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Official Web site: Santuario della Consolata

The Santuario della Consolata, commonly known as the Basilica of Santa Maria della Consolazione, is the oldest place of worship in the city. It is also the patron saint of the city, along with San Giovanni Battista.

Origin of the Consolata

The sanctuary stands on the remains of one of the corner towers of the Roman walls. The first church on record dates back to the 5th century. It was dedicated to Saint Andrew and housed an image of the Madonna within a chapel. Around the year 1000, the church was renovated in Romanesque style, featuring three naves, a cloister, and a bell tower. This bell tower is currently the oldest monument in Turin after the Roman remains, although it is no longer part of the main body of the building.

The miracle

During the expansion of the church, the original painting of the Madonna was lost. A blind man named Giovanni Ravacchio arrived on a pilgrimage, claiming that he had seen the Madonna first in a dream and then as an apparition. She guided him to where the painting could be recovered from the church’s underground chambers. It is said that the painting was rediscovered on June 20, 1104. Miraculously, upon its recovery, the blind man regained his sight. As a result of this miracle, the church was bestowed with the title of Basilica. Although there are no historical documents confirming this event, inside the church, there is a plaque from 1595 that commemorates this occurrence.

Santuario della Consolata

Consolata expansion

The Santuario della Consolata underwent several expansions and renovations throughout its history. Let’s explore these significant developments:

  • 1448 Expansion (Benedictine Order):
    • In 1448, the church was expanded under the commission of the Benedictine Order.
    • Later, it was transferred to the Cistercian Order in 1589.
  • 1678 Renovation by Guarino Guarini:
    • Starting from 1678, the sanctuary underwent a major renovation ordered by Madama Reale Maria Giovanna Battista.
    • The architect Guarino Guarini transformed it into a Baroque-style church.
    • The works were completed by 1703.
    • During the challenging days of the 1706 Siege of Turin, the Santuario della Consolata became a crucial reference point. Despite its vulnerable position near the city walls, it miraculously remained mostly unscathed.
    • A visible reminder of this period is a lodged projectile in the dome, which unfortunately bears the incorrect date of 1704 on the surrounding plaque.
  • Filippo Juvarra’s Contributions (1729-1740):
    • Between 1729 and 1740, the renowned architect Filippo Juvarra carried out further Baroque enhancements.
    • He designed the main altar, which still stands today, and reworked the presbytery and the dome.
  • Napoleonic Era:
    • During the Napoleonic period, following the suppression of religious orders, the Cistercians left the sanctuary.
    • The Santuario della Consolata was repurposed as a military barracks.
    • After Napoleon’s fall, in 1815, the basilica was entrusted to the Oblati di Maria Vergine.
  • Carlo Ceppi’s Final Expansion (1899-1904):
    • The current appearance of the church was ultimately completed during the third expansion.
    • Architect Carlo Ceppi led this project between 1899 and 1904, resulting in the creation of four chapels and other additions.
  • World War II Bombardments (August 13, 1943):
    • On August 13, 1943, heavy bombings severely damaged the sanctuary.
    • In the 1950s, it was meticulously reconstructed, including a small chapel.

The Santuario della Consolata stands as a testament to its rich history, architectural evolution, and enduring spiritual significance.

Interior

Interior

The heart of the interior of the church is characterized by Guarino Guarini’s hexagonal structure. It is accessed through an iron gate, a gift from Marquis Tancredi Falletti di Barolo around 1800. At the far end, the presbytery opens up, featuring the chapel designed by Juvarra, which highlights the image of Maria Consolatrice.

Around the hexagon, on the left side, there are four chapels designed by Carlo Ceppi. One is dedicated to Saint Valerico, whose relics were brought here by the Benedictines, and another to Saint Joseph. On the right side, we find the choir of Silvio Pellico, reconstructed after the bombings of World War II. Additionally, there is a chapel dedicated to the souls in purgatory and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Consolata
Virgin Mary consoler

The cult of the Consolata has always revolved around the image of the Virgin, and it has been deeply cherished by the people of Turin. Numerous ex-votos displayed throughout the basilica bear witness to this devotion. During challenging times, such as the 1706 Siege of Turin or the two world wars, the sanctuary served as a refuge for the people of Turin.

Unfortunately, on February 9, 1979, the ex-voto jewels kept in the display case alongside the Virgin were stolen. The theft revealed an ancient inscription that traced the painting back to a copy by Antoniazzo Romano, donated to Turin by Cardinal Della Rovere. Despite not being the original painting from the Church of Sant’Andrea, the devotion of the people of Turin to the Virgin has never wavered.

Reversed name

The true name of the basilica is Maria Consolatrice, but the people of Turin usually refer to it as Consolata. It’s curious to note that not only the name is altered, but the entire action is reversed: from Consolatrice, meaning “she who consoles,” to Consolata, meaning “she who is consoled.”

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