St. Clement Says Mass with the Wife of Sisinnius

9th century
Church of St. Clement, Rome

In the middle register of this image we see Clement celebrating Mass. On the left are deacons and two smaller figures (children?). On the right are lay figures, with the wife of Sisinnius in front with the gold-colored garment. To the right of her are Sisinnius and his servant, reacting in astonishment to Sisinnius' loss of sight and hearing. This is an episode from the Golden Legend's life of St. Clement.

The lower register shows another episode, in which Sisinnius orders his servants to tie up the saint. But their vision is deluded, and they tie up a stone column instead. This gives Clement an opportunity to comment on the spiritual blindness that is the root of their problem: "To things that are stones you give the name of gods, so you deserve to drag stones" (Ryan II, 170).

The upper register (only partly visible here) presents the ordination of Clement as Pope. Along the bottom one can read the names of the participants: LINVS   PETRVS on the left and CLETVS on the right of the central portrait of Clement. According to the Golden Legend, Peter wanted Clement to succeed him as bishop of Rome but Clement allowed Linus and Cletus to serve as the second and third bishops respectively.

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More of St. Clement

Source: Leonardo Boyle, O.P., via Wikimedia Commons