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Official Web site: Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice
Cover photo by Lucia Ranieri
Article photos by Enzo Traversi

The Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice is characterized by an extensive area known as Valdocco, named after the adjacent neighborhood. It was founded on the initiative of Saint John Bosco.

Don Bosco dedicated his entire life to working with disadvantaged youth and young boys, particularly those from the Porta Palazzo area. In 1841, in this peripheral part of the city, he managed to rent Francesco Pinardi’s farmhouse and transform it into the center of his activities

A few years later, with the help of Giulia di Barolo, Don Bosco managed to acquire some land and expand the center. Soon, the center began to be called “Tettoia Pinardi”, eventually becoming what today can be likened to an oratory.

Between 1850 and 1852, a small church was also erected, which can still be reached today through the inner courtyard.

Maria Ausiliatrice

Over the years, the area expanded significantly, becoming the center of the emerging Salesian congregation.

The structure was capable of accommodating religious individuals, pilgrims, and, of course, the boys who were at the heart of Don Bosco’s mission.

In 1865 the idea of building a basilica for Maria Ausiliatrice (Our Lady Help of Christians) was born.

The project was entrusted to the architect Antonio Spezia who brought it to completion. Finally, the Basilica was inaugurated on 9 June 1868.

The structure follows neoclassical architecture, characterized by grand proportions, geometric simplicity, and references to ancient Greek and Roman styles. It features a prominent dome and a tympanum supported by four columns. Adjacent to these columns stand statues of Saint Maximus and Saint Francis de Sales, who served as inspirations for Don Bosco in establishing the Salesian Order.

Maria Ausiliatrice

The interior

The interior is instead based on a Latin cross plan. Above the tabernacle, there is a large painting by Tommaso Lorenzone depicting Mary Help of Christians, wanted by Don Bosco himself.

Given the dimensions, for its realization, Lorenzone rented the highest hall of Palazzo Madama for three years.

The decorations are of more recent origin, commissioned by Don Bosco’s successor: Blessed Michele Rua.

Maria Ausiliatrice

In addition to the main altar with the painting, there are three other altars. The first on the right is dedicated to Santa Maria Mazzarello, who co-founded the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians with Don Bosco. On the left, there is a chapel with an altar dedicated to San Domenico Savio, a student of Don Bosco and the protector of young people. Having died at the age of fifteen, the chapel houses his remains.

Continuing down the nave, on the left, we find the altar dedicated to San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph). This is the only one that remains from Don Bosco’s original intentions.

However, the most significant is the monumental altar dedicated to San Giovanni Bosco, created by Mario Cedarini. This altar is a true monument and houses the body of the saint venerated by the faithful.

The relics of Maria Ausiliatrice

Inside the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice, there is a staircase on the right that leads to the Chapel of Relics. In this crypt, the point that Mary indicated to Don Bosco in a dream to begin the construction of the basilica is clearly identified.

Moreover, a fragment of the wood from the cross of Christ is preserved there. This unique relic connects the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice with the Duomo and the Gran Madre di Dio. The former houses the Holy Shroud, while the latter is believed to provide clues for finding the Holy Grail. According to tradition, these three relics are always located in the same place.