowded compared to other attractions in Rome, but it can get busy during peak seasons or weekends. It is advisable to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Weather Considerations: The basilica is mostly indoors, so it can be visited in any weather condition. However, the lower levels can be cold and damp, so it is recommended to wear warm and comfortable clothes and shoes.

Photography: Photography is allowed in the upper level, but not in the lower levels, where flash and tripods are strictly forbidden. You can take photos of the exterior of the basilica, but be respectful of the people and the environment.

Accessibility: The basilica is not very accessible for people with disabilities or mobility issues, as there are many stairs and uneven surfaces. There is no elevator or ramp to access the lower levels, and no wheelchair rental service. The upper level is accessible by a few steps, but there are no accessible toilets or facilities.

Facilities: The basilica has a small gift shop where you can buy souvenirs, books, and postcards. There is no cafeteria or vending machine, but there are many options nearby. There are also no lockers or luggage storage facilities, so you will have to carry your belongings with you.

Tours: The basilica offers guided tours for groups or individuals, in different languages and durations. You can book a tour online on the official website, or on-site at the ticket office. The price of the tour is 10 euros per person, plus the entrance fee for the lower levels.

Bringing Children: The basilica is a suitable attraction for children, as they can learn about history, art, and culture in a fun and interactive way. However, some parts of the site may not be very appealing or appropriate for young children, such as the dark and humid lower levels, or the graphic scenes depicted in some frescoes. It is advisable to supervise your children at all times, and to bring some snacks and water to keep them hydrated and entertained.

Bringing Pets: Pets are not allowed inside the basilica, unless they are service animals. You will have to leave your pet outside, or find a pet-friendly accommodation nearby.

These details are subject to change; please check the official website for the latest information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Basilica of San Clemente?

    The Basilica of San Clemente is a Roman Catholic church in Rome, Italy, dedicated to Pope Clement I. It is one of the most remarkable examples of layered history in the city, as it contains buildings and artifacts from different centuries, from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

  • How can I visit the Basilica of San Clemente?

    The Basilica of San Clemente is open to visitors every day from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The entrance fee is 10 euros for adults and 5 euros for students and children. You can also book a guided tour online or join a group tour offered by various agencies.

  • What are the main attractions of the Basilica of San Clemente?

    The Basilica of San Clemente is a treasure trove of art, history and spirituality. You can admire the beautiful mosaics, frescoes and sculptures that decorate the upper church, built in the 12th century. You can also explore the lower levels, where you can see the remains of a 4th century basilica, a 2nd century pagan temple, a 1st century Roman house and a Mithraic shrine.

  • Why is the Basilica of San Clemente important for Christianity?

    The Basilica of San Clemente is important for Christianity because it is linked to the life and martyrdom of Pope Clement I, who was one of the first successors of Saint Peter. According to tradition, he was exiled and killed by the Roman emperor Trajan in the Black Sea. His relics were brought back to Rome by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who are buried in the basilica. The basilica also preserves some of the oldest Christian paintings and inscriptions in Rome.

Must see

  • The apse mosaic

    The apse mosaic is one of the most stunning features of the basilica. It depicts Christ on a cross-shaped tree, surrounded by symbols of the four evangelists and twelve doves representing the apostles. Below him, there are scenes from the life of Saint Clement and the legend of his relics. The mosaic is rich in symbolism and colors, and reflects the influence of Byzantine art.

  • The frescoes of Saint Catherine's Chapel

    The frescoes of Saint Catherine's Chapel are among the finest examples of medieval painting in Rome. They date back to the 13th century and illustrate the life and martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a princess who converted to Christianity and was tortured and beheaded by the emperor Maxentius. The frescoes are remarkable for their realism, expressiveness and detail.

  • The Mithraic shrine

    The Mithraic shrine is one of the most fascinating discoveries in the basilica. It is located in the lowest level, under the ancient Roman house. It was a place of worship for the followers of Mithras, a Persian god who was popular among soldiers and slaves in the Roman Empire. The shrine consists of a narrow corridor with benches on both sides and an altar at the end, where a relief depicts Mithras killing a bull.

  • The tomb of Saint Cyril

    The tomb of Saint Cyril is another highlight of the basilica. It is located in a small chapel near the entrance of the lower church. Saint Cyril was one of the two brothers who brought Christianity to the Slavic peoples in the 9th century. He also invented the Cyrillic alphabet, which is still used by many languages today. He died in Rome in 869 and his tomb became a pilgrimage site for Eastern Christians.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors: If you want to learn more about the history and art of the basilica, you can rent an audio guide at the ticket office or download an app on your smartphone. You can also visit the nearby Museum of San Clemente, which displays some archaeological finds and religious objects from the site. Don't forget to dress appropriately, as shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed inside the church.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • The miracle of Saint Clement

    One of the most curious stories about the basilica is the miracle of Saint Clement. According to legend, when Saint Clement was exiled in Crimea, he was forced to work in a marble quarry. He converted many of his fellow prisoners to Christianity, but this angered the governor, who ordered to drown him in the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. However, the sea receded and revealed a marble temple where his body was found. Every year, on his feast day (November 23), the basilica celebrates this miracle by flooding the floor with water.

  • The secret passage to the Colosseum

    Another intriguing fact about the basilica is the secret passage to the Colosseum. It is a tunnel that connects the lower level of the basilica with the nearby amphitheater, where gladiator fights and animal hunts took place. The passage was probably used by Christians who were persecuted and martyred in the Colosseum, as well as by smugglers and thieves who wanted to escape from the authorities. The passage is not open to the public, but you can see its entrance in the basement of the basilica.

  • The graffiti of the pilgrims

    A third interesting fact about the basilica is the graffiti of the pilgrims. If you look closely at the walls of the lower church, you can see some inscriptions made by visitors from different countries and periods. Some of them are prayers, others are names or dates, others are drawings or symbols. They testify to the long and diverse history of the basilica and its role as a destination for pilgrims from all over the world.

  • The legend of the Irish saint

    A fourth interesting fact about the basilica is the legend of the Irish saint. According to tradition, there was an Irish monk named Fergil who lived in Rome in the 8th century. He was a friend of Pope Adrian I and a scholar of astronomy and geography. He predicted that a great earthquake would strike Rome on April 25, 799, and advised the pope to flee to the basilica of San Clemente, which was built on solid ground. The pope followed his advice and escaped the disaster, while Fergil died in his cell. He was buried in the basilica and venerated as a saint.

  • The mystery of the marble slab

    A fifth interesting fact about the basilica is the mystery of the marble slab. It is a large piece of marble that covers part of the floor of the upper church. It has a hole in the center and some inscriptions around it. No one knows for sure what it is or what it means, but there are several theories. Some say it is a sundial or a calendar, others say it is a map or a game board, others say it is a relic or a symbol. The marble slab remains one of the unsolved mysteries of the basilica.

Historical Background

The Basilica of San Clemente is a unique attraction in Rome that showcases the layers of history that lie beneath the city. The basilica was built on top of a 4th-century church, which was built on top of a 1st-century pagan temple, which was built on top of a 2nd-century Roman house. Visitors can descend into the lower levels and see the remains of these ancient structures, as well as frescoes, mosaics, and inscriptions that reveal the religious and cultural diversity of Rome over the centuries.

The basilica is dedicated to Pope Clement I, who was martyred in the 1st century and is considered one of the first bishops of Rome. According to legend, he was thrown into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck, and his body was later recovered by his followers. A shrine was built in his honor at the site where his body was found, and later became the foundation for the basilica. The basilica also contains the relics of another saint, Cyril of Alexandria, who brought Christianity to the Slavic peoples in the 9th century.

Nearby Restaurants

  • La Carbonara A cozy trattoria that serves traditional Roman dishes like pasta carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe.
  • Li Rioni A popular pizzeria that offers thin-crust pizzas with a variety of toppings, baked in a wood-fired oven.
  • Gelateria S.M. Maggiore A family-run gelateria that makes artisanal gelato with natural ingredients and seasonal flavors.

Nearby Attractions

  • The Colosseum The iconic amphitheater that was the site of gladiator fights, animal hunts, and public executions in ancient Rome.
  • The Roman Forum The heart of ancient Rome, where political, religious, and social activities took place.
  • The Palatine Hill The most ancient part of Rome, where the legendary founders Romulus and Remus were raised by a wolf, and where emperors built their palaces.


The Basilica of San Clemente is a fascinating attraction that allows visitors to explore the rich and complex history of Rome. It is a must-see for anyone who loves archaeology, art, and culture. If you are planning to visit Rome, don't miss this hidden gem that will take you back in time and show you the layers of civilization that shaped the Eternal City.