The controversial Shroud of Turin (Sacra Sindone) and the chapel in which it is enshrined every jubilee year, Cappella della Santa Sindone, hold pride of place in this otherwise uninteresting, pompous 15th-century church. Even without the presence of one of Christianity's most precious relics (and it's only rarely on view in the silver casket elevated on an altar in the center of the room), the chapel is well worth a visit. Still under construction after a 1997 fire (one of many the shroud has miraculously survived, with an occasional singeing, over the centuries), the chapel is somberly clad in black marble. But, as if to suggest that better things await us in the heavens, it ascends to an airy, light-flooded six-tiered dome, one of the masterpieces of Italian baroque architecture.
The shroud, of course, is allegedly the one in which the body of Christ was wrapped when taken from the cross -- and to which his image was miraculously affixed. The image is of a man 1.7m tall (5 ft., 7 in.), with bloodstains consistent with a crown of thorns, a cut in the ribcage, cuts in the wrists and ankles, and scourge marks on the back from flagellation. Recent carbon dating suggests that the shroud was manufactured sometime around the 13th or 14th century, but the mystery remains, at least in part, because no one can explain how the haunting image appeared on the cloth. Also, additional radio carbon dating has suggested that, since the shroud has been exposed to fire (thus affecting carbon readings), it could indeed date from around the time of the death of Christ. Regardless of scientific skepticism, the shroud continues to entice hordes of the faithful.
The shroud is kept at the Museo della Sindone (Holy Shroud Museum) around the corner at Via San Domenico 28 (tel. 011-436-5832; www.sindone.it), open daily from 9am to noon and 3 to 7pm; admission is 5.50€ ($7.15) for adults and 4.50€ ($5.85) for those under 14 or over 65. The shroud was last on view during Italy's Jubilee celebrations in 2000. Technically, it shouldn't be on display again until the next Jubilee, in 25 years, but it tends to pop up every 5 to 15 years for special occasions. Otherwise, you'll have to content yourself with a series of dramatically backlit photos of the relic near the entrance to the cathedral, and another in the church of San Lorenzo. The museum houses a plethora of information (including photos, X-rays, and history) relating to the shroud.
In front of the cathedral stand two landmarks of Roman Turin -- the remains of a theater and the Porta Palatina, a Roman-era city gate, flanked by twin 16-sided towers.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010