Thursday, April 15, 2010

Visit to the "Shroud of Turin" or "Santa Sindone 2010" di Torino

 Ever since I ever had any recollection of Turin or Torino (as is known in Italian, Turin is the local Piemontese dialect name, pronounce Tour- reen) I've always associated it with the Shroud. Over the years I have read the differing opinions on why it is or is not authentic.  All quite plausible, but the fact of the matter is that whether it is medieval or prior to that it, is fairly difficult to be definitive about, but it is indeed old and quite a fascinating relic, at least to me. To have a simple stained piece of cloth survive hundreds of years is in deed quite astounding.  Wikipedia claims "The Shroud of Turin is one of, if not the, most studied artifacts in human history."  This site makes the case for the Shroud's authenticity. A compelling mystery indeed. 
The House of Savoy, Italy's former royal family whose kingdom stretched from France through Piedmont and Valle d''Aosta, acquired the shroud in the 15th century, and brought it to eventually reside in Torino since that time.  In 1983, upon the death of Umberto II,  owner of  the shroud, bequeathed it to the Pope and his successors, with the proviso that it stay in Turin.
Living in the province of Torino I have been quite fascinated by this relic and naturally wanted to see the real one as I have seen the copy numerous times when friends and relatives have come to visit. The Duomo (or cathedral) is rather modest by Italian standards, even overshadowed by the many grand cathedrals scattered though out the core of downtown Torino.  I am always struck by the somewhat casual atmoshpere of this particular church, whenever I have visited. There is a permanent display on one of the side chapels although it is still in the main part of the church and they have people stationed there to help you with information and to help you to remember to keep a respectful silence when you are visiting the shroud, although I have also visited when there has been weddings taking place along side all of the visitors milling about. It's just not so reverential as one might expect.
This visit was quite different. I rolled up to Piazza Reale about 9am noting all along my stroll under the covered porticos from Porta Susa train station how clean town seemed and definitely with a bit of a buzz.  The round about in front of the train station had numerous buses spinning around mostly sporting Italian plates, with some Austrian and German plates as well. Hadn't really seen this much activity since the 206 Olympics. It was rather exciting.  As I made my way toward the Duomo, I noticed  groups of tourists scattered about taking in all the different angles and sites in of the heart of downtown Torino. It warmed my heart, especially as it was so early and the high street stores hadn't even opened yet.
Rocking up to the front of the Duomo I was surprised at how low key it was as far as people and no checking tickets, just lots of emergency vehicles, a few Carabiniere(police), and Alpini military guys(the mountain edition) to keep the peace on a beautiful spring day.  I sauntered on through the front door, no one even asking about a ticket, to find myself in central part of the softly lit church facing the Shroud, front and center, elevated up high enough for all to see. I made my way forward and only then realized that there was a moving line wrapping around the perimeter of the church and across the center affording much closer viewing, but not accessible from this part of the church. Ah ha, there is a different line for the closer viewing. There quite a few people around me, but not crowded. Most were respectfully observing and a good portion were earnestly praying. It did not have the feel of seekers for miracle just perhaps seeking some connection to the divine. I'm not really quite sure. I could have easily finish my journey there, but felt compelled to get a closer look. I had my free ticket, which I booked the night before on the well organized, multi-language site that was quick and easy. I was quite surprised it was completely free, as were other friends and family members who had paid to visit it on other occasions when it has been on display.
 So off I set in search of the line to make my passage closer to this object of great interest. It was a bit of a stroll around the back of the palace gardens to find the serpentine line snaking around through the back gardens. As bus after bus pulled up to deposit or pick their passengers, I realized it was set up to accommodate great throngs of people that have come on a pilgrimage. The people that had been missing from the front were all here in the line snaking around the grounds and through the old Roman ruins before you made your way into the church.  The day was nice, the ground were lovely the views pleasant and canopied walkways made the time spent making your way into the church pass quickly in a line that steadily continued along. The atmosphere was calm with quiet conversations going on between teachers and their pupils and priests and their parishioners, small groups of family and friends and a few solitary individuals like myself moving along the path. I wanted to query people about where and why they had come, but it just didn't seem like the thing to do.  People were in good spirits,  quietly reflective it seemed, not necessarily speaking about the usual mundane things we often find ourselves chattering on about. There was just a pleasant reverential mood.
There were a variety of posters  of religious art depicting Jesus at various times surrounding his Crucifixion , that helped to set the mood as well. We passed though some underground passageway, where there were back lit busts on display and Gregorian chanting, creating a mood so peaceful and lovely, it begged for you to linger, but we continued on our steady progress. Pellegrini. Pilgrims progress. 
Next, 300 hundred of us at a time were given a brief slide show pointing out the markings on the shroud, accompanied by titles in 8 languages with sacred background music. It definitely helped you absorb what you were actually seeing when you finally arrived at your brief moment of contemplation in front of the Shroud. After the slide show you were asked to proceed in silence. What was before a quiet murmur, now became a reverential silence. The hundred or so, 10 year old children in front of me were completely quiet. Everyone was. It was quite amazing, only broken a little later by a few of the volunteers chatting about going to lunch and seeing each other tomorrow.  I think they were a little hard of hearing. Then when we finally entered the hushed atmosphere of the Duomo I was surprised to see women covering their heads, like I remembered from so many years ago, but had forgotten that it was ever done, as it is seldom the case anymore. Then we were grouped into three lines that made their way in front of the Shroud on three levels so there is excellent viewing on each level. If you make sure you are on the far left, you will find yourself closest to the shroud. 
Once you are there, there is someone softly telling you all of the points of the cloth. the face, the shoulders, the hands, the nail wound, the chest wound and so on. I don't know if it is all the preparation, the atmosphere, the energy of the people, or the face and the obvious imprint of a person, but I did feel tears roll down my face. Because for me, no matter what the truth may be about this ancient cloth, there is a distinct human imprint on the cloth and it does look like that person suffered and in that moment I felt an empathy for all of our human suffering focused there looking for release. It was a touching moment that I appreciate having had the opportunity to experience. Perhaps you would find it different, one can never know, as we make our individual journeys together. 

I would say, if you are going to be in the Torino area before the 23 May, you might want to consider booking in to see the Shroud. It took about an hour and a bit more to get through the whole line and viewing, before enjoying the rest of what Torino has on offer.
This exhibition runs from 10 April-23 May 2010 . 7 am -22:15 daily
It is a free event and open to everyone.
You can find the Shroud official site here and the online ticket booking site here.
Here is a short clip about the Shroud going on display

7 comments:

Sonia said...

I can't wait to see it in May! Thanks for posting this!

Martha said...

Linked to this article in my blog post yesterday.

Bella Baita View said...

You don't even have to wait Sonia, you can take your parents in to the chapel for a bit of a viewing.
Thanks Martha, I hope some of your readers will find it useful.

Anonymous said...

You explaination of your visit was very moving. I am seeing the Shroud in 1 week and just hearing your visit caused my to tear up. So I am bringing lots of tissue. Thank you for a great review.

Bella Baita View said...

Thank you for your kind words, and yes some tissues are definitely a good idea for your visit. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, thank you.

Rowena... said...

Thanks for sharing this Marla. I am utterly surprised that it's for free which is actually a nice change from all of the things that we must pay for these days. Re: the language lessons. Doesn't Fabrizio speak to you in italian at home? I know that I picked up a lot of what I know from the MotH. Plus watching television only in italian since we are not subscribed to Sky. I always get a kick out of listening to italian politicians.

Bella Baita View said...

Hi Rowena, Yes, it is a mazing that it is free. Perhpas the Vatican is feeling a bit of pressure to be held p in a better light. And as far as speaking Italian at home, we speak English as Fab doesn't have the patience with my Italian and he mostly speaks dialect with family and friends, so I understand pretty well, just no confidence. We only have Italian TV also and not much worth watching on it...but I do watch some..

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