Bishop of Rome, Martyr


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

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Clement a bishop in Rome in the 1st century, wrote a letter about 96 A.D. (1 Clement). It was sent in the name of the church in Rome, to Corinth to settle a dispute there. The trouble 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. But the letter is more than a call to order. Clement sets out a picture of the church as an orderly body under God, with authority vested in the duly appointed leaders. Those designated 'bishops' or 'presbyters', are to lead the worship and preside over the church's life. The attitude of the younger members of the church 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. This 1st letter of Clement was widely read in the early church, giving 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 2nd century letter.

According to apocryphal acta dating to the 4th century, 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 arrival that 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. So 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)