Imperial-Papal Overlap

Duration: 3  hours (9am–12pm or 3pm-6pm)


“Clothed in imperial garb and commanding the imperial army, proceeding in imperial manner and bearing the imperial title – PONTIFEX MAXIMUS – thus went Pope Leo the Great.”


This extraordinary itinerary takes us to the following:

  • Basilica of San Clemente
  • Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati
  • Complex of Santi Giovanni and Paolo (Case Romane)  

it explores the growth of the Christian Church from its humble origins as a clandestine syncretistic community to its status as a major world religion. How Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire is one of the most fascinating tales that Rome has to tell.


While the city’s historical and artistic patrimony offers visitors over 3000 years of culture from fonts as diverse as paganism and Christianity, this itinerary shows how Rome emerged from Late Antiquity to become a city of tangible testimony to how the universal character of the Empire’s capital transmits its spiritual message by converting pagan symbols into Christian meanings. In the spirit of Hobbes’ pithy phrase: “The Papacy was not other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the throne thereof,” we experience this imperial and papal overlap.


We look at the emergence of Christianity in 2nd century Rome and how Christianity established itself as the official religion of the Roman Empire. We trace the development of Rome’s early Christian community while exploring the city’s new-fangled art and architecture and visiting some of its most fascinating subterranean sites – Basilica of San Clemente (also known as Titulus Clementis). This building sits atop an earlier 4th century basilica built over the remains of the 1st century Roman house (domus) believed to be a meeting place of Rome’s first Christians. Excavations will take us to a mithraeum – meeting hall for a pagan mystic cult longtime rival to the Christian faith. We also visit the numinous Basilica complex of Santi Quattro Coronati to learn of the architectural integrity and history of an intriquing medieval papal fotress. Here we also visit the famous chapels of Santa Barbara and San Silvestro to discover their unique fresco narratives.  

After Santi Quattro Coronati we go on to explore the Case Romana under the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Celian Hill. This is a recent excavation site revealing 2nd and srd centriy Roman houses and boutiques still showing fascinating figurative art from that time.


As well as discovering so many of the sacred treasures of early Christianity, this itinerary provides unique perspectives on the relationship between religion, politics, art and architecture, and their socio-historical impact of the respective period. It offers an understanding of how the interlocution between Roman and Christian authorities lead to the rise of the Holy Roman Empire and subsequent conflict between these two super-powers, along with insights into the distinctive kind of art and architecture that characterizes this period – The Early Middle Ages.

Meeting point: Piazza San Clemente, in front of the café on Via di San Giovanni in Laterno

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Rome Itineraries

%d bloggers like this: