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Cover photo by Michela Rendano
Other photos by Web

The Church of San Domenico is located in the historic center at the corner of Via Milano and Via San Domenico. This church holds significant historical interest as one of the few remaining examples from the medieval era. Apart from San Domenico, only the Cathedral (Church of San Giovanni) and the buildings around Piazza 4 Marzo have survived.

The Dominicans constructed the church between 1227 and 1280. It originally included a convent built around 1260. Interestingly, the facade was only completed in 1334, while the bell tower was added a century later in 1451. The church is built in Gothic style and features three naves with side altars and two chapels flanking the main altar.

During the 1908 restoration, the Annunziata Chapel (on the left side) revealed a fragmented cycle of frescoes. Despite their condition, these frescoes are the sole surviving examples from the 14th century in Turin.

Church of San Domanico and Holy Inquisition

Located in the heart of Turin, this church served as the seat of the Inquisition tribunal starting from 1257. However, in the Savoy State, the Inquisition was not as severe as in other regions, although there were certainly several convictions. Sentences were executed in Piazza Castello.

Church of San Domenico
Church of San Domenico

Let’s delve into some notable events related to the Church of San Domenico and the Inquisition:

  1. Goffredo Varaglia: A Waldensian, former Capuchin friar, and theologian, he was hanged and burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his beliefs. A plaque now marks the spot where this tragic event occurred, placed by the City of Turin in 2000.
  2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: In 1728, the Inquisition Tribunal of Turin compelled the young Rousseau to abandon Calvinism and convert to Catholicism.
  3. Inquisitors’ Challenges: The Inquisitors faced opposition from the people, sometimes with extreme consequences. For instance, Blessed Pietro Cambiano of Russia, an Inquisitor in Turin, was killed in 1365 in the Val di Susa by a group of heretics.

Finally, in 1799, all Inquisition tribunals were abolished by the Duke’s decree. Thus, this history spans over 540 years.

San Domenico and the Inquisition

The historical association between San Domenico (St. Dominic) and the Inquisition is intriguing. However, it appears that he had no direct involvement in this practice. San Domenico passed away in 1221, while the Inquisition’s establishment occurred a decade later.

San Domenico Church – Frescoes The connection likely arises from the fact that in 1231, Pope Gregory IX appointed many inquisitors from the Dominican order. Additionally, during the 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition promoted San Domenico as an executor of sentences issued by the Inquisition Tribunal.

Church of San Domenico
Church of San Domenico

In the subsequent centuries, those opposing the Inquisition often used San Domenico’s image as a symbol for their protests. These events collectively solidified San Domenico’s status as an icon and symbol of the pontifical Inquisition.

In reality, San Domenico (originally from Spain) first founded a female religious community, which still exists today. Later, he successfully established the male order of the Friars Preachers (Dominicans). Both communities aimed to travel across Europe, preaching and spreading the word.

Today, San Domenico is revered as the patron saint of scientists and astronomers. Notably, several places have chosen him as their protector. In Italy, Bologna stands out—where he lived, died, and is buried in the basilica named after him. Abroad, Santo Domingo in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic (with its capital, Santo Domingo) also honor San Domenico, reflecting his Spanish name.