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Official Web Site: Museo del Cinema
Photos by Lucia Ranieri

The Mole Antonelliana is the landmark of Turin. Elegant and austere, it is unique and inimitable. Turin cannot be imagined without its symbol.

The construction originated from the desire of the Jewish community to build a new temple, entrusting the project to Alessandro Antonelli.

Work began in 1863, initially envisioning a 47-meter building. However, during construction, Antonelli repeatedly modified the original design. Eventually, he proposed raising it to 113 meters.

Always higher!

In 1869, due to lack of funds, the Jewish community halted construction. The building was completed at a height of 70 meters with a flat roof. However, structural stability issues arose due to weight and height. Eventually, the community donated it to the city in exchange for another plot of land, where the current synagogue stands.

The City of Turin continued construction. Antonelli designed a neoclassical colonnade known as the “Tempietto”, which remains accessible to the public today. With the Tempietto, the height reached 90 meters by the beginning of 1885.

The Mole Antonelliana
The Mole Antonelliana

To complete the structure, Antonelli created a pointed form called the “Lanterna”, reaching 113 meters by the end of 1885.

Additionally, he designed a 50 meter spire to be installed above the Lanterna. The spire was completed in 1889, reaching a total height of 161.9 meters.

In 1888, Antonelli proposed placing a statue of the “Winged Genius” atop the spire. Sculpted by artist Fumagalli, the statue features a five-pointed star on its head. The people of Turin have often mistaken this statue for an angel.

On April 10, 1889, with the installation of the statue weighing 300 kg and standing 5.46 meters tall, the Mole Antonelliana reached its final height of 167.35 meters!

Unfortunately, Antonelli did not live to see the completion of his work. In his old age, he oversaw the work using a rudimentary elevator operated by pulleys.

Nevertheless, he achieved what would be the tallest masonry construction in the world for many years. For this reason, it was aptly named the “Mole”.

Damage, modifications and refurbishments

On August 11, 1904, during a heavy storm, the statue was knocked down but miraculously remained balanced on the tempietto without collapsing to the ground. The statue was not reinstalled; instead, it was replaced with a five-pointed star, restoring the Mole’s height to 167.35 meters.

Between 1905 and 1908, the interiors were decorated, and the building became the headquarters of the Museum of the Risorgimento. In 1931, structural reinforcement work was carried out. After relocating the Museum of the Risorgimento to Palazzo Carignano in 1938, the Mole became a venue for exhibitions and conferences.

The Mole Antonelliana
The Mole Antonelliana made by Lego

On May 23, 1953, at 7:25 PM, a tornado broke the spire of the Mole. Fortunately, it fell to the ground without causing harm to anyone. Reconstruction took place between 1955 and 1960, reinforcing the spire with metal armor. A new twelve-pointed star, smaller than the previous one, was added, resulting in a total height of 165 meters, slightly less than before. However, the introduction of reinforced concrete into the spire caused the Mole to lose its status as the world’s tallest masonry building.

In 1964, the first internal elevator was installed, allowing access to the tempietto for panoramic views. For safety reasons, access to the spire was closed.

The elevator has been replaced several times over the years, with the current one in operation since 2000, when the Mole became the permanent home of the Cinema Museum.

The Mole Antonelliana
The Mole Antonelliana

Since 1998, a luminous artwork representing the Fibonacci sequence has adorned the side of the Mole.

In recent years, the Mole has been illuminated with themed lights on special days or occasions. For example, on May 4, it is lit in maroon to commemorate the tragedy of the Grande Torino at Superga.

Mole Antonelliana, White Point

Mole Antonelliana, the white wonder of Turin, has become a symbol of the city over the years, giving rise to stories and legends:

  • Some believe its peculiar elongated pagoda shape atop a pyramid makes the Mole a giant antenna capable of harnessing positive energy.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche admired the Mole, even comparing it to the figure of Zarathustra.
  • In 2002, when the Euro was introduced, the Italian mint mistakenly minted 1-cent coins featuring the Mole Antonelliana (originally intended for 2-cent coins). Each of these coins is now worth thousands of Euros.
  • According to popular tradition, university students who climb the Mole will not complete their studies.
  • The Winged Genius statue is now preserved and visible in the Cinema Museum, although many still mistake it for an angel.
  • The Mole was one of the first buildings illuminated with gas lamps.