Like many here in Rome, we were awoken in the early hours of this morning by shaking beds, rattling doors, and the sounds of car alarms.
An earthquake had hit the Eternal City — one of the most serious to do so for many years.
But what we experienced in Rome was nothing compared to the suffering inflicted on the inhabitants of L’Aquila, the quake’s epicentre just 53 miles from Rome.
Measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, the quake has so far claimed at least 92 people, including five children. That figure is expected to rise, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. At least 6,000 people who have been left homeless will be fed in L’Aquila’s soccer stadium later Monday. L’Aquila is a town of 70,000 inhabitants in the mountainous Abruzzo region.
In a statement addressed to Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L’Aquila on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, spoke of the ‘‘dramatic news’’ of the quake that ‘‘filled the Pope’s soul with consternation.”
“His Holiness invokes the Lord’s comfort for their families,” Cardinal Bertone said, adding that the Pope was “praying for the victims and, in particular, for the children.”
The Holy Father also gave words of encouragement to the emergency services and bestowed on all the affected a special apostolic blessing.
Rome is subject to occasional minor tremors, but most of them go unnoticed.
Reports say the dome of L’Aquila cathedral was badly damaged, but ANSA reports that Rome’s archaeological heritage was left largely untouched by Monday’s quake.
The Terme di Caracalla had suffered damage that still had to be quantified, but the Forum and Colosseum were unscathed, the archeological superintendent, Angelo Bottini, said. ‘‘But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to have a complete and detailed picture,’’ Bottini said.
Monday’s earthquake occurred about five hours after a 4.6 magnitude quake shook Italy’s north central region near Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region.