Guests traveling on one of our 2012 Mediterranean cruises will have the unique opportunity to visit one of the earliest home church sites in the world on our Rome visits.
The Christianity of today takes its roots from a darker period: one driven by the fear of persecution. Early Roman churches didn’t begin to take the form we see them in today until much later. The elegance and extravagance of Catholicism did not transfer over to Christianity. Back then, followers of Christianity met and engaged in fellowship in house churches.
Prior to the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, it was against the law to build public church buildings. The Edict, signed by Emperor’s Constantine I and Licinius outlined that there should be religious tolerance in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately this edict was sparked by the conclusion of the Diocletian Persecution, also known as the Great Persecution, one of the most severe in the history of the Roman Empire.
It was left up to the Roman citizens to orchestrate meetings behind the back of the Roman government and Roman Church. One such citizen was Flavius Clemens. To those familiar with church history, you might recognize the name as it appears more commonly today: San Clemente. As one of the first in the Roman senatorial class to convert to Christianity, Clemens took it upon himself to share the word of the Lord, even if that came at the risk of not only losing his senate seat, but also the risk of death.
Today, San Clemente is honored with the association of the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome. Featuring vast murals and frescoes in the Basilica itself, this site also features a lower church area, which is much less ornate, but is the location where early Christians would meet during the years when they faced Roman persecution. Although knowledge of the creation of the lower church existed well after the edict was put in place, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that excavation of the site started up. Our participants will travel beneath the Basilica to see the simple surroundings where our brothers and sisters worshipped together in the years immediately following Christ’s crucifiction. We will walk away with a view that few who visit the Eternal City take the time to see.
Current tours that visit Rome include Footsteps of Paul and Malta 2012.