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Pope Saint Clement I, (fl. 96), also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the early Christian church.

Few details are known about Clement's life. According to Tertullian Clement was ordained by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the latter part of the 1st century. Early church lists place him as the second or third bishop of Rome after Saint Peter, but the meaning of this evidence is unclear, given the lack of evidence for monarchical episcopacy in Rome at so early a date..

St Clement's only genuine extant writing is his letter to the Corinthian church, 1 Clement (c. 96), which was a response to strife in the Corinth church, where certain presbyters had been deposed. He asserted the authority of the presbyters (elders) as rulers of the church, on the grounds that the Apostles had appointed such. It was read in church, along with other epistles, some of which would later become Christian canon; and is one of the oldest Christian documents still in existence outside the New Testament. This important work was the first to affirm the apostolic authority of the clergy.

A second epistle, 2 Clement, was attributed to Clement although recent scholarship suggests it to be a homily by another author. In the legendary Clementine Literature, Clement is the intermediary through whom the Apostles teach the church. According to a tradition not earlier than the 4th century, Clement was imprisoned under the Emperor Trajan but nonetheless led a ministry among fellow prisoners. He was then executed by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

Clement is recognized as a saint in many Christian churches. He is commemorated on November 23 in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity his feast is kept on November 24 or November 25.


Early succession lists name Clement as the first, second, or third successor of Saint Peter. However, the meaning of his inclusion in these lists has been much controverted. There were presbyter-bishops as early as the first century, but there is no evidence for a monarchical episcopacy in Rome at such an early date. There is also, however, no evidence of a change occurring in ecclesiastical organization in the latter half of the second century, which would indicate that a new or newly-monarchical episcopacy was establishing itself.

A large congregation existed in Rome c 58, when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. Paul arrived in Rome c 60 (Acts). His Captivity Epistles, as well as Mark, Luke, Acts, and 1 Peter were written here, according to many scholars. Paul and Peter were said to have been martyred here. Nero persecuted Roman Christians after Rome burned in 64, and the congregation may have suffered further persecution under Domitian (81-96). Clement was the first of early Rome's most notable bishops.

Clement is known for his epistle to the church in Corinth (c 96), in which he asserts the apostolic authority of the bishops/presbyters as rulers of the church. The epistle mentions episkopoi (overseer, bishops) or presbyteroi (elders, presbyters), as the upper class of minister, served by the deacons, but, since it does not mention himself, it gives no indication of the title or titles used for Clement in Rome. It has been cited as the first work to establish Roman primacy, but most scholars see the epistle as more fraternal than authoritative, and Orthodox scholar John Meyendorff sees it as connected with the Roman church's awareness of its "priority" (rather than "primacy") among local churches.

In the epistle Clement uses the terms bishop and presbyter interchangeably for the higher order of ministers above deacons. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch (c 35 - c 107) indicate the several congregations were headed by individual bishops but that Rome's congregation was not. In some congregations, particularly in Egypt, the distinction between bishops and presbyters seems to have become established only later. But by the middle of that century all the leading Christian centres had bishops.

The "Liber Pontificalis," which documents the reigns of popes states that Clement had known Saint Peter. It also states that he wrote two letters (though the second letter, "2 Clement" is no longer ascribed to him) and that he died in Greecemarker in the third year of Emperor Trajan's reign, or 101 AD.

Starting in the 3rd and 4th century, tradition has identified him as the Clement that Paul mentioned in Philippians as a fellow laborer in Christ. In the 19th century he was identified as a freedman of Titus Flavius Clemens, who was consul with his cousin, the Emperor Domitian; however, no ancient sources suggest this identification, and it is likely false. The 2nd-century Shepherd of Hermas mentions a Clement whose office it is to communicate with other churches.

11th-century fresco in the Basilica of San Clemente, Rome: Saints Cyril and Methodius bring Saint Clement's relics to Rome
According to apocryphal acta dating to the fourth century at earliest, Clement was banished from Romemarker 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, Saint Clement was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Seamarker. The legend recounts that every year a miraculous ebbing of the sea revealed a divinely built shrine containing his bones. However, the oldest sources on Clement's life, Eusebius and Jerome, note nothing of his martyrdom.

A year or two before his own death in 869, Saint Cyril brought to Rome what he believed to be the relics of Saint Clement, bones he found in the Crimeamarker buried with an anchor on dry land. They are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Clementemarker. Other relics of Saint Clement, including his head, are claimed by the Kiev Monastery of the Cavesmarker in Ukrainemarker.


Epistle of Clement

Clement's only existing, genuine text is a letter to the Christian congregation in Corinthmarker, often called the First Epistle of Clement or 1 Clement. The history of 1 Clement clearly and continuously shows Clement as the author of this letter. It is considered the earliest authentic Christian document outside of the New Testament.

Clement writes to the troubled congregation in Corinth, where certain "presbyters" or "bishops" have been deposed (the class of clergy above that of deacons is designated indifferently by the two terms). Clement calls for repentance and reinstatement of those who have been deposed, in line with maintenance of order and obedience to church authority, since the apostles established the ministry of "bishops and deacons". He mentions "offering the gifts" (a reference to the Eucharist) as one of the functions of the higher class of clergy. The epistle offers valuable insight into Church ministry at that time and into the history of the Roman Church. It was highly regarded, and was read in church at Corinth along with the Scriptures c. 170.

Writings formerly attributed to Clement

Second Epistle of Clement

The Second Epistle of Clement is a homily, or sermon, likely written in Corinth or Rome, but not by Clement. Early Christian congregations often shared homilies to be read. The homily describes Christian character and repentance. It is possible that the Church from which Clement sent his epistle had included a festal homily to share in one economical post, thus the homily became known as the Second Epistle of Clement.

While 2 Clement has been traditionally ascribed to Clement, most scholars believe that 2 Clement was written in the second century based on the doctrinal themes of the text and a near match between words in 2 Clement and in the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians.

Epistles on Virginity

Two "Epistles on Virginity" were traditionally attributed to Clement, but now there exists almost universal consensus that Clement was not the author of those two epistles.

False Decretals

A ninth-century collection of church legislation known as the False Decretals, which was once attributed to Saint Isidore of Seville, is largely composed of forgeries. All of what it presents as letters of pre-Nicene popes, beginning with Clement, are forgeries, as are some of the documents that it attributes to councils; and more than forty falsifications are found in the decretals that it gives as those of post-Nicene popes from Pope Sylvester I (314-335) to Pope Gregory II (715-731). The False Decretals were part of a series of falsifications of past legislation by a party in the Carolingian Empire whose principal aim was to free the church and the bishops from interference by the state and the metropolitan archbishops respectively.

Clement is included among other early Christian popes as authors of the Pseudo-Isidoran (or False) Decretals, a 9th century forgery. These decrees and letters portray even the early popes as claiming absolute and universal authority. Clement is the earliest pope to whom a text is attributed.

Clementine Literature

St Clement is also the hero of an early Christian romance or novel that has survived in at least two different versions, known as the Clementine literature, where he is identified with Emperor Domitian's cousin Titus Favius Clemens. Clementine Literature portrays Clement as the Apostle's means of disseminating their teachings to the Church.

Recognition as a Saint

St Clement's name is in the Roman Canon of the Mass. He is commemorated on November 23 as a Pope and Martyr in the Roman Catholic Church as well as within the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. The Syriac Orthodox Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and all Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches, commemorate Saint Clement of Rome (called in Syriac "Mor Clemis") on November 24; the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates St Clement on November 25; and the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria does so on December 8.


Anchored or Mariner's or St Clement's cross
In works of art, Saint Clement can be recognized by having an anchor at his side or tied to his neck. He is most often depicted wearing the Papal vestments, including the pallium, and sometimes with the Papal tiara but more often with the mitre. He is also sometimes shown with symbols of his office as Pope and Bishop of Rome such as the Papal Cross and the Keys of Heaven. In reference to his martyrdom, he often holds the palm of martyrdom. Saint Clement can be seen depicted near a fountain or spring, relating to the incident from his hagiography, or lying in a temple in the sea. The Anchored Cross or Mariner's Cross is also referred to as St Clement's Cross, in reference to the way he was martyred.

See also

Further reading

  • Louise Ropes Loomis, "The Book of Popes" (Liber Pontificalis), Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN 1-889758-86-8 (Reprint of the 1916 edition. Stops with Pope Pelagius, (579-590). English translation with scholarly footnotes, and illustrations).

External links


  1. Chapman, John. "Pope St. Clement I." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 6 Dec. 2008.
  2. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that no critic now doubts that the names Cletus and Anacletus in lists that would make Clement the fourth successor of Saint Peter refer to the one person, not two.
  3. "Clement of Rome, St." Cross, F. L. (ed.), The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  4. See Calendar of Saints
  5. History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity, AD 100-325 - "Clement of Rome"
  6. Like Schaff, the Holy See's Annuario Pontificio (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8021-4), p. 7*, gives Clement as "supreme pontiff of Rome" in either 92-99 or 68-76, making him either the first or the third successor of Saint Peter, but not the second.
  7. The Catholic Encyclopedia article says that only on the false assumption that "Cletus" and "Anacletus" were two distinct persons, instead of variations of the name of single individual, did some think that Clement was the fourth successor of Saint Peter.
  8. Van Hove, Alphonse. "Bishop." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 6 Dec. 2008
  9. Van Hove, Alphonse. "Bishop." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 6 Dec. 2008
  10. Van Hove, Alphonse. "Bishop." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 6 Dec. 2008
  11. "Rome (early Christian)." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  12. "Most scholars would now regard 1 Clement as an impressive example of fraternal correction rather than an authoritative intervention." Patrick Granfield and Peter C. Phan, The Gift of the Church: A Textbook On Ecclesiology In Honor Of Patrick Granfield, O.S.B, (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000), p. 32.
  13. John Meyendorff, The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992), p. 135-136
  14. "Ignatius, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  15. Ehrman, Bart. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. 2006. ISBN 0-19-530013-0
  16. "Bishop." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  17. "Bishop." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  18. "Writers of the 3rd and 4th cents., like Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, equate him (St. Clement I), perhaps, correctly, with the Clement whom St. Paul mentions (Phil. 4:3) as a fellow worker." —
  19. Catholic Encyclopedia: "Pope St. Clement I"
  20. "Vision II," 4. 3
  21. "But the oldest witnesses, down to Eusebius and Jerome, know nothing of his martyrdom." History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity, AD 100-325 - "Clement of Rome"
  22. Riddle, M. B. Introductory Notice to Two Epistles Concerning Virginity.
  23. The Encyclopaedia Britannica places the Donation of Constantine in this section; the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church places it in the section of the pre-Nicene Popes.
  24. Encyclopaedia Britannica: False Decretals
  25. OSV's Encyclopedia of Catholic History: False Decretals
  26. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280-290-3)] False Decretals
  27. "These early documents were designed to show that by the oldest traditions and practice of the Church no bishop might be deposed, no Church councils might be convened, and no major issue might be decided, without the consent of the pope. Even the early pontiffs, by these evidences, had claimed absolute and universal authority as vicars of Christ on Earth." Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. p. 525

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