Postcard from Turin, Italy: Where the donkey fell, the Holy Spirit rose

A quick glance at several churches:

During one of the periods when the Duchy of Savoy was failing to get along with French cousins, the French rudely plundered a town and its church outside of Turin.

On the Feast Day of Corpus Christi in 1453, the scavengers brought their seized riches into the plaza of Turin to sell. A donkey bearing the ciborium containing the sacramental hosts fell. The Holy Spirit rose up from the saddle bag and illuminated the plaza. An obvious miraculous sign indicating the site for construction of a church.

Replacing an older church on the spot, the “new” Basilica del Corpus Domini was built in 1607 with later Baroque interior remodeling.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark 10:35

Charitably showing their devotion to God – and perhaps an unwillingness to worship with those less successful – the Pious Congregation of Banks, Shopkeepers and Merchants established their own church for “encounter and prayer” in 1692. With an entrance almost hidden down a hallway in a building in, appropriately, Turin’s shopping district, Capella dei Mercanti is noted for its vault with frescos by Stefano Maria Legnani (1661-1713) and paintings by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709).

Postcard from Turin, Italy: Glancing at a few of her monumental personalities

This is a quick walk by some of the public sculptures found along the streets of Turin. Oh, and in the immense Museo Egizio, which unfairly is getting short shrift.

With 30,000 artifacts, the Egyptian Museum is home of one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world.

Charles Emanuele III (1701-1773), Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia, commissioned a botanist to travel to Egypt in 1753. The botanist returned with 300 items from Karnak and Coptos to form the original base of the collection.

While the museum remains in the original building designed to house it, the interior was updated dramatically for the 2006 Olympics and its exhibition floors were redone in 2015. The displays are stunning.

Postcard from Turin, Italy: Museum housed in palace transformed by extravagant tastes of royal widows

When the House of Savoy chose a site for a new castle in Turin in the early 14th century, the rulers took advantage of the original protective Palatine gate and towers constructed under the rule of Emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD).

In 1637, Regent Maria Christina (1606-1663) chose the castle as her personal residence and remodeled the palace to suit her tastes. Six decades later, the Parisian-born widow of her son, Charles Emanuele II (1634-1675), made the palace her own.

Marie Jeanne Baptiste (1644-1724) ruled as regent for her son, Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732). The young king encountered some difficulties ending his mother’s interference in the kingdom’s affairs, finally wrenching full control from her in 1684).

Like her mother-in-law, Marie Jeanne was known as Madama Reale, and their sumptuous residence was referred to as Palazzo Madama. Among the extensive changes she commissioned were a southern veranda and chinoiserie embellishments fashionable at the time. Architect Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) began to transform the palace for her by designing an elegant white stone Baroque façade, but construction was halted in 1710 before she could alter more than one side of the palace lording over Piazzo Castello. At the time of her death, Madama Reale was not only the mother of the King of Sardinia but also grandmother of two other royal monarchs – King Louis I (1707-1724) of Spain and King Louis XV (1710-1774) of France.

Later, the palace served as the Royal Art Gallery, as the first home of the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy and, since 1934, as the home of as Turin’s Museum of Ancient Art, Museo Civico d’Arte Antica.