Pope St Clement I was the fourth Bishop of Rome. A reasonable amount is known about him, particularly compared to his three predecessors but he is most famous for his letter to the Corinthians. He is patron saint of boatmen, marble workers, mariners, sailors, sick children, stonecutters, watermen, lighthouses and lightboats and his saint day 23 November.

His Life

He is often know as Clemens Romanus, to distinguish him from to distinguish him from the early Greek theologian, Titus Flavius Clemens who was know as Clement of Alexandria. It is possible he was a member of the house of Flavius Clemens, the martyr cousin of Emperor Domitian, He may have been a Jewish freedman but there is no real evidence for this, nor is there evidence to back up the belief that he was baptised by St Peter. He became Pope in 88 and he was martyred in 97 at the command of Aufidianus, Emperor Trajan’s representative in Crimea, where Clement had been exiled.

He knew St Paul and the other Apostles and for this reason he is known as one of the first Apostolic Fathers. Many believe it is him metioned in St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also” (4:3), however there is little evidence for this.

In Rome Clement is supposed to have converted Theodora, wife of Sisinnius and courtier of Nerva and then following a miracle he converted Sisinnius himself and 423 “persons of rank”1. Emperor Trajan punished Clement by exiling him to the Crimea to work in the quarries (thus the patronage of marble workers and stonecutters). There he had to walk six miles to get water everyday along with his fellow exiles. By a miracle he slaked the thirst of his fellow exiles by brining forth water from the ground and with this miracle he converted around 2,000 pagans. From there he converted the country and around 75 churches were built. For this crime Aufidianus ordered Clement tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

This story cannot be dated earlier than the 4th century and there is some considerable doubt about its authenticity. Although St Cyril supposedly found the relics of St Clement in a mound by the sea along with an anchor in Crimea whilst on his way to envagelize the Chazars. He carried the relics back to Rome and were deposited by Pope Adrian II in the high altar of the Basilica St Clement along with those of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. However there is again little evidence to back this up and there is no clear indication of whether it was associated with the bones.

John Chapman points out “Modern critics think it possible that his martyrdom was suggested by a confusion with his namesake, the martyred consul. But the lack of tradition that he was buried in Rome is in favour of his having died in exile.” Other scholars also suggest that the term martyr was used more widely, including those who had suffered for their faith rather than just died.

His Letter

St Clement is most well know for his letter to the Corinthians. It was written at a time when the church in Corinth was in turmoil as a small group was trying to oust the church rulers. St Clement appeals to church to turn its back on the jealousy that had caused this uprising and reminding them that it was jealousy that “Peter and Paul and the multitudes with them fell victim”1. The letter strikes a largely pleading tone but St Clement reinforces what he says with a reminder of the sacred appointment of the bishops,

“And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits of their labours, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”’ – Chapter XLII2
and then goes even further, saying,
“But if certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by Him through us let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger; but we shall be guiltless of this sin” - Chapter XLVI2

In addition to its success in quieting the Corinthian troubles the letter is also significant in a number of other ways. It was also a homily on Christian life and the goals of all Christians and was read out at services at Corinth for many years. Indeed it is referred to in a reply to a letter sent to Corinth around 170 where the Bishop of Corinth remarks that the letter is still read at the services.

Most significantly it shows the church of Rome interfering with another Apostolic church and establishing its role as supreme church. This letter is the first document that commands another church in this way but it does say in a manner which implies that Rome’s role as head of the Christianity was a given.

Many other writings have been attributed to St Clement but all have later been dismissed as incorrectly attributed or forged. Most significant was a supposed second letter that was actually a homily written around 160. Some scholars still claim that this letter was written by St Clement.

Anacletus - Pope - Evaristus


1 – John Chapman, Catholic Encyclopaedia (www.newadvent.org)
2 – The full text of the letter can be found at http://www.callnetuk.com/home/stclements/clement1.htm
http://www.advent.org/
http://www.catholic-forum.com/
http://www.cin.org/
http://www.ccel.org/
http://users.erols.com/saintpat/ss/ss-index.htm

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