Who Was St Clement?
St. Clement, who is commemorated on November 23rd. was probably the third Bishop of Rome (AD91). Some have thought him to be the "fellow labourer" to whom St. Paul alludes in Philippians 4.3, but this is unlikely. The very first document belonging to Christian history, outside the pages of sacred scripture, was written by St. Clement. This was a letter written to the Corinthians and was so greatly valued by Christians that it was read in Church like other lessons from Scripture. For centuries the Church possessed only a mutilated copy of this epistle, but in the year 875, to the great joy of every one, a perfect copy was found at Constantinople. St. Clement’s house in Rome seems to have been used by Christians for their reunions and it is likely that the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul hallowed it by their presence. In one part of the house a memorial was erected to the Bishop. Another part of the house was defiled about the second century by being used as a pagan temple for the worship of the god Mithras. Over this house and the adjoining building, about the fourth century, a Church was erected which was eventually destroyed and became the foundation of the present Church, one of the most famous in Rome because of its historic interest.
Among many traditions of St. Clement there is a fascinating one which a fresco, recently discovered in the fourth century Church illustrates. St. Clement was exiled to the Crimea and was condemned to work in the marble quarries there. He was subsequently martyred in AD98 by being thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor tied round his neck. His friends were grieved that they could not recover his body, so they begged God to tell them how it could be found. Their prayers were answered, for the sea retired and when they followed the receding waters they found his body enshrined in a beautiful temple built by angelic hands.
For two centuries after, on the anniversary of his death, this was repeated and pilgrims visited the shrine. Once a lady left her child behind and discovered her mistake too late. The sorrowing mother gave up her child for lost, but on the following anniversary to her joy, she found her child alive on the steps of the temple. The fresco depicts the mother finding her child.
The anchor is now St. Clement’s symbol. He is sometimes represented with a fountain near him, which is said to have sprung up when he and his fellow workers were dying of thirst in a desert place among the quarries where he was condemned to work. Felt makers and hatters have St. Clement as their patron saint because, so tradition says, St. Clement, forced to flee from his native city was worn out by constant tramping, his feet were badly cut and blistered and he sought a remedy by collecting bits of wool clinging to the bushes, and placing them in his sandals. After a day's journey he found that pressure and warmth had united the wool into a firm substance. When he reached Rome he perfected the process and manufactured felt.
The dedication of our Church to St. Clement is a happy one, for it unites us in thought to the days of the Apostles and the Church throughout the world. It also unites us to the congregations of olden days in this district who worshipped in their Church of St. Clement. We, the worshippers in the present Church, have the same ideals and fight the battle of life under the same symbol, the Anchor of Hope, the symbol of all who trust in the Lord above.