The Basilica of Superga
Holidays in Italy - The Basilica of Superga The Basilica of Superga stands on the Superga Hill to the east of Turin.
The church was built at the behest of King Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy in gratitude to the Virgin Mary after defeat over the French during the siege of Turin in 1706.
The project was designed by the architect from Messina, Filippo Juvarra, and dates back to 1711.
The chapel on the on the hilltop can be reached by road or by the tramway Sassi-Superga. The history of the Basilica dates back to 2 September 1706, when the Duke of Savoy, Vittorio Amedeo II, and the Prince of Carignano, Eugenio of Savoy, climbed the hill to watch Turin as it was being besieged by the French-Spanish army. Vittorio Amedeo fell to his knees before an old pillar and vowed that if Turin won the war, he would build a monument to the Virgin Mary.
And that is what happened: the French and Piedmontese armies clashed on the fields near Lucento and Madonna di Campagna (in Turin) from dawn to early afternoon of September 7 and the latter took the victory. After the battle, while the war against Louis XIV (the Spanish War of Succession) was still in progress, Vittorio Amedeo, later crowned King of the Reign of Sicily, kept his promise and commissioned Juvarra to design the edifice in 1711.
Construction of the future basilica started in 1717 and took 14 years. For the entire duration of the construction, the hilltop was accessible (standing at 658 meters of ltitude, the second-highest of Piedmont) only by means of a treacherous stony path and all the building materials were carried up on the back of a donkey.
On 1 November 1731, in the attendance of the King Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy, the temple was inaugurated with a solemn ceremony.
In the year 1800 (the seventh year of the Republic) a suggestion was put forward to convert the Basilica into a "Temple of Gratitude". The tombs of the Savoy family buried there risked being transferred elsewhere to leave room for the ashes of the Piedmontese soldiers who fell alongside the Jacobins… but it never happened. In 1884 a funicular was built on the Agudio line connecting the Superga hilltop (a few hundred meters from the Basilica) to the Sassi quarter of Turin.
The line was approximately 3.1 km long and was electrified and transformed into a rack railway in 1934. The line is still functioning with the locomotives of 1934 and the wagons of 1884.
An airplane crashed into the rear part of the Basilica complex on 4 May 1949 flying from Lisbon with the "Grande" Torino soccer team onboard;
the accident killed the whole team along with the technicians, journalists and flight crew.
The walls partially destroyed by the impact can still be seen because it was decided not to rebuild them.
Today this tragic event is commemorated in a museum inside and a plaque at the back of the building, the destination of pilgrimages made by sports fans as well as regular people.
Every 4 May a solemn mass is celebrated in memory of the victims.
Walking up a grand stairway you have access to the pronaos of the Basilica, held up by eight Corinthian columns in the classic style of the Pantheon in Rome; this influence is also seen in the central plan with the dome overhead. The two lovely bell towers rising on the sides of the central body show the influence of Borromini.
The interior has a Greek cross plan decorated by dazzling sculptures created by the brothers Filippo and Ignazio Collino. Some members of the House of Savoy were buried in Superga at the behest of Vittorio Amedeo III. Their remains are kept in a crypt underground that is richly decorated and can be visited presently.
There you will find the coffin of Vittorio Amedeo II and at the other side of the hall that of Carlo Emanuele (father and son always in conflict with each other). Carlo Alberto of Savoy and Vittorio Emanuele I are also buried there. A plaque commemorates Carlo Felice of Savoy who preferred to be buried at Hautecombe.
Superga is the only place in the world that has a collection of canvas portraits of all of the popes of history. From Saint Peter onward, the hall where they are exhibited, though still being restored, shows them in a non-chronological order along all the walls. In the royal apartments of the same Basilica you will also find the portraits of the anti-popes, among which Antipope Felice V, up to the century of Amedeo VIII. Outside the Superga Chapel, on the square to the right of the church, is a monument dedicated to the memory of King Umberto I of Savoy who was assassinated in 1900.
This monument was commissioned by his son Vittorio Amedeo III of Savoy in 1902 to the Milanese sculptor Tancredi Pozzi. It consists of a granite Corinthian column with a bronze capital on where an eagle is perched. It is pierced by an arrow, with a clear allegorical reference to the death of the sovereign.
At the base of the column is the statue of a Celtic warrior who symbolizes the city of Turin, with one hand pointing towards the sky and the other hand holding his sword pointed at a Savoy shield.