Rome Church Houses Lessons on Religious History

Temple of the pagan god Mythras i i

hide captionA temple to the pagan god Mythras (pictured here) sits beside a house used for Christian worship beneath Rome's San Clemente church.

Kina Italia/Eurografica
Temple of the pagan god Mythras

A temple to the pagan god Mythras (pictured here) sits beside a house used for Christian worship beneath Rome's San Clemente church.

Kina Italia/Eurografica

Of all world cities, Rome offers visitors some of humanity's most compelling architectural history: Layer upon layer of buildings that illustrate antiquity in its heyday through the passage from paganism to Christianity.

The San Clemente church encapsulates centuries of this turbulent history and offers a one-stop lesson in much of the history of Western art and religion.

An outdoor baroque facade leads into the 12th-century basilica decorated with medieval mosaics and Renaissance frescoes. Below it lies a 4th-century church with sweeping arches. And below that is a labyrinth of rooms of a Roman house. Here, side by side, are an Christian house of worship and a temple of the pagan religion known as Mythraism.

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