Churches and Religious heritage in Turin City, Italy

The rich past of religious tradition in the area of Turin has always made it one of the top places for pilgrimages whether following in the tracks of the Social Saints or in discovery of the rich artistic heritage found in the churches, everyone will know to what they are drawn and respond to the discreet spiritual call of Turin’s territory. There are numerous religious buildings in the city of Turin. The vast majority of these are Catholic churches.

Most of the churches in Turin were built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the prevailing architectural style is Baroque but there are examples of Renaissance and Neoclassical styles or of mixtures between one of these and the baroque (type neoclassical facade and baroque body). Figurative arts, architecture, Sacri Monti, music, gardens… these are the ourney through signs and baroque style which history have left testimony of great beauty.

Sacro Monte at Belmonte, a UNESCO world heritage site since 2003, in order to realise how art and nature enrich the paths of spirituality. The province of Turin is a place where different faiths and traditions meet: since the 12th century, the Waldensian Community has been living in the Pellice, Chisone and Germanasca Valleys, while the Jewish Community has been present in Turin since 1424. In recent years, immigrants have further enriched this territory, particularly the Islamic culture.

Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin, also known as the Holy Shroud, is a sheet of linen kept in Turin Cathedral, where you can see the image of a man carrying signs interpreted as due to maltreatment and torture consistent with those described in passion of Jesus. Some people identify the man with Jesus and the sheet with the one used to wrap his body in the tomb.

Torino has always been a city imbued with a mystical atmosphere which, even now, can be breathed during the exposition of the Holy Shroud, the sacred linen in which the body of Christ was wrapped, now held in the renaissance building of St John Cathedral.

The Holy Shroud is a linen cloth in herringbone weave measuring about 4.41×1.13m, containing the double image of the head of a corpse of a man who died after torture, culminating with a crucifixion. This image is surrounded by two singed black lines and a number of parts missing due to a fire at Chambéry in 1532. According to tradition not yet definitively proven it is the cloth mentioned in the Gospels that wrapped the body of Jesus in the tomb.

Historians agree that the history of the Shroud has been documented with sufficient certainty starting from the mid- fourteenth century: the first historical evidence dates back to 1353.

The first certain documentary evidence goes back to the mid 14th century when the knight Geoffroy de Charny laid the sheet in the church he founded in 1353 at Lirey in France. In the first half of the 1400s, during the Hundred Years War, Marguerite de Charny took it with her in her on her travels through Europe until it was received at Chambéry by the Dukes of Savoy who became its owners in 1453 and held it at the Sainte-Chapelle du Saint-Suaire: on 4 December 1532, this chapel was damaged by a fire which caused considerable damage to the Holy Shroud as well, subsequently repaired by the nuns of the Order of Saint Clare in the city. In 1578 Emmanuel Philibert had the relic transferred to Torino in order to offer to Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milano, the opportunity to venerate it, sparing him part of the long journey he would have had to undertake to reach Chambéry. And here it has remained permanently.

After having transferred the capital of the duchy from Chambéry to Turin in 1562, in 1578 the Duke Emanuele Filiberto decided to bring the Shroud there too. The opportunity arises when the archbishop of Milan, San Carlo Borromeo, makes it known that he intends to dissolve the vow he made during the plague epidemic of previous years, to go on a pilgrimage on foot to visit the Shroud. Emanuele Filiberto orders the transfer of the canvas to Turin to shorten his journey, which San Carlo follows in five days.

The Shroud, however, is no longer brought back to Chambéry: since then it will always remain in Turin, except for short trips. In 1694 it was placed in the new Chapel of the Holy Shroud, a specially built chapel, built between the Cathedral and the Royal Palace by the architect Guarino Guarini: this is still its seat today.

In 1706 Turin was besieged by the French and the Shroud was brought to Genoa for a short time; after this episode it will no longer move for over two hundred years, remaining in Turin even during the period of the Napoleonic invasion. Only in 1939, in the imminence of the Second World War, was it hidden in the sanctuary of Montevergine in Campania, where it remained until 1946; this is still his last trip.

On the occasion of the public exhibition of 1898, the Turin lawyer Secondo Pia, passionate about photography, obtained from King Umberto I the permission to photograph the Shroud. Having overcome some technical difficulties, Pia takes two photographs and at the moment of development a surprising fact appears to him: the image of the Shroud on the photographic negative appears “positive”, that is to say that the image itself is actually a negative. The news sparked discussions and sparked the interest of scientists on the Shroud, starting an era of studies that until now has not ended; but there are also those who accuse Pia of having manipulated the plates.

In 1931 a new series of photographs was made, entrusted to Giuseppe Enrie. To avoid controversy, all operations are carried out in the presence of witnesses and certified by a notary. Enrie’s photographs confirm Pia’s discovery and show that there had been no manipulation.

In 1939 the shroud was hidden in Campania, in the abbey of Montevergine, where it remained until 1946 and then returned to Turin. In 1959 the International Center of Sindonology was founded with the aim of promoting studies and research on the Turin Shroud.

In 1973 the first direct scientific studies were carried out, by a commission appointed by Cardinal Michele Pellegrino. A more in-depth study campaign took place in 1978, when the Shroud was made available for five days to two groups of scholars, one from the United States (the STURP) and one from Italy.

In 1983, Umberto II of Savoy, the last king of Italy, died: in his will he bequeathed the Shroud to the Pope. John Paul II established that it remain in Turin and appoints the archbishop of the city as his guardian.

In 1988 three international laboratories perform the carbon 14 examination: the Shroud is dated to the years 1260 – 1390, but the result is contested by numerous sindonologists.

On the night of 11 and 12 April 1997, a raging fire destroyed the 17th century Chapel of the Shroud by Guarino Guarini, even spreading to the north-west tower of Royal Palace at a temperature of over 1,000°C. Fortunately the Holy Shroud was not affected since it had been removed to the Cathedral in 1993 while the Chapel was being restored. However, for safety reasons, it was decided to break the bullet-proof glass case protecting it and to transfer it to the Archbishop’s Palace to avoid the risk of collapse and of possible water damage from the fire hydrants used by the fire brigade.

Over the many years, the tension from the 16th century sewing had made increasingly deep folds in the cloth while organic residues were risk factors for its preservation, and so restoration was undertaken in 2002: the flaps of burnt cloth and the patches by the nuns were removed and, at the same time, studies and investigations were carried out using specially made instruments.

Today the Shroud is kept lying flat and horizontal in a sealed display case – with the internal air replaced by inert gas – made by Alenia Spazio and Microtecnica applying the latest technologies from the aerospace sector, while the upper surface is made up of a multilayer safety glass. The display case is, in turn, protected in a “sarcophagus” of several layers able to ensure considerable mechanical strength and good protection from fire. A computerised system keeps the parameters of the display case under constant control as well as those of the Chapel where it is located (in the left transept of the Cathedral).

For the ‘ Exposition of 2010 began on April 10 and ended on May 23, more than 1 million and 700 thousand pilgrims have booked a visit to the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin.

The last Exposition took place from 18 April to 24 June 2015. The period was longer (67 days) than that of other exhibitions of the Cloth both for the visit of the Pope (which took place on 21 June) and for the concomitance with the celebrations of the Salesian Jubilee.

Since the 20th century, the Catholic Church has chosen not to officially express itself on the question of authenticity, which is not a fundamental subject of faith, leaving it to science to examine the evidence for and against, but authorizes its worship as an icon of the Passion. of Jesus. Several modern popes, from Pope Pius XI to Pope John Paul II, have also expressed their personal conviction in favor of authenticity. The Protestant churches instead consider the veneration of the Shroud, and relics in general, a popular religious manifestation of origin pagan foreign to the Gospel message.

Cappella della Sindone
The task of designing and creating the Chapel to house the Holy Shroud was entrusted in 1667 to Guarino Guarini, one of the leading architects of Baroque in Piedmont, who concluded the work in 1690. The project was based on the idea of the Shroud as the extreme evidence of the mystery of Redemption, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Architecture itself thus becomes the experience of “ascending within death” to the light of divine glory. From 1694 until the early nineties of the twentieth century, the Chapel of the Holy Shroud has guarded the precious relic, now preserved in the transept of Turin’s Cathedral.

During the night between 11 and 12 April 1997, the Chapel was affected by a large fire which seriously damaged the building. After a long and difficult restoration, it is finally returned to the world. THE CHAPEL OF THE HOLY SHROUD REOPENS TO THE PUBLIC ON 27TH SEPTEMBER

Duomo di San Giovanni Battista
The current Duomo, first example of Renaissance architecture in Torino, was commissioned by Bishop Domenico della Rovere on the area of three medieval churches dedicated to the Saviour, St John the Baptist and St Mary. The design was entrusted to the Tuscan architect Meo del Caprina, and it was built between 1491 and 1498. In the 17th century, the building was refurbished by Guarino Guarini, adding the chapel of the Holy Shroud which connects the cathedral to the Royal Palace. The Sant’Andrea tower, finished in 1469, was raised in 1720 by Filippo Juvarra.

The white marble finish of the facade, in which there are three elegant doors, was a break from the contemporary brick finish of other buildings. The inside, in the form of a basilica, has a Latin cross layout with three naves and Gothic elements. The side chapels enclose devotional altars; in the second altar of the right-hand nave, a polyptych of the Compagnia dei Calzolai by Martino Spanzotti and Defendente Ferrari. The side stairs at the end of the presbytery lead to the chapel of the Holy Shroud. Built between 1668 and 1694 to a design by Guarino Guarini, this is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.

Museo della Sindone
The museum – located in Via S. Domenico 28 and in the crypt of the Most Holy Shroud Church – provides full information concerning research on the Shroud from the 16th century to date. Since 1898, many scientists have been trying to explore the ‘meaning’ of the Shroud in order to disclose its underlying mysteries: scientific investigations culminated in the amazing three-dimensional image of the face of the Man of the Shroud, elaborated by Giovanni Tamburelli and his team in 1978. A large space is dedicated to further studies: on the material, the micro-traces, the forensic investigations, on the prints of the coins left on the sheet and on the iconographic analysis.

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Real Church of San Lorenzo
The Real Church of S. Lorenzo, restored for two Ostensions of the Holy Shroud (in 1998 and 2000), offers all visitors, whether frequent or occasional, the absorbing view of this gem by Guarino Guarini. The clergymen of the church of San Lorenzo hope that all will take with them, after having enjoyed everything that Guarini’s creation can offer to the mind and heart, those sentiments of architectural and religious harmony that Guarino Guarini, Theatine father, was able to combine with his genius as an architect and with the faith of a believer.

Chiesa del Santo Sudario
This is the church of the Confraternity, one of Torino’s oldest, built to support and spread the worship of the Holy Shroud and for relief work (assistance to the mentally ill, a service which is still being provided). Now it regularly holds services for celebrating the Confraternity and can be visited as part of the route of the Museum of the Holy Shroud.

Church of San Carlo Borromeo
Together with its «twin» S. Cristina, this church closes the southern side of Piazza San Carlo. The historical home of the Servite Order, it is named after San Carlo Borromeo, the Blessed Archbishop of Milan who showed particular devotion to the Holy Shroud. Emanuele Filiberto brought the Shroud to Torino in 1578 to shorten the journey of the Bishop who, on foot, was going to Chambéry to worship it. The church was built in 1619, but the facade was only finished in 1834 inspired by its neighbouring church, S. Cristina.

Church of San Filippo Neri
One of the designers of this, Torino’s largest historical church, was Guarino Guarini. However, the final refurbishing was by Filippo Juvarra (1714). An enormous vault covers the single nave of the church, and rests on the elliptical side chapels. The church holds the remains of the blessed Sebastiano Valfrè, who was very much devoted to the Holy Shroud (a painting in the church shows him close to the Cloth), advisor to Vittorio Amadeo II and a leading figure in the Resistance of Torino during the siege of 1706.

Other Religious buildings
The buildings of worship in Turin are quite numerous. The vast majority of them are Catholic churches. A historical itinerary, the main route where in the past thousands of faithful from Europe went on a pilgrimage to Rome, the heart of Christianity. Nowadays, the Francigena routes in Piedmont are suggestive paths of faith but also routes suitable for everybody where to enjoy appetizing tastings.

Basilica di Superga – Chiesa
Designed and executed by Filippo Juvarra in 1717-1731, this basilica is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary and holds the tombs of the House of Savoy. According to tradition, it was commissioned by Vittorio Amadeo II in fulfilment of vow taken if there victory against the French, achieved in 1706. Its position – connected visually with the royal palace at Rivoli – was chosen to emphasise the regal dignity of the House of Savoy attained after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). The circular form of the church is topped by a 75-metre high dome and flanked by two bell-towers 60 metres tall. An impressive portico of eight Corinthian columns stands in front of the facade. Inside, the stucco decoration and the marble of the altar and floor create dramatic plays on light. The high altar, whose frame was designed by Filippo Juvarra, is enriched by a marble bas-relief by Bernardino Cametti, which portrays the glorious battle for the liberation of Torino. Paintings and sculpture by Beaumont, Sebastiano Ricci, Carlo Antonio Tantardini, Bernardino Cametti and Agostino Cornacchini decorate the side chapels.

Chiesa del Santo Volto
Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and the first church of the twenty-first century, it consists of seven towers around the perimeter, 35 metres tall, and a post-modern bell-tower which, inside, incorporates the old factory chimney on which the church was built.

Duomo di San Giovanni Battista
The current Duomo, first example of Renaissance architecture in Torino, was commissioned by Bishop Domenico della Rovere on the area of three medieval churches dedicated to the Saviour, St John the Baptist and St Mary. The design was entrusted to the Tuscan architect Meo del Caprina, and it was built between 1491 and 1498. In the 17th century, the building was refurbished by Guarino Guarini, adding the chapel of the Holy Shroud which connects the cathedral to the Royal Palace. The Sant’Andrea tower, finished in 1469, was raised in 1720 by Filippo Juvarra.

The white marble finish of the facade, in which there are three elegant doors, was a break from the contemporary brick finish of other buildings. The inside, in the form of a basilica, has a Latin cross layout with three naves and Gothic elements. The side chapels enclose devotional altars; in the second altar of the right-hand nave, a polyptych of the Compagnia dei Calzolai by Martino Spanzotti and Defendente Ferrari. The side stairs at the end of the presbytery lead to the chapel of the Holy Shroud. Built between 1668 and 1694 to a design by Guarino Guarini, this is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.

Santuario Della Consolata
The sanctuary of Mary the Comforter, closely linked to the worship of the Virgin Mary, has very ancient origins. Dedicated originally to Sant’Andrea, it was already in existence in the 10th century. Of the medieval period there remain the bell-tower and perhaps the underground chapel of Madonna delle Grazie. The radical extensions were designed by Guarino Guarini (1678), while Filippo Juvarra added the oval presbytery (1729). The neoclassical facade dates from 1860; further additions were made in 1899-1904 under the guidance of Carlo Ceppi. The interior is designed to enhance the sumptuous high altar by Juvarra on which there are two adoring angels in white marble by Carlo Antonio Tantardini and the painting of the miraculous Virgin Mary.

Basilica dei Santi Maurizio E Lazzaro (Mauriziana)
Conosciuta anche come “Mauriziana”, la basilica fu edificata sull’area di un tempio preesistente negli anni 1679-99 da Antonio Bettino per la confraternita della Santa Croce. Nel 1729 passò all’ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro. La facciata neoclassica di Carlo Bernardo Mosca ornata dalle statue dei santi cui la chiesa è dedicata realizzate da Giovanni Albertoni e Silvestro Simonetta.

Cappella della Pia Congregazione dei Banchieri e dei Mercanti
This chapel was inaugurated in 1692 and was commissioned by the Congregation of Bankers and Merchants. An important example of public commitment, this jewel of Baroque art was perfectly restored between 1956 and 1957. The chapel is dedicated to the three wise men, depicted in the paintings by Andrea Pozzo, Sebastiano Taricco and Luigi Vannier. Some of the paintings and the decorations and frescoes in the vault are by Legnanino and the sculptures in marbled wood are by Carlo Giuseppe Plura (1707-1715).

Chiesa Bizantina di San Michele Arcangelo
In uso ai cattolici di rito greco-bizantino, fu progettata tra il 1784 e il 1788 dall’architetto Pietro Bonvicini insieme all’intero isolato di cui fa parte (1785-95), in origine destinato ad attività produttive e ad abitazione dei “Maestri fabbricatori in oro, argento e seta”. E’ stata restaurata nel 1967 dopo i danneggiamenti subiti nel corso dell’ultimo conflitto mondiale.

Church of Madonna Del Carmine
The church was built to the plans of Filippo Juvarra between 1732 and 1736 and completed by Agliaudo di Tavigliano, Francesco Benedetto Feroggio and Ignazio Birago di Borgaro. The façade was built in 1872 and then faithfully restored in 1955 after it had suffered serious damage during the Second World War. In the superb apse is the Madonna del Carmine by Claudio Francesco Beaumont (1755-60).

Church of Madonna Del Pilone
This church was built at the request of Maria Cristina of France in 1645 and commemorates a miraculous event which had taken place a year before. The church takes its name from the votive pillar representing the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary to whom the miracle was attributed. The church was subject to extension in 1779 and to some reconstruction in 1817. The interior has a single nave with two lateral chapels. The main altar forms part of another image of the Annunciation dating from 1587.

Church of Misericordia
Erected by the Brotherhood who attended those condemned to death. Neo-classical façade. Mass in Latin.

Church of santissima trinita’
This circular church was built between 1598 and 1606 to the designs of Ascanio Vitozzi who is buried here. The frescoes inside the dome are the work of Francesco Gonin and Luigi Vacca (1844-47). The marble decorations and furnishings are attributed to Filippo Juvarra.

Church of ss. Annunziata
The Church was built between 1648 and 1656 to the plans of Carlo Morello. The modern reconstruction in the Neo-Baroque style is the work of the architects Giuseppe and Bartolomeo Gallo (1919 -32). The main altar was designed by Bernardo Antonio Vittone and the polychrome sculpture of the Addolorata is by Stefano Maria Clemente (1750).

Church of Visitazione
A convent church of the Priests of the Mission (Vincenziani), this is one of the most frequently visited by those who work in the city centre’s office area. A masterpiece by Francesco Lanfranchi, it is in the form of a Greek cross and holds paintings and furnishings of immense artistic interest.

Church of Spirito Santo
Home of the brotherhood of the same name, this church is built behind the Church of Corpus Domini. The building by Giovanni Battista Ferroggio was begun in 1765. It was badly damaged by bombing in 1943 and was then restored in the early 1950s. Of particular note in the interior is the Crocifissione, a group of wooden figures of the Crucifixion by Stefano Maria Clemente (1761).

Church of Nostra Signora Del Suffragio E Santa Zita
This church was built in the Neo-Romanesque style by Edoardo Arborio Mella in 1866 under the direction of Francesco Faà di Bruno. A statue of Our Lady of Suffrage (Nostra Signora del Suffragio) by the sculptor Antonio Tortone is behind the altar of the central nave.

Church of Gran Madre di Dio
Built in 1818 to celebrate the return of the Savoys to their estates, after the fall of the Napoleonic empire. It is modelled on the Pantheon in Rome (design by F. Bonsignore). It is reached up a majestic flight of stairs, dominated at the top by the statues of Faith and of Religion. Beneath the church is the Ossuary of those killed in the First World War.

Church of San Dalmazzo
This church is adjacent to the ex-friary of the Barnabites and has a 16th Century façade which was restored in 1702. The church has the form of a basilica with three naves. The decoration on the interior walls is the result of the revived taste for medieval decoration in the late 18th Century and is the work of Enrico Reffo and his school.

Church of San Francesco D’assisi
The original building dating back to the 13th century has undergone reconstruction which began in 1608. The present structure is by Bernardo Antonio Vittore assisted by Mario Ludovico Quarini and dates from 1761. In the interior of the church the main altar is in polychrome marble and designed by Vittone and the altarpiece representing La vergine con il Bambino e i Santi Anna, Francesco e Caterina (The Virgin with Child and the Saints Anna, Francesco and Caterina) is attributed to Federico Zuccari.

Church of San Francesco da Paola
The building of the church and the convent annexe was begun in 1632 to plans attributed to Andrea Costaguta. The interior is built to a rectangular plan with a single nave and six lateral chapels. The construction of the main altar was carried out between 1664 and 1665 by Tomaso Carlone to a design by Amedeo di Castellamonte.

Church of San Francesco di Sales
Formerly a convent church for the Sacrementine nuns, built in 1843 in neoclassical style, it holds a red damask chasuble made from the cloth on which the Holy Shroud was placed during the Ostension in 1933.

Church of San Giuseppe
Built towards the end of the 17th century (architect, Lanfranchi), it faces onto Via Santa Teresa and is home to the Camilliani community (ministries to the infirm).

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