Chapel of the Holy Shroud
On 27 September 2018, the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, the splendid Baroque masterpiece by Guarino Guarini, was once again returned to the world. It is now open to the public as part of the tour of the Royal Museums of Turin.
Guarino Guarini arrived in Turin on 4 November 1666. In 1668 he was appointed Ducal Engineer of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud and his design became part of a construction site that already had a long history of its own.
In 1578 Duke Emmanuel Philibert had ordered the transfer of the Holy Shroud from Chambéry to Turin, the new capital of Savoy. The holy cloth had originally been housed in a circular oratory, and later in the main chapel of the cathedral. In 1611, work started on an oval chapel, designed by Ascanio Vitozzi and Carlo di Castellamonte, placed between the apse of the cathedral and the western wing of the new Ducal Palace. When the post was entrusted to Guarini, the hall clad in black marble from Frabosa Soprana (Cuneo) had already been built. He therefore concentrated on the vertical development of the building, using all his imagination to create an astonishing tower-reliquary, in which each level is different from the one below in terms of both geometry and architectural form.
From the first cornice, the structure continues up as a truncated conical drum with three large arches, on which stands a drum with six huge windows. On the outside, these form the undulating profile that gives the dome its slightly oriental look.
The upper sections of the building form a stunning composition permeated by light. It is like a sort of inverted basket consisting of thirty-six staggered arches, which respond to Guarini's need for lightness and luminosity: for the faithful, the journey up towards heaven goes from darkness to light, from earthly sufferings to eternal salvation. The structure is completed by the dome with the radiant dove of the Holy Spirit, while the external spire is surmounted by a cross bearing the symbols of the Passion of Christ.
The superstructure of the chapel, as a whole, in the interweaving of its various elements, and in the exquisite attention to its decorative and symbolic details, is unparalleled in Western architecture.
Discontinuity, provocation, paradox, and dissonance are what make this edifice so fascinating, surprising the observer with spectacular effects brought about by the combined actions of its various parts.