Saint Clement of Rome, Pope & Martyr

Saint Clement was the disciple of S. Peter and S. Paul, and the third Pope. He is also considered as one of the Fathers of the Church, and the same person to whom S. Paul alludes in his epistle to the Philippians (Chapter 4.3), “I entreat thee, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel; with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life.”

According to the legendary story of S. Clement, he presided over the church at Rome for many years, converting numbers of people to the true faith, and amongst others Domitilla, the niece of the Emperor Domitian, and another noble Roman lady whose name was Theodora. Through the protection of Domitilla, his wife was secure during the reign of Domitian. In the year 100, under Trajan, began the third general persecution, which was the more afflicting because this emperor was in other respects famous for his humanity and his justice.

The prefect who governed Rome, during the absence of Trajan on his expedition against the Dacians, commanded Clement to be brought before him, and on his refusal to sacrifice to the false gods he ordered him to be banished to an island whither many convicts were sent and obliged to work in the quarries of stone. There did many Christians already sigh in chains, and several voluntarily accompanied the good bishop, willing to partake of his banishment. Clement found the unhappy prisoners not only condemned to hard labour, but suffering cruelly from the want of water, which they had to bring from a distance of ten miles. The saint, moved with compassion, knelt down and prayed; and, raising his eyes, he suddenly saw a lamb standing upon the summit of a rising ground, which, remaining invisible to all beside himself, he knew could be none other than the Lamb of God; therefore S. Clement took up a pickaxe, and went before the people to the hill, and, digging there, a clear and abundant stream gushed forth, to the great consolation of the people. This miracle only the more incensed his enemies, and they ordered him to be bound to an anchor and cast into the sea. But short was their triumph; for, at the prayer of the Christian disciples, the sea withdrew for the space of three miles, and they discovered a little ruined temple which had been formerly buried by the waters: and, wonderful to relate, within it was found the body of S. Clement with the anchor round his neck; and, as it is related by credible witnesses, this miracle did not happen only once, but every year at the anniversary of his martyrdom the sea retired during seven days, leaving a dry path for those who went to honour the relics of the saint in this new species of submarine tomb. And this lasted for many years; and many authors, who affirm this miracle, also relate, that a certain woman, accompanied by her son, being at prayer within the temple, her child fell asleep, and the sea rising suddenly the mother fled, leaving him behind in her fear, and when she reached the shore she wrung her hands, weeping bitterly, and passed that year in great affliction. The next year, returning to pay her devotions at the shrine, to her joyful surprise she found her son there, sleeping, just as she had left him.

S. Clement, in the devotional pictures, appears habited as Pope, sometimes with the tiara, but generally without it; an anchor at his side, or a small anchor suspended round his neck. In the ancient mosaic in his church at Rome (12th century) he is thus represented seated by S. Peter and holding the anchor in his hand. In the frescoes of the little chapel on the wall opposite to the life of S. Catherine, Masaccio or one of his scholars painted a series of the life of S. Clement, now in a most ruined state; we can distinguish the scene of the flood, and S. Clement discovering the fountain of living waters to his thirsty and fainting disciples. The other subjects are scarcely to be recognised. In England there are forty-seven churches dedicated to S. Clement.

—from Sacred & Legendary Art, Volume II,
by Mrs. Jameson

Some Clementine Traditions

Saint Clement, whose emblem is an anchoris the patron saint of anchor-smiths and blacksmiths, and he is also one of the several saints invoked by seamen. This is because according to tradition he was martyred by drowning about A.D. 100, being thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor tied to his neck. On his feast day, 23rd November, smiths used to honour his memory by exploding powder on their anvils, firing guns, and holding a feast at night which as known as the Clem Feast. At Woolwich, until at least as late as the first half of the last century, blacksmiths’ apprentices in the dockyard chose one of their number to act as Old Clem. He wore a beard and a wig: his face was masked, and he carried a pair of tongs and a wooden hammer as emblems of his trade. A wooden anvil was borne before him in the procession; banners, tomahawks and battle-axes, drum-and-fife players, and six strong men supporting the stout wooden chair in which Old Clem himself rode.

A contemporary account of the festivities, printed in 1826, describes how the company went round the town, “stopping and refreshing at nearly every public house, not forgetting to call on the blacksmiths and officers of the dockyard: there the money-box is pretty freely handed, after Old Clem and his mate have recited their speeches…” The evening ended with a jovial supper and, doubtless, a good deal of hard drinking at one of the local inns.

In another account there is mention of children and young people also going round Clementing in much the same way as they went Catterning two days later on S. Catherine’s Day. They visited the houses of the parish, singing songs that began “Clemeny clemeny, year by year,” or “Clementsing Clementsing, apples and pears,” and demanding the usual largesse of apples, beer, and whatever else they could get. Sometimes the boys added colour to the proceeding by carrying lighted turnip lanterns of the Hallowtide pattern.

At Ripon, on or near the anniversary, Cathedral choristers went round the church, offering to everyone presents – an apple with a sprig of box stuck in it, and were rewarded by small money-gifts.

Statue of Saint Clement

The statue was given to the Parish by Father Joiner on the occasion of his silver jubilee in the Priesthood, May 1943. The statue is from Italy and is of wood. Robert Robbins acquired the statue for Father Joiner and also did the polychroming. The statue was originally of S. Nicholas, but became S. Clement with the addition of a small boat, one of his symbols.

 

Saint Clement Carol

1 It was about November-tide
A long, long time ago,
When good S. Clement testified
The faith that now we know.
Right boldly then, he said his say,
Before a furious king;
And therefore on S. Clement’s Day
We go a-Clementing.

2 Work in the mines they gave him then,
To try the brave old saint:
And there two thousand Christian men
With thirst were like to faint.
He prayed a prayer, and out of clay
He made the waters spring,
And therefore on S. Clement’s Day
We go a-Clementing.

3 An anchor ‘round his neck, they tied,
And cast him in the sea;
And bravely as he lived he died,
And gallantly went free.
He rests a many miles away,
Yet here his name we sing,
As all upon S. Clement’s Day
We go a-Clementing.

4 Our fathers kept it long ago,
And their request we make
Good Christians, one small mite bestow,
For sweet S. Clement’s sake:
And make this feast as glad and gay
As if it came in spring,
When all upon S. Clement’s Day
We go a-Clementing.

 

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