Magdalene and Mithra

During the same visit to Rome as described in the other links (5th August 2018) I was fortunate enough to visit a small church that is not known to most tourists. It is a church built atop of a church which is in turn on top of a temple to the god Mithra.

This is probably one of the most interesting churches in Rome and is the Basilica of San Clemente. This is a circa 10th century church but it's not what's on the surface that is of interest, or at least not initially as I would discover. Underneath the church is another church, built around the 4th century. And underneath that church is a temple to the god Mithra built around the 2nd century as part of a Roman home. Both of these sub-levels have been excavated revealing some of their former magnificence. You can buy tickets to descend into both of these levels, which is recommended as there are few photographs available on the web as photography is strictly prohibited on all levels.

One particular feature I liked in the 4th century church was a reversible stone tablet originally built into the wall. On one side it was Christian worship related and on the other it was for Mithra worship. So, depending upon what you came for the symbology and inscriptions could be made as appropriate. Mithraism was a secretly practiced religion in Rome during much of the early Christian period.

Mithra and the background to the deity is intriguing including the similarities to Jesus Christ, but it was back at the surface level that things were also interesting. Firth though, Mithra has Persian origins and was the Zoroastrian god of light, covenant, and oath. A form of trinity. Mithra is described as the protector of truth, cattle, the harvest and more.

Behind the altar was a fresco featuring Jesus and his twelve apostles. One to Jesus's immediate right was however wearing a headscarf. The others did not. It is a scene reminiscent of DaVinci's last supper, only there is no mistake that this is a woman and quite probably Mary Magdalene (given her young appearance and hence probably not Mary, Jesus' mother).

Sant Clemente behind the altar

Zoom in on woman in fresco

A much better image of the woman can be found here at the bottom of the linked page.

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