The Title – Enlargement
In 1862, Don Bosco said to Fr. Cagliero:
“Our Lady wants us to honour her with the title of Mary Help of Christians. The times are so sad that we need the Holy Virgin to help us preserve and defend the Christian faith”.
The title itself was not new to the Church. Since 1500 it was present among the Loreto litanies; devotion to Mary Help of Christians was already known during the period of St Pius V.
Since 1684, there was a sort of archconfraternity of Mary Help of Christians in Munich in Bavaria. Pope Pius VII, initiated the celebration of Mary Help of Christians, fixing the date as 24th May, the day of his return to Rome after liberation from Napoleonic imprisonment in 1814. In 1868, Don Bosco wrote:
“The experience of eighteen centuries has made us see that the Virgin Mary has continued, in the heavens and with the greatest success, the mission that the Mother of the Church and Help of Christians began on earth”.
THE SHRINE IS ENLARGED…
In 1934 (the same year as Don Bosco’s canonisation) work began on enlarging and embellishing the Shrine.
- This was needed on account of the increased population in the Valdocco area of Turin (pastoral and civic needs),
- the lack of sufficient exits from the Church when many of the faithful took part in major celebrations (safety reasons),
- and there was a desire to provide a worthy altar to Don Bosco, who had been declared a Saint by Pope Pious XI (the spiritual and Salesian reason).
The extension of the Shrine was designed and executed by the architects Mario Ceradini and the Salesian Brother Giulio Valotti.
THE MAIN ADDITIONS WERE….
- The new high and beautiful altar to St John Bosco
- The enlarging of the sanctuary with room behind the main altar, which was also renewed
- The second cupola, 12 metres in diameter, with the Latin inscription: “HIC DOMUS MEA, INDE GLORIA MEA”. Here is my house, from here comes my glory.
- The two side chapels and their galleries (the one on the left-hand side for the huge organ, the largest church organ in Piedmont).
- The two galleries are linked by a corridor with some small altars dedicated to the Crucified Christ and various saints (St Joseph Cottolengo, St Joseph Cafasso, who was Don Bosco’s spiritual director, St Pius V…). Decoration of the whole Church was entrusted to the artist Cussetti.