Saints of the Day – Clement I, Pope

detail of a stained glass window of Pope Saint Clement I, church of Saint Clement, Arpajon, France, 1895; photographed on 6 April 2012 by GFreihalter; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Died c.100.

“O God, make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace.” – Saint Clement

“The strong must make sure that they care for the weak. The rich must be certain to give enough to supply all the needs of the poor. The poor must thank God for supplying their needs . . . We all need each other: the great need the small, the small need the great. In our body, the head is useless without the feet and the feet without the head. The tiniest limbs of our body are useful and necessary to the whole” – Saint Clement.

Details of Saint Clement’s life are unknown. He may have been an ex-slave to the family of T. Flavius Clemens, the cousin of Emperor Domitian, and he may have been of Jewish descent. He is said to have been baptized by Saint Peter. Clement was the third successor of Saint Peter (following Cletus) and governed the Church for about ten years (AD 88-97). Origen and others refer to him as the Clement whom Paul calls a fellow laborer (Phil. 4:3), but this is uncertain. Saint Irenaeus (c. 125-c. 203) says that Clement “had seen and consorted with the blessed apostles.”

His acta state that, after converting a patrician named Theodora and her husband Sisinnius and 423 others, the people raised an opposition against him. He was banished by Emperor Trajan to the Crimea where he was made to work in the quarries. The nearest drinking water was six miles away, but Clement found a nearer spring for the use of the Christian captives. It is said that he preached so zealously among the prisoners working in the mines, that soon 75 churches were needed to serve the converts.

Unfortunately, his success drew further unwonted attention causing him to be condemned for his faith.

He was said to have been thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor tied around his neck, and that angels came and built him a tomb beneath the waves, which once a year became visible by a miraculous ebbing of the waves. It was Clement’s Epistle to the fractious Corinthians that made him so famous. “Under this Clement,” says Saint Irenaeus, “no small sedition took place among the brethren at Corinth, and the church of Rome sent a most sufficient letter to the Corinthians, establishing them in peace and renewing their faith, and announcing the tradition it had recently received from the apostles.”

In the letter Clement wrote:

“Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church were persecuted and contended unto death. Look to the heroic apostles: Peter through unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but many labors, and having thus borne witness went on to his true place of glory. Paul through jealousy and strife, displayed the prize of endurance: seven times in bonds, driven into exile, stoned, a herald for the faith in east and west. . . . Associated with these great men of holy life is a great multitude of believers, suffering many tortures because of jealousy, some of them women who, though weak in body, completed the race of faith.”

Clement’s constant references to jealousy are to rebuke the church at Corinth, where hotheads had overthrown the lawful Christian leaders and unbelievers were mocking the Christian faith. Written in AD 95, the letter is even older than some parts of the New Testament. Using Old Testament stories he demonstrates the evil resulting from jealousy. He begs the Christians to show mutual tolerance and love and to respect those set in authority over them. He said that peace must be the aim of all who follow Jesus.

The letter is important not only for its eloquence, historical allusions, and its evidence of Roman prestige and authority at the end of the first century, but also as a model of the pastoral letter and a homily on Christian life. It established the instance of the bishop of Rome intervening authoritatively this early in the life of the Church as the pre-eminent authority in the affairs of another apostolic church to settle a dispute. It also provides evidence for the residence and martyrdom of Peter and Paul at Rome.

The letter was well-received by the Corinthians, who for many years used to have it read out in their religious assemblies. Another letter (really a sermon) and other writings bore Clement’s name, but it is now known that they are not his. On the strength of the authentic letter to the Corinthians, Clement is accounted the first of the Apostolic Fathers.

Nothing of his martyrdom or place of death are known. His death may have occurred in exile in the Crimea, but the relics that Saint Cyril brought from there to Rome, after having supposedly miraculously recovered them piece by piece, with the anchor, are unlikely to have been his. These were deposited below the altar of San Clemente on the Coelian.

He is the patron saint of the Guild, Fraternity, and Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity of London, i.e., “Trinity House,” which was formerly called Saint Clement’s, and is the authority responsible for lighthouses and lightships. The legend of his watery martyrdom has also led to such marine dedications as Saint Clement’s Isle in Mount’s Bay (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

In art, Saint Clement can be recognized as a pope with an anchor and fish. Sometimes there is an addition of (1) a millstone; (2) keys; (3) a fountain that sprung forth at his prayers; or (4) with a book. He might be shown lying in a temple in the sea (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 August 2020. Web. 27 November 2020. <>