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The Chapel in Valentino castle is back on view

7 February 2018

The Valentino Castle, which has been a UNESCO site, together with the Savoy Residences, since 1997 and is also the original premises of the Politecnico di Torino, is now a place of education and research, but for the last twenty years or so it has been at the centre of attention as a hub of primary interest in an enhancement programme that aims to restore it not only to the academic world, but also to the entire city, as an item of historical and architectural heritage.

In actual fact the Valentino Castle is already a location for guided educational tours, offered subject to prior booking to foreign visitors, as well as the people of Turin, who are often surprised to discover that behind the main gates (one of the last restoration tasks) there stands an object of absolute richness, a leap just as much into the 17th century period of Princess Christine of France as into the life of the 19th century Regia Scuola di Applicazione per gli Ingegneri (Royal School of Application for Engineers), the first nucleus which was, from 1906 on, to become the present day Politecnico di Torino.

It has been at the heart of lengthy restoration work since the 1980s and today the Valentino Castle has become an open field of enhancement, through an extensive programme starting from the façades, through the regal apartments, down to the service areas. This programme has been jointly managed by the Supervisory Authority for the Architectural and Landscape Heritage of Piedmont and the Supervisory Authority for Historical, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Assets of Piedmont, which are now united in the Supervisory Authority for Fine Arts and Landscape for the Municipality and Province of Turin, but has also involved lecturers and experts from the Politecnico itself and has been given expert support in carrying out the operations by the Construction Area of the University.

“I wish to thank all those who have shown their commitment to working on the restoration in order to give the Valentino Castle back to the city. Sharing of knowledge is, for the Politecnico, not just a defined strategic objective on issues of research and technology transfer, understood in a broad sense, but it is rather the method to create a system, together with the Local Area, that can make Turin increasingly a City of Culture, as well as being a university City”, said the Rector, Marco Gilli, who was visiting on the occasion of completion of the restoration and enhancement work on the Valentino Chapel, which has finally been restored to its ancient splendour with white stuccoes and wise volumes.

The chapel is not a case of discovery, more a rediscovery; the unveiling of a space, on the ground floor of the north west pavilion, facing towards the city, which had in many ways been forgotten. It was being employed for the needs of the administration office and altered by the use of covering walls, so that only the vaulted ceiling stuccoes were recognisable in places, with the areas of the chapel and sacristy denuded, and the rooms had lost most of their religious identity. The latest restoration work has now given back all its richness and identifies the figure who ordered the chapel, in terms of its decorative apparatus, not so much as Christine of France, the original lady of the castle, but rather her daughter-in-law, Maria Giovanna Battista, showing the continuity of the link between the Regents and the riverside residence.

The work also recomposes the unitary, overall image, which the lengthy, delicate operations on the regal apartments of the first floor of the nobility, on the façades and on the railings and gates of the 1800s, had started to recreate, but which still lacks a fair number of elements.

“A great deal has been done, but there is still much to do for these to become even more functional premises for the departments belonging to the area of Architecture, but also for it to be more and more open to the city and the public; that is to be a focal point of a programme which, in the University Masterplan, sees the axis of the River Po as a development hub for a future which is now very close”, the Rector concluded.