Via Perrone, 11 – Turin
St. Barbara Church, just as the Collegio Artigianelli, are built within the part of the city which was first occupied by the Citadel, an imposing military fortress, built in the XVI century and finally torn down (except for the keep) in 1856-1857 to make room for urban growth towards the southwest.
Inside the Citadel there was a church dedicated to St. Barbara, patroness of the artificers and gunners. The present church, built between 1867 and 1869, replaces the one which was torn down along with the military Citadel of which it was a part. It is a Byzantine style building by the architect Peter Carrera.
It is the parish within whose boundaries the Collegio Artigianelli is located. The liturgical celebrations, as tridua, novenas, religious feasts and also some sad ones, like funerals and month’s mind masses that took place in that parish, did often see the presence of the Little Artisans, beginning from the consecration of the church (April 18, 1869) during which the Maestro Eleazar Scala conducted the Rossini Mass, sung by his free School of sacred music and the boys of the Artigianelli Boarding School, where he taught singing.
The funeral of Murialdo was held here April 1, 1900. A very big crowd passed by in procession and then went into the church, filling it unbelievably. Many accompanied the body till the Turin General Cemetery, attending his burial in the family tomb.
Murialdo often celebrated Mass in this church. The witnesses of the canonical processes remember that, when he entered the sacristy, the chattering of those present stopped at once. He always made a careful preparation and after the mass spent a long time in thanksgiving; if he had the opportunity, heard the mass celebrated by some other priest. The sacristan affirmed he never had seen a priest “who before and after the celebration of the mass would say so long prayers”. In this church Murialdo came for confession in the last years of his life. The parish priest, James Colombero, was his confessor.
To one’s right as one enters is found the altar of Our Lady of Pompeii, commissioned in 1889 by Canon Silvio Fresia, friend of Murialdo and administrator of the print shop at the Collegio Artigianelli. The painting of Our Lady of the Rosary (1891) is by Henry Reffo. The altar was designed and sculpted by the Josephite lay confrere John Massoglia. At this altar Murialdo celebrated the mass and promised to offer a silver hearth if his brother Ernest would have survived the serious disease that instead was his death in 1890.
The next altar preserves a relic of St. Leonard, an ulna, which the Congregation wanted to donate to the church in recognition for its having kept the remains of the Founder from 1917 to 1971.
After the side entrance door can be seen the upper part of the sepulchral monument of Murialdo, built in 1926. The design is by Anacleto Barbieri (School of Reffo), the execution by Professor Bosco. The niche supported by mantled columns and the marble bust (by the confrere John Massoglia) were already placed on the Murialdo tomb in the General Cemetery of Turin and then in the first arrangement here at St. Barbara when Murialdo’s remains were transferred in 1917.
The two lateral bas-reliefs recall the Saint’s activity among poor and abandoned boys. At the foot of the monument there was the sarcophagus, which now is kept, empty, in the Collegio Artigianelli.
To escape from the bombardments of the Second World War, the body of Murialdo was translated to Sommariva Bosco where it remained from 1943 until 1949. It was a wise and providential decision, since the St. Barbara Church too was hit by the bombs and Murialdo’s sepulchral monument was also damaged.
In 1966 the sarcophagus was transformed into an urn. The mortal remains of Murialdo were closed into a special case, placed within an artificially rebuild body, with the face and hands in silver-plated metal. The glass front pane allowed seeing Murialdo’s appearance, wearing the priestly vestments. By now he had been proclaimed blessed.
After his canonisation, and more precisely May 28, 1971, the remains of Murialdo were “restored” to the Congregation. They left St. Barbara Church, which had lovingly guarded them for so many years, and were housed for a week in the Collegio Artigianelli, during the celebrations marking the first anniversary of his canonization, and on June 6, 1971 they were solemnly transferred to the Shrine of Our Lady of Health.
In the back of the right nave, closed off by a door, is found the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. Itrecalls the apparition of Our Lady to the farmer Anthony Botta, which happened a few kilometres from Savona, March 18, 1536, at the site where now is the shrine in which often Murialdo collected his thoughts in prayer during his staying in the Piarist Fathers Boarding School. The wooden sculpture was donated by Alexander Riccardi di Netro, Turin archbishop from 1867 until 1870, former bishop of the Ligurian town. Murialdo often spent time in this chapel, which carries a Marian title very dear to his spiritual experience, in preparation before and in thanksgiving after Mass.
We go now to the left nave: in front of the entrance to the sacristy, is found the place of the first burial of Murialdo in this church (1917). A burial niche was prepared under the floor, covered with a stone, still visible today, with the inscription “Hic ossa sacerdotis Leonardi Murialdo” (here are the bones of Fr. Leonard Murialdo). Later the tomb was adorned with a wooden railing and with the niche and bust that already were at the family tomb at the GeneralCemetery and that still today embellish the 1926 tomb.
Nearing the exit (main doors) one passes in front of the altar of the Sacred Heart, the first altar in the left nave as one enters the church. The altar-piece (1888) is the work of Henry Reffo.
Once out of the church, continue to walk along via Bertola. On the left there is the CitadelGarden; on the right you can catch a glimpse of the Citadel’s Keep with the monument to Peter Micca. After the Lamarmora Garden, turn left in via Stampatori. Soon you cross via Santa Maria. A few steps away, on the right, there is St. Mary in Piazza Church, where Murialdo went during his theological studies. Then in 1859, by now a priest, he enrolled in the Pious Union of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which had here its premises and was reserved to the clergy, with the aim of favour in the priests the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Today the church is under the pastoral care of the Sacramentine Fathers.
Back in via Stampatori, you turn right. At the second junction you are in via Garibaldi, formerly via Dora Grossa. In the palace of via Garibaldi 31, at the corner with via Stampatori, St. Leonard Murialdo was born.