Saint of the Day – 23 November – St Pope Clement I (Died c 101) Martyr, Apostolic Father, Papacy c 88 – c 101. Born in Rome and Martyred at Chersonesus, Greece. The Liber Pontificalis states that Clement died in Greece in the third year of Emperor Trajan’s reign, or 101. Patronages – mariners, sailors, marble artisans, sick children, stonecutters, Diocese of Aarhus, Denmark, Dundee, Scotland, Steenwijk, Netherlands, Velletri, Italy. Also known as – Clement of Rome, Clemens Romanus. St Clement is listed by St Irenaeus and Tertullian as the fourth Bishop of Rome, holding office from 88 until his death. He is considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church, (those who provided a direct link between the Apostles and later generations of Church Fathers). one of the three chief ones together with St Polycarp and St Ignatius of Antioch. He has left one genuine writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth and many others have been attributed to him.
The Roman Martyrology states: “The birthday of Pope St Clement, who held the sovereign Pontificate, the third after the blessed Apostle Peter. In the persecution of Trajan, he was banished to Chersonesus, where, being precipitated into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck, he was crowned with Martyrdom. His body was taken to Rome, during the Pontificate of Nicholas I and placed with due honour, in the Church which had been previously built under his invocation.”
Few details are known about Clement’s life. Tradition suggests that Clement was the son of a Roman named Faustinus and that he joined the Church in Rome during its early years through the preaching of Saint Peter or Saint Paul. He went on to share in the missionary journeys of the Apostles, some believe he was one of the 72 or 70 disciples and may even have assisted the first Pope in running the Church on a local level.
Clement was said to have been Ordained by St Peter the Apostle and he is known to have been a leading member of the Church in Rome in the late 1st century. After the deaths of St Peter’s first two successors, the Saints Popes Linus and Cletus, Clement took up St Peter’s position of primacy in the Church around the year 88.
In his letter to the Church at Corinth in response to a dispute in which certain Presbyters of the Corinthian Church had been deposed, he asserted the authority of the Presbyters as rulers of the Church, on the ground that the Apostles had appointed them. His letter, which is one of the oldest extant Christian documents outside the New Testament, was read in Church, along with other Epistles, some of which later became part of the Christian canon. These works were the first to affirm the apostolic authority of the clergy.
St Clement has been identified as the Clement that Paul mentioned in Philippians 4:3:
“And I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (DR).
According to apocryphal acta dating to the 4th century at earliest, Clement was banished from Rome to the Chersonesus during the reign of the Emperor Trajan and was set to work in a stone quarry. Finding, on his arrival, that the prisoners were suffering from lack of water, he knelt down in prayer. Looking up, he saw a Lamb on a hill, went to where the Lamb had stood and struck the ground with his pickaxe, releasing a gushing stream of clear water. This miracle resulted in the conversion of large numbers of the local pagans and his fellow prisoners to Christianity.
As punishment, Clement was Martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea. Since then, that every year a miraculous ebbing of the sea revealed a divinely built Shrine containing his bones.
The Inkerman Cave Monastery marks the supposed place of Clement’s burial in the Crimea. A year or two before his own death in 869, Saint Cyril (c 827–869), (brother of St Methodius) brought to Rome what he believed to be the relics of Saint Clement, bones he found in the Crimea buried with an anchor on dry land. They are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Clemente, one of the oldest Parish Churches in Rome. Other relics of Saint Clement, including his head, are claimed by the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves in Ukraine.
In works of art, Saint Clement can be recognised by having an anchor at his side or tied to his neck. He is most often depicted wearing papal vestments, including the Pallium and sometimes, with a Papal Tiara but more often with a Mitre. He is also sometimes shown with Papal symbols such as the Papal Crucifix and the Keys of Heaven. In reference to his Martyrdom, he often holds the palm of Martyrdom.
The St Clement’s Cross is also referred to as the Anchored Cross or Mariner’s Cross.
St Clement is among the Saints mentioned in the Church’s most traditional Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon.
2 thoughts on “Saint of the Day – 23 November – St Pope Clement I (Died c 101) Martyr”
The roman basilica of San Clemente is a truly worthwhile church to be visited. The renovated superior church (12th century) with it’s exquisite apse is built over the old 9th century one (where saint Cyrill was buried). One can also visit the remains of an ancient roman house below the latter basilica. An experience not to be easily forgotten, if you ever visit Rome.
How wonderful that sounds. Fr Jacques. So many beautiful and undiscovered Churches in Rome – even though I have been there 6 times, now with this virus situation I will never be able to go back to explore the Basilica of St Clement. 😪
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