The Turin Cathedral and the Holy Shroud of Turin

The Holy Shroud of Turin

The Holy Shroud of Turin is a linen sheet whose weave is a herringbone pattern made in the ancient Egypt manner before Christ. It measures 442 cm long by 113 cm high plus a 8 cm strip sewed lengthwise.

On the tissue there is a faint impression of an image, the frontal and dorsal one of a man who suffered the death of crucifixion. Its a sudarium or shroud and the image distinctive characteristic is of being like one of a negative film.

The Turin Cathedral and the Holy Shroud of Turin

The Holy Shroud of Turin – The Reliquary

The Holy Shroud of Turin is laid out flat and horizontal in a watertight full of inert gases reliquary. Alenia Spazio and Microtecnica built it in 2000 and placed the highest level aerospace technologies at the disposal of the Shroud of Turin.

In particularly, the metal recipient was milled from a single light aeronautical alloy bar while the upper surface is made of bullet-proof, laminated glass.

The reliquary is protected by a multilayer sarcophagus in order to guarantee a considerable mechanic resistance and a good protection from fire.

The Shroud of Turin conservation system is completed by a production plant of wet inert gas (argon) to be activated when the inner reliquary atmosphere needs to be renewed or filled up.

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The Holy Shroud – Historical outline

The first certain evidences on the Holy Shroud of Turin date back to the half of the XIV th century when the french knight Geoffroy de Charny laid the Shroud in the church he had built in 1353 in his Lirey fee in the Champagne region.

Where did the Shroud come from?

Historians have many records at their disposal about epochs previous to XIV th century but to reconstruct a clear documented organic path is really hard. In many centres of Asia Minor and later on in Constantinople there are accounts of the presence of the Shroud that wrapped the body of Jesus in Jerusalem.

The Turin Cathedral and the Holy Shroud of Turin

But just because of this lack of certain data a lot of prudence is needed in formulating theories and easy or imaginative theories that lack scientific confirmation can not be encouraged.

Faith is not afraid of historic and scientific research about the Holy Shroud as long as it is a serious one. 

Marguerite de Charny, who was the last Geoffroy descendant, took the Shroud from the Lirey church (1418) due to the sharpening of the Hundred Years War to bring it with her during her wandering in Europe and arrived at the court of the Savoy dukes, whom both her father and her second husband Umbert de La Roche were linked to. In 1453 the Shroud became a House of Savoy property within a series of juridical acts between the duke Ludovique and Margaret.

From 1471, Blessed Amadeus IX, Ludovique’s son, started embellishing and enlarging the chapel of Chambéry castle, the capital of the Dukedom, to house the Shroud in the future.

The Shroud, after having been kept in the church of the Franciscans, was housed in the Sainte-Chapelle du Saint-Suaire once and for all. In 1506 the Savoy asked and obtained from Pope Giulio II the acknowledgement of a liturgic celebration of their own and the date they chose was may, 4th.

On december 4th, 1532 a fire broke out in the Sainte-Chapelle seriously damaging the Shroud later repaired by the Poor Clares in 1534. In 1578 Duke Emanuel Philibert definitely transferred the Shroud in Turin in order to strengthen the project of the transfer of the capital of the Savoy states along the Po river.

The Turin Cathedral and the Holy Shroud of Turin

The Carlo Borromeo pilgrimage, the Milan archbishop, to revere the Shroud gave the per-fect occasion to its transfer and, on september 14th that same year, it arrived heralded by a gun salute from the local artillery in a solemn atmosphere.

From that moment on the Shroud remained in Turin where, in the following centuries, it was on public and private exposition many times. Of course, the religiousness of Piedmont (and not of Piedmont only) was deeply influenced by a so important presence.

Many paintings, that can be found in the capital even today and in many countries formerly Savoy territories, are a surviving evidence of this. The big and solemn expositions, very common in the two baroque centuries, underlined this public devotional aspect.

The Guarini chapel

In 1667 Guarino Guarini, a Theatine priest and one of the most important architects of the piedmontese baroque, was assigned the task to project and realize the chapel to keep the Holy Shroud and completed it in 1690.

The project was based on the Shroud seen as the utmost evidence of the mistery of the redemption, death and resurrection of Christ. The architecture itself becomes therefore the experience to enter death and reach the light of divine glory.

The chapel leads off from two monumental symmetric staircases that are at the bottom of the two lateral naves of the cathedral. The marble of the steps and of the coatings is dark in order to strengthen the sensation of raising up inside earth, as Guarini himself wrote.

The flights end in two little circular rooms from which one can see the central opening, a perfect circle plunged in darkness, and the floors decorated with a pattern of bronze stars reflecting the light coming from above. Looking up, the glance goes from the semi-darkness of the basement to the dome light.

The Turin Cathedral and the Holy Shroud of Turin

The chromatic variation of the marble finally underlines the sensation of a high rush: from the shining black of the basement to the opaque grey of the tunnelled dome lightened by the feeble ribs of the ring of archs leaning one on the other.

The dome, that at present time is under restoration after the 1997 fire, is full of symbols referring to divine perfection.

All the structure has been projected on the basis of the multiples of three (the Trinity) and of the perfect figures (circe, triangle and star): an explicit reference to the universe moving towards sunlight and seen as the “Christus Triumphans” that guides man to Salvation.

Turin Cathedral

The cathedral of Turin, built in the last years of the XVth century (between 1491 and 1498), lies in the place where three paleochristian churches dedicated to the Holy Saviour, Saint Mary of Dompno and St. John the Baptist were located.

Built at the behest of Bishop Domenico Della Rovere, the existing building is in Renais-sance style and the project was assigned to Meo del Caprina da Settignano from Florence.

The interior of the church is arranged in the form of a latin cross and dominated by a spacious nave defined by Susa stony columns and bordered by two minor aisles along which the exterior walls hide thirteen chapels (six along the right aisle and seven along the left one).

The second altar in the right hand nave has a great artistic value, is host to works of the painter Defendente Ferrari and dedicated to the saints Crispino e Crispiniano.

The first on the left side is host to the baptistry. The Trinity chapel (the third of the left nave) hosts the corpse of Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925), the young native of Turin who Pope John Paul II beatified in 1990. Moreover, the Cathedral of Turin hosts a San Giovanni Battista relic coming from the St. Jean de Maurienne church.

See more Italian Catholic shrines and Basilicas

See more European Catholic Shrines and pilgrimages

The façade comprises a tympanum and three doorways decorated with reliefs and is covered with white marble. Its traits reveal the lines of the naves that divide the internal spaces. The triangular pediment is on the central and higher part while some volutes overlap the two lateral ones to hide the roofs’ pitches. A stairway leads to the parvis of the church.

The terminal part of the choir was partly demolished in the XVIIth century to insert a circular chapel to keep the Shroud. This chapel was built by Guarino Guarini and completed in 1690.

Between april 11th and 12th, 1997 a fire seriously damaged the Guarini dome. By the way, the Shroud was not in the chapel anymore but in a special case behind the Cathedral main altar and was therefore immediately transferred far away from the fire area.

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The Holy Shroud

The Holy Shroud is a linen sheet whose weave is a herringbone pattern made in the ancient Egypt manner before Christ. It measures 442 cm long by 113 cm high plus a 8 cm strip sewed lengthwise. On the tissue there is a faint impression of an image, the frontal and dorsal one of a man who suffered the death of crucifixion. It’s a “sudarium” or shroud and the image distinctive characteristic is of being like one of a negative film.

Sindón is a greek name and can be found in the synoptic Gospels about the burial of Jesus. In the latin version of the New Testament «Síndon», from which the italian «Sindone» derives, has been transliterated. In Greek and Latin the use of this name is really wide indicating a piece of sheet that can be both raw and already ready-made for a specific purpose.
 
Its Italian meaning is considerably restricted: the use applied to the «funeral cloth» kept in the Turin Cathedral is practically almost exclusive. The other languages haven’t kept the same continuity of the word: «(Saint) Suaire» in french, « Holy Shroud » in english, «(Heiliges) Grabtuch» in german (funeral cloth), «Sábana Santa» in spanish. There is always a reference to the Gospel parables about the Passion of Jesus and a cross-reference mark to the piece of sheet his dead body was wrapped in after the Deposition.

The Holy Shroud – The Reliquary

The Holy Shroud is laid out flat and horizontal in a watertight full of inert gases reliquary. Alenia Spazio and Microtecnica built it in 2000 and placed the highest level aerospace technologies at the disposal of the Shroud. In particularly, the metal recipient was milled from a single light aeronautical alloy bar while the upper surface is made of bullet-proof, laminated glass. The reliquary is protected by a multilayer “sarcophagus” in order to guarantee a considerable mechanic resistance and a good protection from fire.

The Shroud conservation system is completed by a production plant of wet inert gas (argon) to be activated when the inner reliquary atmosphere needs to be renewed or filled up.

A computerized system constantly regulates and checks the most important reliquary and Chapel parameters (in the left transept of the Cathedral of Turin) on temperature, pressure, humidity, inner gas composition etc…. 

If on public exposition the Shroud is in another reliquary which was built in 1998 by the Bodino company. It is a parallelepiped that measures 4.640 x 1.380 x 282 mm and whose upper surface is made of bullet-proof, laminated glass. It weighs 2.500 kg and is on a sound metallic truck allowing it to rotate from an horizontal to a vertical position and making it visible during the expositions.

The Holy Shroud – Historical outline

The first certain evidences on the Holy Shroud of Turin date back to the half of the XIV th century when the french knight Geoffroy de Charny laid the Shroud in the church he had built in 1353 in his Lirey fee in the Champagne region.

Where did the Shroud come from? Historians have many records at their disposal about epochs previous to XIV th century but to reconstruct a clear documented organic path is really hard. In many centres of Asia Minor and later on in Constantinople there are accounts of the presence of the Shroud that wrapped the body of Jesus in Jerusalem. But just because of this lack of certain data a lot of prudence is needed in formulating theories and easy or imaginative theories that lack scientific confirmation can not be encouraged. Faith is not afraid of historic and scientific research about the Holy Shroud as long as it is a serious one. Marguerite de Charny, who was the last Geoffroy descendant, took the Shroud from the Lirey church (1418) due to the sharpening of the Hundred Years War to bring it with her during her wandering in Europe and arrived at the court of the Savoy dukes, whom both her father and her second husband Umbert de La Roche were linked to. In 1453 the Shroud became a House of Savoy property within a series of juridical acts between the duke Ludovique and Margaret.

From 1471, Blessed Amadeus IX, Ludovique’s son, started embellishing and enlarging the chapel of Chambéry castle, the capital of the Dukedom, to house the Shroud in the future. The Shroud, after having been kept in the church of the Franciscans, was housed in the Sainte-Chapelle du Saint-Suaire once and for all. In 1506 the Savoy asked and obtained from Pope Giulio II the acknowledgement of a liturgic celebration of their own and the date they chose was may, 4th. On december 4th, 1532 a fire broke out in the Sainte-Chapelle seriously damaging the Shroud later repaired by the Poor Clares in 1534. In 1578 Duke Emanuel Philibert definitely transferred the Shroud in Turin in order to strengthen the project of the transfer of the capital of the Savoy states along the Po river. The Carlo Borromeo pilgrimage, the Milan archbishop, to revere the Shroud gave the per-fect occasion to its transfer and, on september 14th that same year, it arrived heralded by a gun salute from the local artillery in a solemn atmosphere.
From that moment on the Shroud remained in Turin where, in the following centuries, it was on public and private exposition many times. Of course, the religiousness of Piedmont (and not of Piedmont only) was deeply influenced by a so important presence. Many paintings, that can be found in the capital even today and in many countries formerly Savoy territories, are a surviving evidence of this. The big and solemn expositions, very common in the two baroque centuries, underlined this public devotional aspect.

The Guarini chapel

In 1667 Guarino Guarini, a Theatine priest and one of the most important architects of the piedmontese baroque, was assigned the task to project and realize the chapel to keep the Holy Shroud and completed it in 1690. The project was based on the Shroud seen as the utmost evidence of the mistery of the redemption, death and resurrection of Christ. The architecture itself becomes therefore the experience to “enter death and reach the light of divine glory”. The chapel leads off from two monumental symmetric staircases that are at the bottom of the two lateral naves of the cathedral. The marble of the steps and of the coatings is dark in order to strengthen the sensation of “raising up inside earth”, as Guarini himself wrote. The flights end in two little circular rooms from which one can see the central opening, a perfect circle plunged in darkness, and the floors decorated with a pattern of bronze stars reflecting the light coming from above. Looking up, the glance goes from the semi-darkness of the basement to the dome light.
The chromatic variation of the marble finally underlines the sensation of a high rush: from the shining black of the basement to the opaque grey of the tunnelled dome lightened by the feeble ribs of the ring of archs leaning one on the other. The dome, that at present time is under restoration after the 1997 fire, is full of symbols referring to divine perfection. All the structure has been projected on the basis of the multiples of three (the Trinity) and of the perfect figures (circe, triangle and star): an explicit reference to the universe moving towards sunlight and seen as the “Christus Triumphans” that guides man to Salvation.

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