Chiesa della Santissima Trinità
Via G. Garibaldi 6, Torino
Religious work in the city in the period following the Council of Trent (1545-1563) was entrusted to the confraternities. These were groups of lay people who upheld the sacred mysteries of the Christian faith, while at the same doing charitable works.
The headquarters of the confraternities needed places of worship in which the confrères could fulfil their liturgical functions. These places became a competitive expression of the magnificence of each confraternity’s devotion, so over the course of the 17th and 18th Centuries they evolved into monumental churches, which complemented or overlapped the existing network of parishes and religious houses. The role and artistic value of the chapels of the Santo Sudario and Spirito Santo confraternities are emblematic of this trend.
The confraternity of the Santissima Trinità was founded in 1577 and immediately joined the Roman archconfraternity of the same name. Its first headquarters was in the church of San Pietro de Corte Ducis, between the cathedral and the offices of the municipal council. To accommodate its expansion, in 1596 the confrères purchased the church of Sant’Agnese, which was in a state of dangerous decay at the time, and some adjacent buildings, at the crossroads between the city’s main thoroughfare (Via Dora Grossa, now called Via Garibaldi) and the street leading to the new Renaissance Duomo (now Via XX Settembre).
Probably designed to stamp a clear identity on the new site emerging on medieval foundations, the building is now partly incorporated into the 18th and 19th Century buildings that reshaped the heart of the Baroque city.
The church features the first cupola built for the capital of the Duchy of Savoy, and is designed on a central layout, with two equilateral triangles inscribed in a circle. This geometric layout is an explicit allusion to the symbolism of the trinity, and was specified as a requirement when the building was commissioned. It therefore offers interesting opportunities for comparison with the layout of the Cappella della Sindone, built slightly later.
Ascanio Vitozzi (1539-1615), the ducal architect and a member of the archconfraternity, was commissioned to design the building in 1598, and is buried in it. The building complements Vitozzi’s other work on the Santuario di Vicoforte, the Chiesa dei Cappuccini in Turin and the new ducal palace. Although the church was established for the use of the archconfraternity, its nave is imposingly large: the base of the cupola measures approximately 17 metres in diameter, while the cupola itself, which was built between 1661 and 1664, rises to an internal height of 48 metres, making it a stand-out feature of city’s religious landscape, despite the fact that its exterior is incomplete.
Mass has been celebrated here since 1606, but the liturgical interior design was completed in successive stages, which reflected the changing tastes and income streams of their times. For seven years (1627-1634), before it was even finished, the church served as a headquarters for the Theatines, who were then given the ducal chapel of San Lorenzo. From the second half of the 1630s, the interior was decorated according to a design by Carlo di Castellamonte, a ducal engineer who had been Vitozzi’s assistant.
The main altar (1699-1703) was designed and crafted by Francesco Aprile, according to the wooden model of Giovanni Valle, and was then approved by Michelangelo Garove: the altar is equipped with an imposing tabernacle, with a depiction of the Risen Christ on its door. An 18th Century crucifix now stands above the tabernacle, framed by an impressive array of free-standing, pink marble columns, surmounted by a marble ciborium. Beyond this screen of columns stood the confrères’ choir, which was seriously damaged by fire (like the original parts of the wooden altar sculpture) in 1943.
The piece of liturgical interior design that most closely resembles its original counterpart is the left altar (1635), commissioned by confrère Silvestro de Montoliveto and made by a certain Casella, perhaps the sculptor Bernardino Casella, to a design by Carlo di Castellamonte. Dedicated to the devotion to the Virgin, it shows a Santa Maria del Popolo painted towards the middle of the 16th Century by the Flemish painter Giovanni Caracca (Jean Kraeck), who was court artist to Duke Emanuele Filiberto, and also a member of the confraternity. This painting of the Virgin Mary has remained with the confrères since 1595, despite various relocations, and was restored in 2014.
It is the first expression of the close bond between the archconfraternity and the Savoy Court that involved the church at least until the mid-1700s.
The right altar was produced in 1734 as part of the complete redecoration carried out under the direction of Filippo Juvarra, which was started in 1718 and completed over the decades that followed by his pupil, Giovanni Pietro Baroni di Tavigliano, who went on to carry out work on the sacristy too. The Juvarrian altar is adorned with an altarpiece by Ignazio Nepote, portraying the Madonna and Saints Agnese, Stefano and Filippo Neri. It also features a collection of the dedications of the previous churches and of the foundation of the Confraternita della Trinità Romana, by San Filippo in 1548.
The façade overlooking Via Garibaldi was produced in 1830 (to a design by Angelo Marchini, with bas-relief by Domenico Banti). Following its restoration by Giuseppe Leoni in 1846, the cupola was frescoed by Luigi Vacca and Francesco Gonin on the theme of the Glory of the Holy Trinity in Paradise. The building suffered serious war damage in July 1943. This destroyed the choir (with decorations, furnishings and archives), which was rebuilt after the war.
In addition to the liturgical functions and the common prayer of the confrères, the Arciconfraternita della Santissima Trinità engages in four lines of charitable work in accordance with its traditional mandate. These are the maintenance, restoration and enhancement of the church complex, its choir and the sacristy; ‘social housing’ relating to the properties adjoining the church; the Fondazione Crocetta, which owns the residence for elderly people that has been operating in the Crocetta district since the late 19th Century; and the construction, which is currently in progress, of a Catholic university residence in Vicolo Crocetta.
In addition to the work of the Archconfraternity, the church hosts prayer meetings and projects of the Pastorale Universitaria Diocesana.
Texts by the Guarino Guarini association
Photographs by Andrea Guermani for FCSP – © all rights reserved
indicating the works of architects involved in construction projects for the court, and the works of artists featured in the Royal Museums and Diocesan Museum