Worshipping in a place where Christians have been worshipping continuously for over 1900 years is an awesome experience! Today we were privileged to be in the Basilica of St. Clemente in Rome for a few hours to appreciate the centuries old church that has ongoing archaeological exploration. After a warm welcome from Fr. Thomas McCarthy, OP, the prior of the Irish Dominican order who are the custodians of the church, Gerald and Lynne led a service in the Choir. This unusual Choir is a rectangular square in the center of the nave, surrounded by marble slabs, a gift from Constantine in the 4th Century AD.
In St. Clemente, it is possible to descend to the 1st. Century streets of Rome, visiting a Mithraic temple and the site of a house church. Between the bottom level and the existing church there is another church, in between. This church was from the 4th C. It is one of the few places in Rome where these layers of history are so very accessible.
To continue the history, we walked down the hill to the Roman Forum, an expanse of archaeological park where ruins of temples, palaces and basilicas are strewn over a vast site. It is difficult to pick out the forum and other elements of a Roman city from antiquity because so much has been added to it over time. In the 7th C. AD churches began to build their chapels so temples to Minerva and Juno became Christian churches. Today, the new underground transport Line C is being built right through the middle.
So when one of our pilgrims asked, “Where is the Forum”, I thought it was a good question.