Camillo Guarino Guarini was not the first to work on a project on the chapel ceiling of the Sacra Sindone. Before him, the Savoys had commissioned Carlo and Amedeo Castellamonte and Bernardino Quadri, but finally it was entrusted in full to the architect-priest Guarini, who used it as an outlet for all of his devotion, imagination, ingenuity, and ardent love of architecture.
The chapel is located between the apse of the Dome of Turin and Palazzo Reale.
From the outside one can appreciate only the conically shaped lantern, vaguely Asian in design, dotted with small urns that bring to mind the “pseudo-sepulchral” function of the structure. The interior, on the other hand, develops an immersive and experiential journey starting from two lateral portals at the high altar of the Dome. Here appear two flights of low steps, made from the same black marble as the walls and vaults. The stairs arrive at two vestibules, both black as well, opening onto the circular plan of the chapel. This is composed of five chapels, but what is most noticeable is the change in color. One enters into a gray space that becomes lighter and lighter as the gaze is raised towards the internal summit of the cupola, which is formed by a succession of six registers of arches becoming progressively smaller, resulting in a telescopic effect that creates the illusion of stretched dimensions of the lantern. The impression is that of finding oneself in a towering house of cards. The journey from the darkness of the earthly realm towards the extraordinary light that glares through the windows of the cupola is highly symbolic. With this project Guarini not only demonstrated his esteem for gothic architecture (by then denigrated by his contemporaries), but also declared his allegiance to the renewed architecture that took inspiration from Francesco Borromini. Unlike the Maestro, however, Guarini bends architecture to his own taste, favoring “intentional incongruities and surprising dissonances.” (R Wittkower)