Then & now

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The Independent Online
1903: 'All about stretches the vast humming city of low-built houses covering the short steep hills and filling all the hollow between. North-eastward lies the seething Suburra; the yellow river runs beyond the Velabrum and the cattle market to the west; southward rise the enchanted palaces of Caesar; due east is the Esquiline of evil fame, redeemed and made lovely with trees and fountains by Maecenas, but haunted even today, say modern Romans, by spectres of murderers and thieves who died bloody deaths of quivering torture. All around, the ever-increasing crowds move inward to the Forum, the Centre of the Empire, the middle of the world . . . The principal church of Monti also held pre-eminence over others. The Basilica of Saint John Lateran was entitled 'Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and of the World'; and it took its name from a rich Roman family, whose splendid house stood on the same spot as far back as the early days of the Empire. Even Juvenal speaks of it. Overthrown by earthquake, erected again, twice burned and rebuilt, it seems destined to stand on the same spot for ages, playing monument to an obscure family of rich citizens whose name should have been almost lost, but can never be forgotten now.' (Ave Roma Immortalis, by Francis Marion Crawford, Macmillan)

28 July, 1993: Car bombs explode in Rome, destroying the Church of San Giorgio in Velabro (the Velabrum), near the Roman Forum, and damaging the Church of St John Lateran. The explosions, coinciding with blasts that killed five people in Milan, came two months after similar attacks in the capital and in Florence.

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