The 12th April 1846 was Easter Sunday. All the bells in the city were ringing in celebration. At the cabin there was no bell, but there was in the heart of Don Bosco who called all his children who arrived in hundreds. Here, one can see what the inside of the Pinardi chapel looks like today.
It is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ to remind everyone of that Easter Sunday in 1846 when Don Bosco and his youngsters entered for the first time. For Don Bosco, that small building became the first solid point of reference for all his work.
Around and within this chapel, many events occurred that the Salesians consider the “treasure” of their memory.
1846. Resting against the wall of the chapel, while teaching a boy arithmetics on the first Sunday of July, Don Bosco felt ill with a high temperature and dizziness. They had to take him to the room that the marques of Barolo was lending him in Via Cottolengo. He understood immediately that it was something serious – the minimum effort caused blood to come out of his mouth. His lungs were in a serious state and he would soon be on the point of death. The sad news spread rapidly among the children:
“Don Bosco is dying”.
A group of frightened youngsters arrived at the room where Don Bosco lay in agony. They still wore their dirty work clothes, their faces white with lime. They cried and prayed. For eight days, Don Bosco hung between life and death. There were children there for the whole eight days, staying without water under the scorching heat of the sun to gain grace from the heavens. In the shrine of the Madonna Consolata, nearby, the little bricklayers did day and night shifts. There was always someone on their knees in front of the Madonna, even if their eyes were closing through fatigue. They stayed there because Don Bosco had to live. The “grace” came, as a gift from Mary. The last Sunday of July, resting on a walking stick because of his weakness (he was 31 years old!) Don Bosco covered the stretch of road that separated him from his Oratory. The children ran to meet him and, forcing him to sit on a large chair, carried him to the chapel in triumph. The little friends of Don Bosco were singing and crying, as he was too. In the silence of the chapel, after having thanked the Lord, Don Bosco said:
I owe my life to you. But of this be sure from now on I will spend everything for you.”
For a few months, he went to the Becchi to convalesce. He returned 3rd November but not alone. He was accompanied by his mother Margherita and they occupied the three rooms on the first floor that Don Borel had rented for them during those months. Leaving the Pinardi Chapel, you can see a minute vestry.
In 1853, this very narrow place housed Don Bosco’s first cobblers’ workshop – two benches and four chairs. There was no room for more (Don Bosco never waited to have “suitable premises” in which to begin something – he would still be waiting today!). Don Bosco seated himself at the bench and hammered a sole in front of four children. The improvised cobbler then said to the attentive children, “Now you try”.
This was the beginning for the hundreds and hundreds of technical schools and professional training centres that Don Bosco and his Sons and Daughters, Salesians and Salesian Sisters were to later build, with the help of many benefactors, in every part of the world. Thousands of young people, boys and girls, have learnt and still learn (as Don Bosco himself recommended) to become ‘honest citizens and good Christians’.