Churches of Turin

And, of course the Shroud of Turin. Visible only in videos and tourist info. Rarely exhibited over the centuries since it was discovered in the 1300s and the Savoys brought it to Turin in the 1500s, and located behind glass at the royal alter in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. No proof that it's real, but don't tell the faithful. Thinking to visit the church one quiet Saturday, we were surprised to hear music coming from within. Turned out it was the end of a Suzuki violin recital, children and teens in their red shirts near the altar playing their hearts out. Jan and I were near the back, able to view and record a bit. Behind us, in the church doorway, was a couple...and their dog! So weird, but typical. Dogs are allowed in stores, on public transport, and, apparently, in that Cathedral. No guards, no vaccination checks. Interestingly, in plain view of visitors and the faithful opposite the shroud chapel, is an antique reliquary holding, said the sign, a relic of St John. Possibly more real than the shroud, it barely gets a second glance from most people.

Adapted from historical information: In 1453, the Savoys acquired the Holy Shroud, a linen burying cloth bearing the image of a body believers consider to be that of Jesus Christ. In the seventeenth century, work started on the construction of the chapel that was to house it, with direct access to the Royal Palace. The design was by Guarino Guarini, a great Baroque architect, with an unusually built dome and set of arches that seem to challenge the laws of physics. In 1997, a fire irreparably damaged the building leading to a long and difficult architectural restoration that reunited a space of light and symbolism with the Palace and the Royal Museums.

The Church of San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) is another Baroque treat by Guarino Guarini, he of the Shroud Chapel, which this connects to. There are a number of side chapels with massive amounts of decoration, and the slightly Byzantine design offers another surprise. Started in 1634, over an older structure, per Atlas Obsura, 'the central-plan is surmounted by a huge dome, a masterpiece that, from below, begins with a circular base decorated with eight windows. Eight intersecting arches support the dome, forming an eight-pointed star that resembles characteristics of a mosque, with small windows adorning the areas between the arches. On top, the lantern is surrounded by an octagonal shape.'

Geometry and light create facial features, called 'faccia del diavolo' (face of the devil). Guarini described the dome as 'terror of the human soul.' As a congregant, looking up from the central pews, you would not be blamed for quickly turning your attention back to, perhaps the boring presider or sermonizer after seeing what appears to be angry faces looking down on you. Optical illusion and, maybe, done on purpose!