The Esquiline and Lateran

In ancient times the largest of Rome’s seven hills was almost entirely residential, consisting mostly of upper-class villas. The western slope of the quarter, just behind the Imperial Fora was considered rather unhealthy as it was densely populated – the massive wall at the back of the Fora was intended to keep the squalid slum out. However, in the 4th century, this zone became central to the development of Christianity. In setting up the religion as the official faith, Constantine did not dare step on too many pagan toes, so he established Christian centres outside of town, on the sites of holy tombs. The main one was what is now San Giovanni in Laterano (Saint John in Lateran). Other churches quickly followed, culminating ...

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