Bishop of Rome, Martyr


St Clement, Bishop of Rome
St Clement by Geovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770)

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Clement was a bishop in Rome at the end of the first century. About 96 he wrote a letter known as '1 Clement'. It was sent in the name of the church in Rome, to Corinth to settle a dispute there, caused by some of the younger members of the church. The actual trouble in Corinth concerned a group of young Christian leaders who had usurped the proper position of the respected elders of the community. Clement writes at some length in an effort to restore peace in the church. The letter is much more than a call to order in the church in Corinth. Clement sets out a picture of the church as an orderly body under God, with authority vested in the duly appointed leaders. Variously designated 'bishops'┬Łor 'presbyters', they are the ones who are to lead the worship and preside over the church's life. The attitude of the younger members of the church in Corinth is, therefore, not just a problem of youthful exuberance, but a challenge to the duly ordained divine order of things.

Clement strongly upheld the notion of rank, an order of authority and responsibility, divinely instituted in the church. These views were influential in the growth of government, and an order of responsibility within the church. The first letter of Clement was widely read in the early church, giving as it did very clear support to this view of things at a time when the church was searching for appropriate lines of authority to combat some of the more radical views springing up. Some ancient manuscripts include 1 Clement as part of the New Testament, along with 2 Clement, which is an anonymous second century letter.

According to apocryphal acta dating to the 4th century at earliest, Clement was banished from Rome 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 Sea. The legend recounts that every year a miraculous ebbing of the sea revealed a divinely built shrine containing his bones. Anyway, he is often depicted with an anchor, and many churches in port towns that minister chiefly to seamen are named for him. He is also the only Roman Pope to have a Russian Orthadox Church dedicated in his name.

BORN: 1 A.D., Rome, Roman Empire

DIED: 99 or 101, Chersonesus, Taurica, Bosporan Kingdom, (modern day Crimea, Ukraine)