Fireworks in celebration of the Eucharistic Miracle

FESTIVALS. Tamiati, Giovanni Grisostomo Annibale (18th c.); Rana, Carlo Andrea (1715-1804)

Relazione delle sagre feste celebratesi in Torino per opera, e zelo degl'illustriss. signori Sindaci, e Decurioni di essa città nel solenne ottavario del terzo secolo in onore dell'insigne miracolo del SS. Sacramento seguito nella medesima addì 6 giugno 1453.

Turin: Stamperia Reale, 1753


Quarto: 21 x 15.5 cm. 20 p. With an added folding engraved plate (31.2 x 23.5 cm.)


Bound in later marbled wrappers. A nice copy on good paper, light toning to inner margin of title. Complete with the folding plate engraved by C. Bruni.

A very rare account of the tercentennial celebrations held in Turin to commemorate the Eucharistic miracle of 1453. EXTREMELY RARE. Only 2 copies in North America (Illinois, Getty).

The publication is of particular importance for the engraving by C. Bruni (or Brun) that illustrates the "macchina di fuochi di goia" designed by the architect Carlo Andrea Rana and erected in Turin's Piazza Castello. Rana was famous for his ephemeral apparatuses for festivals and ceremonies held in Turin and his native Susa. His architectural projects include the Church of Strambino, the Royal Tombs of Superga, and the Civic Tower of Turin.

The account begins with a detailed description of Turin's Basilica of Corpus Domini, a Baroque church erected in 1607 to honor and house the miraculous Eucharist. In anticipation of the tercentennial of the miracle, King Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy commissioned Benedetto Alfieri to restore the interior decoration and to augment it with marble, stuccoes, gold, silver, and crystal. He also restored the cupola and vault. 

The author continues with descriptions of the elaborate architectural details (marble statues, columns, inscriptions, etc.) that adorned the facade, and the equally elaborate temporary structures erected for the dignitaries and spectators of the ceremonies. These consisted of a massive colonnade, an atrium, etc., all adorned with elaborate paintings, precious fabrics, statuary and inscriptions. Further decorations and structures erected throughout the city are also described.

We are then told of the various ceremonies and entertainments that took place over the course of the week, including a description of the grand procession and an account of the spectacular, citywide illuminations. On the first night almost the entire city was illuminated with torches, lamps, and candles, not only the piazzas, churches, and principal palazzi, but also the houses of ordinary citizens. Every part of the Royal Palace (the columns, cornices, balustrades, parapets, arcades, porticoes, etc.) was ablaze with torches. As musicians played, fireworks were set off, to the great delight of the crowd.

The account of the grand, theatrical fireworks "machine" is found on pages 15 and 16. The description of the monument includes many details not visible on the plate, including certain inscriptions, the materials used, the colors, etc. The writer stresses the monument's reliance on theater design and identifies the various allegorical figures and themes.

As for the incendiaries, all four levels of the structure "were packed and adorned with pyramids, urns, "Milanese" trees, and other "giuochi alla Chinese"(sic), trophies, transparent coats-of-arms, inscriptions, and figures… all filled with fireworks, as were all other parts of the apparatus."

The entire city turned out for the spectacle. Soldiers were positioned to keep the spectators at a safe distance. Tamiati describes the marvelous beauty of the whole apparatus illuminated in perfect symmetry, the waves of fireworks, and the rockets that exploded in the night sky, scattering innumerable "stars" of various colors, and the continuous sound of explosions. The whole gave an impression of innumerable fountains and siphons, of light rather than water, arousing wonder and delight in the spectators.

The Miracle of the Eucharist: 

In 1453, in the Alta Val Susa, close to Exilles, the army of René D'Angiò met the army of duke Ludovic of Savoy. Here the soldiers indulged in plundering the town and some of them entered the church. One of them forced open the little door of the tabernacle and stole the monstrance with the consecrated Host. He wrapped up all that he had stolen in a bag and headed for Turin on a mule. In the main piazza close to St. Sylvester’s Church (where later the Church of Corpus Domini was built), the she-mule stumbled and fell. Then suddenly the bag fell open and the monstrance with the consecrated Host rose over the surrounding, filling the people with wonder. Among those present was Don Bartholomew Coccolo, who ran with this news to the Bishop, Ludovico, Marquis of Romagnano. The Bishop, accompanied by a cortege of people and clergy, went to the piazza, prostrated himself in adoration, and prayed, 'Stay with us, Lord.' Meanwhile a second miracle had occurred; the monstrance had fallen on the ground, leaving the consecrated Host floating free and shining like a second sun. The Bishop, who was holding a chalice in his hands, lifted it up high and the consecrated host slowly descended and settled in the chalice.

Collezione Simeon, C 9184. Peyrot I n. 180