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Cover photo by Michele Giannone
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Piazza Savoia, located in the historic center of Turin, between Via Corte d’Appello and Via della Consolata, is commonly known as the Obelisk Square. It is dedicated to the Savoia region, not, as is often mistakenly believed, to the ruling House of Savoy.

La piazza

In ancient times, this area housed the Roman gate known as Segusina or Susina, which led travelers toward the Susa Valley. The gate was demolished in 1585 to accommodate planned urban expansions, leaving a simple square called Piazza Segusina.

In 1713, Michelangelo Garove designed the current layout of the square. The project envisioned elegant palaces surrounding the square, with Palazzo Paesana being the most significant.

Piazza Savoia
Piazza Savoia

During the Napoleonic period, it was named Place de France. Upon the return of the Savoy family, it was renamed Piazza Paesana due to its proximity to the homonymous palace. Finally, in 1860, it was dedicated to the French region of Savoia.

Notably, during that time, the square served as a market area primarily for secondhand goods, earning the nickname “merca’ dij busiard” (market of liars).

The obelisk in Piazza Savoia

The most interesting story about the square undoubtedly revolves around its obelisk, which commemorates the Siccardi Laws of 1850. These laws, advocated by Senator Giuseppe Siccardi, abolished ecclesiastical privileges.

Piazza Savoia
Piazza Savoia – The obelisk

The project to honor the enactment of the laws with an obelisk was promoted in 1851 by the Gazzetta del Popolo through a fundraising initiative.

The obelisk was designed by the sculptor Luigi Quarenghi. Standing at 21 meters, it is made of granite and was inaugurated in 1853.

Its location sparked heated discussions. Symbolizing anticlericalism, it seems to challenge the nearby Consolata Sanctuary, one of Turin’s main places of devotion. It also contrasts with the pious works of Giulia di Barolo, a very religious woman whose palace is nearby.

One of the inscriptions on the obelisk precisely recalls the abolition of ecclesiastical privileges by the laws. The names of the 800 municipalities that contributed to the monument’s construction are inscribed on its four sides.

Damaged during World War II by mortar fire, it was restored after the conflict ended. Additional cleaning work on the monument has also been carried out.

Engraving on the obelisk

The time capsule

During the laying of the cornerstone on June 17, 1852, the base was inscribed with the numbers 141 and 142 from the Gazzetta del Popolo, containing articles about the construction of the obelisk. Additionally, a copy of the Siccardi Laws, some coins, rice seeds, breadsticks (grissini), and a bottle of Barbera wine were placed within the base.