Our first historical visit was at the Basilica of San Clemente and it was here that we learned something very important about the history of Rome. While this church has some of the oldest and frescoes and mosaics in the world, that is not its only unique trait.
What we learned here was something that we will see over and over throughout Rome – the reuse of temples, art, marble, stone, bronze, etc. from a prior civilization of an older century by the people living in another century. In other words, recycling. Let me explain by using The Basilica of San Clement as an example.
Over the course of time, both natural events (e.g. floods, storms, rain erosion, etc.) as well as man made events (fire, landfill, etc.) combined to bury or destroy many of the ancient sites in Rome. The Basilica of San Clement is just one example, a there are actually three levels to this Basilica and each has its own history.
(1) The present basilica with the beautiful mosaics was built just before the year 1100 during the height of the Middle Ages;
(2) Beneath the present basilica is a 4th-century basilica with some well-preserved frescos that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church, and the basement of which had in the 2nd century briefly served as a mithraeum;
(3) The lowest level was the at one time the home of the Roman nobleman which had been built on the foundations of a roman republican era building that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 AD.
Located in the lowest level, the Mithreum at Basilica di San Clemente was part of a sanctuary of the cult of Mithras.
All three levels share the same foundation; each level was built with walls and pillars on top of the previous.
Just one example of re-cycling over time…