THREE CHURCHES IN TORINO

There is too much to describe, so I’m going to post mostly pictures; in Italy, churches rule. The Church provided education and culture, she established hospitals, cared for the sick, looked after those in poverty, and took in orphans and widows, the Church was the center of culture for thousands of years, which is why we see so many churches and why the people honor them. Before I studied Catholicism, I thought Catholic churches were ostentatious and pretentious as if enough gilding and dramatic artwork would legitimize them, it showed off their power and probably intimidated the public. But, what I find now, is that the Church offered sanctuary for a weary world. We haven’t really changed so much, I can’t have a gilded marble home, but I can visit one whenever I wish. For centuries most people couldn’t read or write, there was no printing press so books were rare treasures. The Church used art to remind people of the Bible, art often tells Bible stories or at least represents a significant scene from a Bible story, so even if I can’t read, I can go to church and meditate on the images as I remember the story. Churches are big and glorious because God is big and glorious, we want to give Him a resting place that is worthy of him, we want to be reminded of His greatness and divinity every time we step foot inside one of His churches. We’re not stepping into the grocery store or a college classroom, we are stepping into the Divine Presence of God Himself; why wouldn’t we create for Him the most beautiful and awe-inspiring dwelling place man can devise? If you enter one of these churches with the attitude that you are welcomed into His presence, if you relish the art and beauty, if you humble your heart to pray; the beauty will begin to transcend the world you came from and your heart will be lifted up. I hope these pictures and two anecdotes will give you a sense of the holiness and majesty of the churches I chose to illustrate.

I walked into the Duomo one evening after a day of exploring and found the candles lit and the altar set up for a service of some kind, but no one was on the dais. I asked the docent if it was Mass, she didn’t understand my question so I stepped quietly to the side to watch what would happen next. In a little bit, a proud mom and dad carrying a baby accompanied by a group of beaming relatives walked into the chapel, I believe they had stepped out somewhere to baptize the little one. They walked up onto the dais and stood in a semicircle around the priest. He prayed with them and said a few words to them, then he walked to the other side of the altar and picked up a guitar. He sang Ave Maria to the little baby, it was beautifully haunting to hear that song while surrounded by such ancient exhibits of our faith.

Here are some pictures from the Duomo, or the Cattedrale S Giovanni Battista (The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist). This is where the Shroud of Turin is protected.

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St. Teresa of Avila

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Below are some images from my favorite church. I believe it’s the Church of the Nativity of Mary and Conception of Jesus, it’s the church that has the replica of the Shroud of Turin.

I loved this church because of its presentation of the Shroud, but also the art, the atmosphere, the silence, the fact that it was off the beaten track and there were no tourists, on week days, I was mostly alone except for a few volunteers and staff like you’d expect to see at any church. I attended Sunday Mass here on First Communion Sunday, it was a huge celebration. The children about to receive first communion were dressed in matching white robes and most of the girls had crowns of white flowers, some carried calla lilies; it was a beautiful sight. The priest was an elderly man who, at first, seemed a bit gruff and formal. Of course, I didn’t understand anything he said, but after the initial prayers and contrition, he grinned from ear to ear and said something about the bambinos. Then he very ceremoniously walked over to his chair and invited the children to approach him. One by one, they walked up to him and read something I believe was their statement of why they want to receive communion. Sometimes the congregation would laugh a little, the priest smiled with so much love it was moving; after each child read his/her little remark, the priest spoke for several seconds, I presume he praised each child but then, looked each child directly in the eyes and admonished the child to hold fast to the faith. He made it intimate and personal even though it was in front of a standing-room only crowd. There were probably 30 children so this process took a long time & was a little tedious for me since I couldn’t understand, but the people around me were bursting with exuberance and joy, it was hard not to catch the feeling. Each child looked elated to have been personally addressed by the priest. Then, during communion, there was a lot of confusion. The priest stepped out among the children and approached each child individually and bent over, offered communion, then it seemed like he put his hands on the child’s head and blessed him or her, again this took a long time, but no one noticed, each family was so proud of his or her relative. The confusion took place because most of the people in the room didn’t receive. This made it difficult for those of us who wanted to receive; I was able to wend my way among the crowd to get to the front, but eventually the Eucharistic ministers opened an aisle down the middle and circulated through the crowd trying to get to those who wanted to receive. I thought it was a bit sad that these people were so thrilled that their child, grandchild, niece, or nephew were receiving but they chose not to. At least they didn’t receive if it wasn’t in appropriate, I think in America they would have received whether it was appropriate for them to do so or not. After Mass, the room broke out in a noisy celebration; in Italy, everyone is family and every open space is a social event. It was one of the best Masses ever.

 

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St Therese of Lisieux

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The Holy Family

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The woman from the Book of Revelation with a crown of twelve stars and the moon under her feet.

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Scenes from The Church of San Lorenzo, the church next door to the Museo Reale

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Pietas are always heart-wrenching.

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4 thoughts on “THREE CHURCHES IN TORINO

  1. There are so many amazing churches in Italy – thank you for sharing these. I hope I can see them in person someday too. You’re so right about them being holy spaces. Thanks for the perspective of what they must have been to the first worshipers.

    Like

  2. Your pictures are so much better from my laptop than my cell phone! Really amazing. (Makes me think i should look at my own pictures again. I think i’ve only looked at them from my cell phone!)

    Like

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