Rome’s Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano offers wonders both above and below ground. The interior of the 12th-century church is richly decorated with Byzantine mosaics considered among Italy’s best, and below the surface are two layers of ancient ruins including a fourth-century basilica, a temple, and a first-century villa.
When visiting the Basilica of San Clemente, you can admire the present-day church—home to spectacular mosaics and the tombs of St. Clement and St. Cyril—before heading underground to tour the excavations below. Here, you’ll find well-preserved frescoes, a pagan temple dedicated to Mithras, and the remains of a Roman house.
There are thousands of years of history to take in at the Basilica of San Clemente, so the best way to visit is by joining a private guided tour of the church and underground excavation sites with skip-the-line entry. Many tours of San Clemente also visit the Capuchin Crypt and accompanying museum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano is ideal for history buffs.
- Book a skip-the-line tour to avoid long waits, especially in the summer months.
- San Clemente is a Catholic church—modest clothing, covering shoulders and knees, and a respectful decorum are required.
- Photography is not allowed inside the basilica.
- The excavations beneath San Clemente are not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
The Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano is located on Piazza San Clemente near the Colosseum. Take metro line B from the Termini train station to the Colosseo stop.
When to Get There
The church and underground excavations are open daily year-round; check the website for hours and mass times. The site is a cool reprieve from the summer heat, yet can be very crowded during this time.
San Clemente History
San Clemente was built on top of an older basilica dating from the fourth century, which in turn was built on the remains of a villa owned by a wealthy Roman, probably destroyed by the great fire in AD 64.