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The Basilica of Corpus Domini in Turin, located in the historic city center halfway between Piazza Castello and Piazza Palazzo di Città, was built to commemorate the Eucharistic Miracle believed to have occurred in 1453.

Everything begins with a plundering incident in the small fortified village of Exilles in the Val di Susa during one of the wars between Piedmont and France. The most popular and patriotic version recounts French soldiers looting Exilles while en route to Turin. However, historical documents indicate that Exilles was actually under French dominion during that period. Therefore, it is much more likely that the plundering was carried out by the Piedmontese during an attempt to conquer the village.

Due to its strategic location on the road connecting Turin to France, Exilles possessed an important fortress. Considering this characteristic, it frequently changed hands between Piedmont and France. Thus, this uncertainty is not unusual.

Basilica of Corpus Domini

The miracle

Certainly, the looting occurred, and even the village church suffered the consequences. History tells us that the soldiers went to Turin to sell the stolen objects, arriving in the city on June 6th. They headed to Piazza Palazzo di Città, where a market was held at that time. While crossing the market, the mule carrying the loot slipped and fell, spilling all the objects on the ground. One of the items taken from the church contained consecrated hosts. Upon touching the ground, it opened, and a host rose into the sky, illuminating the square. When the bishop arrived, the host was placed in the stolen chalice, which was then taken to the Cathedral.

Basilica of Corpus Domini
The place of the miracle

The host was venerated for about forty years. It was later consumed by order of the Holy See, so as not to obligate God to perform a continuous miracle, preserving it intact.

Not only the host but also the chalice was preserved. Until World War II, it was kept in the Church of Corpus Domini. During the war, Don Luigi Benna, had a niche carved into a wall of the Cathedral to secure it. Unfortunately, the priest died in 1944, never revealing the exact location to anyone. Even though it seems strange, it has not been found so far.

The construction

The construction of the Basilica del Corpus Domini was decided to commemorate the Eucharistic miracle. After many twists and turns, in 1603, Ascanio Vittozzi was asked to design the basilica. Interestingly, the original design was subsequently modified by both Carlo di Castellamonte and Benedetto Alfieri. Additionally, the most recent restoration took place in the 1950s due to damage inflicted during World War II.

The interior consists of a single nave, with a central plaque surrounded by an iron gate that marks the exact spot where the miracle occurred, while the altar remains the original one from 1600.

The Corpus Domini and Giuseppe Cottolengo

In the chapel to the right, next to the entrance, there is a statue of Giuseppe Cottolengo, which commemorates another important event that took place in this church.

Giuseppe Cottolengo served as a priest at the Basilica del Corpus Domini. On September 2, 1827, he was called to assist a French woman who was pregnant and ill, and whom all hospitals had turned away.

Ospedaletto della Volta Rossa

Unfortunately, the woman passed away, leaving the priest disheartened and with a consequent sense of helplessness. Upon returning to the basilica, Cottolengo had a vision. Mary suggested to him to create a shelter for the most needy. With the help of the canons from the church, he quickly managed to rent four beds in two rooms just a few steps from the church (via Palazzo di città 19).

On January 17, 1828, Cottolengo opened the Ospedaletto della Volta Rossa. It was named after the characteristic color of the entrance gate’s vault.

In 1831, due to a cholera epidemic and the risk of contagion, the tenants requested its closure. However, Cottolengo did not lose heart, and a year later, he opened the Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza in Borgo Dora.

To this day, the Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza, commonly known as Cottolengo, is a civil and ecclesiastical institution that cares for the weakest and poorest, with locations in various countries.

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