Updated: Oct 15
I've told you about ancient churches...from Brussels to Aachen. I have another super cool one to tell you about: The Lasagna Church.
Grab your morning coffee and I'll take you back in time with me.
During our last trip to Rome, we were with Marissa-- a gorgeous archeologist, with long brown hair and a thick Italian accent. She looked like the real-life female lead in a Dan Brown novel. You know…the incredibly intelligent woman who ends up tangled in Robert Langdon’s latest adventure? We’d just left the Coliseum’s “backstage” area beneath the floor of the arena—where gladiators awaited battles, often to the death.
After a short walk along the cobblestone streets, Marissa stopped outside of a rather plain-looking church, St. Clement Basilica. I had no idea its faded yellow walls hid what could almost be considered a time machine.
"Whoa...what’s the rush?" I whispered as she raced through the 12th century basilica and down a flight of stairs.
It was then I realized we were traveling back in time.
Hidden BENEATH the medieval basilica was another church—this one built in the 4th century.
Painted frescoes decorated the dark, underground space. I noticed the craftsmanship of the brick walls were more primitive, even to my untrained eye, than those of the church built above it.
“Follow me,” Marissa insisted, leading the way even further back in time.
After descending another flight of stairs, we stopped in the 2nd century AD.
Here, we stumbled upon an actual pagan temple dedicated to the god Mithra— its stone altar positioned in the middle of the room.
My eyes widened, noticing that instead of being even more primitive, the ancient brick walls were skillfully built. To this day, I can't help but wonder how much knowledge was truly lost during the Dark Ages.
In the distance, I heard water flowing.
Curious, I asked where it was coming from.
With a grin, Marissa led me still further back in time...now to the 1st century...where the main sewer of Ancient Rome still flows.
Stop and think about that for a moment.
The main sewer of Ancient Rome still flows deep beneath a totally non-descript looking church.
The Fire of Rome, 18 July 64 AD' by Hubert Robert, 1733-1808 CE.
Legend says that in 64 AD, Emperor Nero played a fiddle while Rome burnt to the ground. Many of the destroyed buildings were filled in and used as foundations for the new construction. The one Marissa and I stood in is believed to have once been the Imperial Mint before it was destroyed by the Great Fire. A mansion and apartments were then built in that spot and later several churches, each one layered atop the last— like a lasagna.
As I stared down at the dirt floor, I couldn’t help but imagine the sort of people who’d walked that very spot two thousand years ago; perhaps a young runaway slave being pursued by a ruthless slave trader or a wise old philosopher on his way to advise some long-forgotten senator.