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Short History


The history of the Sanctuary of the Consolata is linked to a couple of important episodes which are to be found in two texts dating back, respectively, to the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries: the Chronicon Novalicense and the Cronaca di Fruttuaria.

I) The Chronicon Novalicense tells of two Benedictine monks who fled from their abbey in the Novalese in 906 (50 km. away from Turin, at the border with France), due to Saracen raids.  They came and lived as a community in the church of Saint Andrew in Turin, near the city walls. Following the arrival of the Benedictines in the Susa Valley, the Marquis Adalberto had founded a monastery together with portions of land belonging to the cities of Gondole and San Dalmazzo given to the monks (929).

II) The Cronaca di Fruttuaria recounts the legendary vision of Arduino who, in 1016, dreamt that the Virgin Mary, Saint Benedict and Mary Magdalen appeared to him, ordering him to build three sanctuaries including the church of Saint Andrew in Turin. As a result of this dream, he became a strong advocate for the construction of a new chapel, where, legend has it, the ancient image of the Madonna and child was then discovered.


Tradition has it that the image of the Mother of God “Consolata” was found near the Church of Saint Andrea by a young blind man from Briançon (France), who went looking for the image after a vision.

As a result of his discovery of this miraculous image, which had belonged to the original church in its early centuries and had since been lost, the blind man regained his sight. The image, from that moment on, has been seen as a sign of the divine mercy, as a vehicle for divine grace and miracles through faith.

Following its discovery, the image of the Consolata was placed in a chapel of the church, where it drew an ever-greater number of pilgrims. The painting situated above the main altar nowadays dates back to the fourteenth century, and is a copy of the Madonna and Child painting kept in the Church of Madonna del Popolo in Rome.

The inscription, Sancta Maria de Populo de Urbe, at the bottom of the painting, suggests that the painting may have been commissioned by the bishop Domenico della Rovere, who became commendatory prior of Saint Andrew’s in 1480.

The apostolic visit of Mgr. Angelo Peruzzi in 1584, who described the altar of the Consolata as “quite decorously ornamented”, marked the definitive abandonment of the monastery by the Benedictine monks, who were replaced by the Cistercian order in 1589. Peruzzi described the Cappella della Vergine Consolata (Chapel of the Virgin and Child) as follows:
The altar of Santa Maria della Consolazione stands under the vaulted ceiling of the chapel. Upon it, visitors can admire an image of the glorious virgin which has been the subject of much devotion, as the many wax and silver offerings and the many pictures of men and women hung on the walls demonstrate. Mass is celebrated every day in the company of a large number of devotees, many of whom have come from far a-field.


In addition to building a new chapel to hold the holy image of the Mother of God and the Holy Child, the Cistercians also sought to promote devotion to the Consolata.

During the Seventeenth Century, the Cistercians decided to build a new church, handing the commission to the Theatine architect Guarino Guarini. The new church was inaugurated in 1704. During the French siege of Turin in 1706, the whole population of the city took refuge in and around the Consolata, in spite of the danger, being the church just beside the city walls. Upon the successful breaking of the siege, the City of Turin, “declared that all the area occupied by the enemies should be marked out by a series of stone pillars, set out around a 12 mile circuit, bearing the effigy of the Consolata and the date 1706.”

The passage in question is quoted in Pietro Buscalioni’s 1938 book, La Consolata nella storia di Torino, del Piemonte e della Augusta Dinastia Sabauda (The Consolata in the History of Turin, Piedmont and the Great Savoyard Dynasty), and it is still possible to see one of these pillars in the garden surrounding the sanctuary.

On September 29th, 1706, the city senate “reconfirmed the election of Mary the Comforter as Patron of Turin”. As Buscalioni goes on to write, “this election was ratified in yet more solemn terms on June 20th, 1714, when, by decree of the city senate itself, the already popular festival of the cult was officially sanctioned”.

In 1802 the Napoleonic decree for the suppression of religious orders obliged the monks to leave the monastery, which was briefly transformed into barracks. The Cistercians returned upon the restoration in 1815, but were replaced in 1834 by the Lay-Brothers of the Virgin Mary, following the apostolic visit of Cardinal Morozzo and with the express approval of Luigi Fransoni, archbishop of Turin.

Before the sanctuary passed from the Cistercians to the Lay-Brothers, during the reign of Carlo Felice, the solemn rite of coronation of the holy image took place. This coronation of the Madonna and Child formalised the high level of prestige to which the image had attained over the course of the previous centuries.


The history of the Consolata during the XIX Cent. continued to go hand in hand with that of the city. Following a Cholera epidemic in 1835, the civic administration made a votary offering (Ex-Voto) to the sanctuary of the Consolata “so as to be freed from cholera by divine grace, or to limit the effects of the illness, or to obtain whatever form of relief God may choose to grant to this city”.

A trace of this votary still remains in the painting by Amedeo Augero (1835-1836), which is conserved in the Council Offices of Turin’s City Hall. The painting represents all the legal representatives of the city solemnly delivering the votary offering to the sanctuary.

The granite column bearing the statue of Madonna and Child, which can still be admired in the Sanctuary, bears witness to the successful outcome of their plea. The column was erected by the authorities of the City of Turin in 1836, to commemorate the grace which they had been granted.

In 1858 the management of the Sanctuary changed hands again, passing from the Marian Lay Brothers to the Franciscan Minor Friars, who occupied the Consolata until 1871, when the ecclesiastical seminary, founded by Luigi Guala and later by St. Joseph Cafasso, was transferred there from the church-convent of Saint Francis of Assisi. With the guidance of Mgr. Allamano, Rector of the institution in 1882 (and founder of the Missionaries of the Consolata), the final additions were made to the structure of the Sanctuary by the architect Carlo Ceppi and the engineer Antonio Vandone (1899-1904). During the second world war, the seminary was bombed (1943) and partially destroyed.

Its residents were forced to escape to Bra. They returned in 1948, when the new ecclesiastical seminary was inaugurated, following rebuilding work. Until now, the Consolata is the real spirtual heart of the Turin ArchDiocesis, where hundred of peolple daily go to confession, participate to the Holy Eucharist, pray and meet. Every year the main Feast is celebrated on June 20th.


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