Turin: the Church of San Lorenzo and its secret
Royal Church of San Lorenzo

My job changed me. I have always been curious and have always loved to travel “in detail”. To be clear, I will NEVER make 7 capitals in 7 days!

Today I took advantage of a family friend, passionate about art and history who lives in Turin and who “revealed” a secret to me. But I’ll talk to you about it in a moment. Let’s go in order.

The Royal Church of San Lorenzo

Let me say that Italy is literally crowded with art and beauty. And that the genius of those who lived in this land during the past centuries has given us enormous wealth. That unfortunately, sometimes, we do not know and do not value enough!

A small mention of the history of Turin

Turin, end of the 16th century. Turin was a small city that did not reach 20,000 inhabitants. Few remarkable buildings: the Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace. A small medieval church, Santa Maria ad Praesepem, now incorporated into the current Church of San Lorenzo. Transformed into the Oratory of Our Lady of Sorrows, today we see it as the atrium of San Lorenzo.

Emanuele Filiberto, makes the vow to build a church in honor of San Lorenzo, in memory of the victory of San Quintino. He was unable to fulfill his vow due to lack of funds. So he decides to dedicate the small church I told you about to San Lorenzo. But that became important because they exhibited the Holy Shroud in October 1578. The intention was to move it to Turin from Chambery to facilitate the journey of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, who had made a vow to go on foot to venerate the holy relic. Surely there was an interest in making Turin an important center!

During the actual creation of the city of Turin, delegated to Ascanio Vittozzi, the Palazzo Ducale, Piazza Castello and various buildings with elegant and orderly facades were created.

Finally, with Vittorio Amedeo I, in 1634, the construction of the church of San Lorenzo began, to extinguish the vow made by Emanuele Filiberto. Architect Carlo di Castellamonte. Two years later the work was assigned to Guarino Guarini who completed it. Not the facade that will never be built.

Coming to the construction of the Church

The project is complicated by various “problems”. Practically the Church had no way to get light from anywhere. It was in fact incorporated between the old Church, which could not be demolished, Palazzo Chiablese and the houses of the Teatini. So a Church that could not have windows!

Here the Genius comes into action: A Church that would take the light only from its dome. A masterpiece that would have been higher than the surrounding palaces.

Another brilliant idea was to “sell” the Chapels inside the Church to important families. With a marketing action (the purists of art history will forgive me!) worthy of one of our current best consultants. To be present in the Church where the Shroud would have been kept, built by the royal family… the notables pay handsomely and finish with pomp six chapels inside the Church.

The secret of the Church of San Lorenzo

Guarino Guarini, the architect to whom we owe the Church of San Lorenzo, was a skilled architect, who was also passionate about astronomy.

The chapels that stand at the four corners of the Church have a porthole in the center, which this morning I was told is called Oculo.

The portholes of the chapels are dark and can go unnoticed almost all year round.  Twice a year, at the Spring and Autumn Equinox, around noon, sunlight enters the dome at the top and hits the porthole next to the altar. Magically or, it would be better to say, ingeniously a secret fresco appears. The same play of light with the relative appearance of another fresco occurs in the porthole of the chapel opposite it.

Twice a year and we are on the right days. This wonder lasts about ten days and we must take advantage of the sunny days to see it!

Light Games

If you are not able to pass by the church of San Lorenzo during these magical days, remember, however, to note the play of light that appears when the sun shines in the sky: Rainbows that form on the various statues will make you remain open-mouthed.

San Lorenzo Light games

Industrial archaeology

To end our visit to Turin in style, a quick lunch, but I also wanted to visit another place that intrigued me. The Officine Grandi Riparazioni.

A late 19th century industrial complex in the heart of Turin. Their history goes hand in hand with Turin for about a century. At the beginning of the 90’s the closure and the risk of demolition.  In 2013 the CRT Foundation buys the building and begins a major renovation.

Thus a very interesting space was created inside the Cathedral of Turin’s industrial history. An avant-garde architecture with a remarkable respect in preserving the charm of the old industry.

A very large space that becomes every week a venue for events, exhibitions and initiatives of all kinds. Worth a visit!

In the restaurant/bistro inside there are interesting dishes in a space that satisfies the view … and the palate!

Turin can be the beginning or the end of a wonderful Tour in Piedmont. Do you have my contacts? Write to me and I can help you to create your Tour and your secret places!

A little taste of the tour


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