Side door to the Basilica of San Clemente. At first glance, this basilica appears to be 18th century baroque. However, it has a very deep history. It is actually a construction of four levels spanning 22 centuries. The fourth, or lowest level, contains the unexcavated remains of houses burned during Nero’s fire in the 1st century BC. The third level was partially occupied by a large house known as a Christian refuge in the 1st century AD and later. (Next to the house on this level is also the remains of a Mithric temple.) The next level is the 4th century basilica, called St. Clement, that was built over the house after Constantine made Christianity legal. The church in use today is the top level and was built in the 11th century. This “newer” structure has been a place of worship for 900 years. Those 900 years have seen many embellishments that result in what you see today at the Basilica of San Clemente. (Last year during Lent, I posted some other pictures of the basilica. Click here.)
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
"A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1
"On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10
Florence Berger, professor emiteria at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, writes of one monastic community where on December 19th the gardener gave the community some of his finest dried or preserved fruits when he called on Christ: 'O Root of Jesse, come and deliver us and delay no longer.'