Died At Age: 64
Also Known As: Saint Clement I, Clement of Rome and Clemens Romanus
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Rome, Roman Empire
Famous as: Religious Leader
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
Died on: 99
place of death: Chersonesus, Taurica, Bosporan Kingdom (modern-day Crimea, Ukraine/Russia)
Who was Pope Clement I?
Pope Clement I, also known as Saint Clement I, was the bishop of Rome from 88 CE to his death in 99 CE. He is considered one of the chief Apostolic Fathers of the Church along with Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch. Not much is known about his life as only a few credible sources of information from his era are available to historians. However, it is known for sure that he was a leading member of the church in Rome and a major religious figure in the late 1st century. He is believed to have been a prolific writer of letters and the works once attributed to him were considered important sources of information about Christianity in the 1st century. However, according to modern historians, many of the letters once believed to have been produced by him were mistakenly attributed to him. Only one genuine piece of writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth, is still credited to him. According to traditional sources, Clement was imprisoned by Emperor Trajan who did not approve of the former’s religious activities. The emperor then had him executed by drowning. Revered as a martyr, Clement I is considered a patron saint of mariners.
According to different traditions, Clement is listed varyingly as the first, second, or third successor of Saint Peter, the first leader of the early Church and one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ.
The ‘Liber Pontificalis,’ a book of biographies of the popes, states that Clement was personally known to Saint Peter. Two letters addressed to Saint Peter, which have been preserved, have been attributed to Clement. Early Christian author, Tertullian, considered Clement to be Peter’s immediate successor.
Some sources suggest that Clement was probably a freedman (or son of a freedman). He used to be a slave under Titus Flavius Clemens, a consul with his cousin, the Emperor Domitian. According to a tradition, he was of Jewish origin.
Starting from the 3rd or 4th century, stories claiming that Clement was a laborer serving in the church began to emerge. One early Christian literary work mentions a “Clement” who had the duty of communicating with other churches. This reference was likely to be Clement I.
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According to sources that originated in the 4th century at the earliest, Clement was persecuted for his religious activities by Emperor Trajan. The emperor first banished Clement from Rome and exiled him to Chersonesus.
Clement was allegedly made to work in a stone quarry in Chersonesus. Upon his arrival, he saw that the prisoners didn’t have access to water. He knelt down in prayer, and through a series of miracles, was able to release a stream of fresh water from the ground.
Many people, pagans and prisoners included, witnessed the miracle and were convinced to convert to Christianity. When Trajan came to learn of this, he was outraged and ordered for Clement’s execution. Clement was tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea from a boat.
The supposed place of his burial in the Crimea is today marked by the Inkerman Cave Monastery. Saint Cyril is believed to have brought to Rome the relics of Clement’s bones that he found buried in Crimea. The relics were then enshrined in the Basilica di San Clemente. It is said that his head is preserved in the Kiev Monastery of the Caves in Ukraine.
Epistle of Clement
The First Epistle of Clement is a work traditionally attributed to Pope Clement I. It is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth, probably composed at some time between 70 and 140 CE. This is a significant work, considered a part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.
Clement is believed to have written this letter in response to certain events that had taken place in Corinth. Some of the elders in the city had been deposed by the congregation and Clement advised the congregation to restore the elders to their previous position.
Originally composed in Greek, the work was later translated into different languages, such as Lain and Syriac. In early Christianity, the work was even treated like scripture. The letter, which had been lost for centuries, resurfaced in fragments sometime in the 17th century. This work is considered significant as it has provided valuable information about the working of the early church.
Even though the letter is anonymous and does not include Clement's name, scholars are of the general consensus that it was indeed authored by Clement. The content of the letter gives a good idea about the structure of the early church. The work states the Apostles had appointed “bishops and deacons” for administering the church and that Christians are supposed to “obey their superiors.”
Clement often asks the Christian readers to “remember” the words of Jesus in the epistle. There are several allusions to the martyrdom of Saint Peter, while clear references to the martyrdom of Saint Paul are made. The epistle also criticizes those who question their faith because the Second Coming hadn’t occurred as yet at the time of the letter’s composition.
Many other works, including the ‘Second Epistle of Clement’ and two ‘Epistles on Virginity’ were earlier attributed to Clement. However, most modern historians agree that Clement was not the original author of these works.
Recognition As A Saint
Many Christian churches recognize Clement as a saint and he is considered a patron saint of mariners. His name is mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass. The Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church commemorate him on 23 November. His feast day is celebrated on 24 or 25 November in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
The St Clement's Church in Moscow is dedicated to him. It is famous for its glittering Baroque interior and distinct iconostasis. The church was used as a makeshift library during the Soviet period, with the Lenin State Library storing its books in the church premises.
Pope Clement I is depicted as a hero in an early Christian romance called “Clementine literature” or “Clementina, Pseudo-Clementine Writings.” It is supposedly a record of discourses involving the Apostle Peter. The work also provides an account of how Clement became Peter’s travelling companion. Details of Clement’s family history are also given in this piece of literature.