Another Crumbling Facade – This Time in Turin

Minor Damage to Facade of San Lorenzo

Last week, the Turin newspaper La Stampa reported that some stucco fell off a rusticated quoin-like corner pilaster of the facade of San Lorenzo. Fortunately no one was injured when the debris landed on Piazza Castello below. The incident recalls the one in Modena last year, when portions of a corner capital at Guarino Guarini’s Theatine casa of San Vincenzo (now a courthouse) broke off and landed on the Canal Grande street below.

The photo gallery below takes advantage of La Stampa‘s generous Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licensing for local reporting to share some images of the damage.

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The San Lorenzo facade predates Guarini’s arrival in Turin in late 1666. It is already visible in close to its current form in a fresco in the Stanza delle Magnificenze (c. 1662-65) at the Castello del Valentino. Originally an open portico on the ground floor with rooms above, the openings to the piazza were walled up in 1661, creating what now serves as the church’s narthex. Guarini’s church thus rose behind this preexisting portico block when it was constructed from 1670-1680.

Guarini’s own plans for the facade called for covering the existing structure with a kind of sheathing of pilasters, columns, and rich ornaments, possibly inspired by an unexecuted design (c. 1643) by Antonio Maurizio Valperga for the facade of the adjacent Palazzo Ducale, now Palazzo Reale. When Guarini’s design, too, remained unexecuted, and with few other intervening changes, the church facade still essentially corresponds to the state seen in the fresco at Valentino (view the fresco in the video at the bottom of this post).

San Lorenzo facade comparison

Comparison of Guarini’s proposed facade for San Lorenzo, Turin, with the extant building
Sources: Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica (Turin: Per gl’Eredi Gianelli, 1686), plate 5 (Getty Research Institute / Internet Archive /public domain); and Wikimedia Commons / public domain

As in Modena, one hopes that this minor incident serves as a wake-up call for the authorities to invest in necessary maintenance, if for no other reason than to protect the public from falling debris. (They should be well aware of the damage: the office of the relevant Soprintendenza is in the building next door.)

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Further reading:

Henry A. Millon, review of G. M. Crepaldi, La Real Chiesa Di San Lorenzo in Torino, Turin, 1963, in Art Bulletin 47, no. 4 (Dec. 1965): 531-532; here 531.

Susan Klaiber, Guarino Guarini’s Theatine Architecture, Ph.D. dissertation (Columbia University, 1993): 204-207; 216-218; 277-280.

Susan Klaiber, “Le fonti per San Lorenzo,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, and H. A. Millon, editors, Guarino Guarini (Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C., 2006): 328-337.