Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Travels in Turin

Our time in Turin got off to a very interesting start that only convinced me how much Pier Giorgio was with us on our journey. We arrived late in Turin and planned to meet at 9:15 in the hotel lobby to find a place for dinner. Several of the group decided to stay behind but the rest of us headed out and found a pizzeria. After we had been situated at a table, two more members of the group appeared. It was really unbelievable that they had wandered to the exact same place and found us there. We moved to another long section of tables that would accommodate all of us and ordered our drinks. Just minutes later, two more members of our group arrived! It was really incredulous. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pier Giorgio led everyone to that same little pizzeria on that dark and damp night. Ironically, his niece Wanda called while we were there to say that she had also arrived in Turin and was at a pizzeria just then. It was a classic Frassati moment for sure.

Mass was scheduled for first thing in the morning at the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Wanda joined us for Mass and it was really a beautiful time together. After Mass, the priest in charge of the cathedral greeted us in Italian and wished us well on our pilgrimage. Our Turin guide was there and began our tour with the cathedral itself which happens to be the home of the famous Shroud of Turin.

Turin, being the birthplace of Pier Giorgio and the place where he spent most of his lifetime, is a special place to visit for that reason alone. Everywhere we went, we knew Pier Giorgio had been there before us. We visited the beautiful old church of San Domenico, most noteworthy to us because it was here that Pier Giorgio took his vows as a lay Dominican. Our next stop was the Basilica of La Consolata, one of the most beautiful churches in Turin and the unofficial headquarters of Pier Giorgio’s many works of charity. He would often arrange to meet people beneath the bell tower and then set out upon one of his many visits to the poor.

Doors opened for us, literally, in Turin. Most remarkable was our experience at the beautiful Salesian church Santa Maria Ausiliatrice where the relics of Don Bosco are located. When we arrived there at 11:55, we discovered the church closed daily at noon and we were initially turned away. We persisted a bit and were reluctantly given permission to enter for a very quick look. Afterward, the priest in charge used his keys to let us into the two other churches on the premises built by St. John Bosco. We knew Pier Giorgio was opening the doors for us!

We continued walking in Turin and passed by the Cottolengo – a huge medical facility that is now a city within a city. It was not as large in Pier Giorgio's day when he would come regularly to visit the sickest of the sick. Our tour ended at the Piazza Corpus Domini, the location of the church built after the amazing Eucharistic miracle in Turin around 1453. Pier Giorgio describes this miracle in one of his letters.

Lunch and a little gelati renewed us for the rest of our day of walking. We visited Piazza Solferino, the original location of La Stampa -- the newspaper founded by Pier Giorgio’s father. A bit further along, on Corso Siccardi, we were able to view the exterior of the former family home where Pier Giorgio and his grandmother died in July 1925. (The house is now a bank.) Across the street is the church where Pier Giorgio was originally baptized and where his funeral took place. It is locally known as La Crocetta. Inside of this church is a large mosaic featuring Don Bosco and Pier Giorgio standing next to each other. Pier Giorgio often served Mass in this church and it contains a few plaques in his honor, as well as a small youth chapel dedicated in his name.

Turin has never been one of my favorite Italian cities. And yet, whenever I visit, I feel a certain closeness to Pier Giorgio. I know that he walked up and down these streets ministering to the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. He was born here, was educated here, formed his friendships here, fell in love here, spent many nights in Eucharistic Adoration here, engaged in political and religious demonstrations here, died here. His incorrupt body remains here in the cathedral. It is no surprise, then, that his spirit was so alive during our time here. Despite all of that, Turin would pale in comparison to our next stop…Pollone! Verso l’alto!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Coming to Turin, inintially I was not expecting much except to see the house of Pier Giorgio Frassati. But as I look around I noticed the beautiful architectural structures which are in my opinion among the very best I've seen in our trip. I mean Florence may have been the best historically speaking. But artistically speaking Turin's archictectures are among the best. I even mentioned it to my sister. I was really surprised. The visit to the tomb and his house were of course among the hightlights here.Going to Cottolengo was an experience that really touched me. I thought to myself,"what great opportunity he had to serve our lord through the poor." Feeling great awe and a little envious ,i guess:)La Consolata was very beautiful and quite grande. But it is the San Domineco Church,a medieval gothic church(MY FAVORITE CHURCH)that really blown me away with the frescoes, mural paintings etc. Everything breathes of 14th century. If in Florence I could vividly imagine what it was like in Florence during the days of the great masters, here I felt like we all went back in time literally as we stepped in the church! It is not as grand or opulent as La Consolata Church. But it's simplicity and quiet 'old' beauty is what impressed me the most. All in all, Turin turned ot to be my favorite city because of it's many significance in terms of arts which is my favorite subject and the life of Pier Giorgio and his ministry. Also if one is observant enough, it is hard not to noticed that we were welcome in this city with a mixtue of rain and sunshine.I try to catch it in my camcorder. At that time I thought the city was welcoming us with tears of joy and the sun smiling at us. That was the only time I saw that in our entire trip.