‘The best laid plans of mice and men………..’ One of the few certainties of life is that things change. So, here I am in Turin, Italy, far farther across Europe than I expected to be at this point.
Here in Turin life is bountiful. Staying with my brother-in-law Joe, a brilliant engineer who works as an expert contractor for Honeywell, I have been given easy access to the heart of the city – and what a tremendous city it is. Former capital of Italy, home of the royal house of Savoy, Turin shines, as do many cities of Italy, with the glories of the past: monuments to great and heroic deeds, to men who performed them, to victories in battles now long forgotten; filled with palaces, museums, galleries, churches; music, art, and culture of every variety abound.Despite the grandeurs, Turin is a city on a human scale that magnifies the human in you. It expands you; within you assume a dimension that may not have existed before. Growing larger, becoming aware, you can touch the sky; touch the tops of the buildings while strolling the pleasant piazzas and stately strade. The grand nature of even the most mundane of buildings surprises and delights, and uplifts. Turin celebrates the nobility and majesty of a fully human life; the rise of the human spirit to an earthly apogee. Its world is ordered around what make human life enjoyable, worth living.
Wandering the city this afternoon, and meandering into the late evening on a day when it seemed every person in the city was out walking to see or be seen, Joe and I joined the thronging crowds, and found ourselves promenading with the best of them! Throughout the city vast piazzas are located strategically, surrounding major monuments and public buildings, encouraging the Torinesei sense of public display. The cult of beauty and fashion pervades this city of stunning beauty, and the stunningly beautiful. And despite the surging, pulsing throng, the flow of life is a cultured relaxation as only in Italy it can be. Half-measures are not to be expected in such a place, given over as it is to the bold proclamation of the Beautiful.So too, the grand statements of the magnificence of Italian music and opera are generously presented to all who would avail themselves, the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatorium of Music frequently provides free performances, and many great operas are staged on a regular basis [my bedroom being literally across the street does have its advantages! – wonderful musicians practicing rapturous music; sopranos practicing their scales and solos – all wafting on the morning breeze, and in and out of earshot throughout the day]. There is a gentle easy pace to life in this city that calms and soothes. People on bicycles and on foot predominate – the private car is relegated to a distant second place in the affections of locals, who relish the pleasures of mingling with their fellows at street corners and side-walk cafes. It would be easy to live here; the profusion of tiny speciality shops; the food markets; evenings by the river surrounded by friends enjoying a delicious meal and a pleasant glass of wine in good company and scenic beauty…………
On street after street the senses are constantly tantalized: the aromas of coffee brewing, the scent of sweet pastries emanating from tiny bakeries and cake shops that abound on almost every street; even the rawness of rubbish piled up on the side of the road awaiting collection reminds you – you are alive, and really here – in the presence of exuberance and passion for life – such is life in Turin the Beautiful.
On a more serious note, the Cathedral of the Holy Shroud was open today, and as the Shroud is one of the major drawcards for visiting Turin [but primarily because of my faith in the Lord’s resurrection], I felt compelled to enter and place myself before the highly venerated object.
The Shroud of Turin is an ancient yellowed linen cloth which bears the faded image of a bearded man covered with blood stains which correspond to the wounds of crucifixion. The Shroud has been kept in Turin, Italy for over 400 years but has a history that can be traced to the sixth century with legends and folklore going all the way back to First Century. Millions believe it is the actual burial shroud of Jesus. National Geographic called it, “One of the most perplexing enigmas of modern times”. Time Magazine called it, “The Riddle of the Ages”. The subject is a fascinating blend of ancient history, sacred art, modern science and religious tradition.
The Shroud has become the most thoroughly examined relic or artefact in the history of man. In 1988 the cloth was carbon dated to the 13th century. Recent research now questions the validity of those tests. No other artefact has received as much scientific focus as the Shroud, and yet it remains a mystery. Some people believe it to be a medieval hoax, however the Shroud image in all of its uniqueness cannot be duplicated by any known process.
The Cathedral is small, and the Shroud itself is stored in a special case – a reliquary – hidden under sombre dark red altar covers and protected in a sealed room behind bullet-proof glass; ‘no photos allowed – sorry’ was the warning elicited as I readied my camera for the compulsory shot.
The Shroud will not be exhibited again until 2025. I doubt my future presence for that event. A mass of humanity in the vicinity of three million people are expected.Images from: http://www.shroud.com/late05.htm ©2005 Aldo Guerreschi
A replica however was to be seen hanging on a wall in another nearby church – it was not that impressive as it was simply hanging like a painting – nothing special about its presentation. Replicas of the flagellum [scourges used on Jesus], the crown of thorns, the nails and the spear were also reproduced and presented – wholly based upon historical and archaeological evidence. When seeing these implements of torture it is almost impossible to believe that one human could use them upon another………… it staggers the mind and heart……………..
Mark 10:45 portrays Jesus declaring he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many – the beauty of true Love.
The Shroud in which He was buried is not an object of great physical beauty, it is old and worn, scorched and burned and blood stained. It speaks of death, inflicted in the most extreme manner, but, with the understanding of faith, its true beauty becomes apparent, its mute testimony resounding to all creation.
Turin the Beautiful is blessed in providing a home for the evidence of the most beautiful statement of Love known.
The day slipping gradually by, we walked and walked – across, around, through and above the city to the heights of the Monastery of the Capuchin Monks perched upon a mount that gazes down surveying a vast valley filled with the city and stretching out through to the foothills of the Alps in the distance. Part of the ancient Salt Route that lead from the Ligurian Sea through to Paris, and beyond, the valley and the Turin region have for thousands of years been a thriving centre of human activity and material advancement. Home too to the most revered material object of the Christian Faith – bearing silent witness to the extraordinary event of human history – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Whatever you think of the Shroud, it must be admitted there is something very strange and other-worldly about it, and that alone makes it worthy of continued serious study.Late now, walking home through quiet back streets, Joe expressed pleasure and pride in the city he loves, its ancient and venerable history, centres of culture and learning and Italian political resurgence, the vibrancy of its people, and its cosmopolitan lifestyle. A glorious heritage indeed, and one of which to be justly proud. Yet Turin houses a greater treasure, a richer beauty, a truer wonder of the ages, a gift that declares the genuine and ultimate beauty and glory of humanity, recapitulating and consummating all that Turin strives to embody and proclaim:
Life conquers death through Love.