Exhibitions of the 20th Century (part 1)

1931

Organization of the Exhibition
After the Exhibition of 1898 and the echo aroused by the discoveries related to the famous photography taken by Secondo Pia, and by the controversy that followed the publication of French Canon Ulysse Chevalier’s studies against the authenticity of the Shroud (1899-1903), a new chance to exhibit the Relic to popular veneration came in 1931 when a solemn and prolonged Exhibition was held from 4th to 24th May for the wedding of Prince Humbert II (1904-1983) with Maria José of Belgium. The wedding actually occurred in the previous year but the Exhibition had been postponed due to the sudden death of the Archbishop of Turin Cardinal Giuseppe Gamba. The exhibition was intended as a dynastic celebration because, from the point of view of the House of Savoy, showing the Relic was essentially an occasion to glorify the family. It is to be said, on the other hand, that investigating properly in the ecclesiastical circle in Turin of that time, it turns out that in the priesthood some people disputed the new exhibition. Among these was Giuseppe Piovano (1851-1934), professor of Church History at the Faculty of Theology. He was the author of a confidential memo he addressed to the new Archbishop, Cardinal Maurilio Fossati (1876-1965), where he supported the cause of the non-authenticity of the Shroud, also complaining about how much the new exhibition would cost. The diocese, in fact, had not yet finished paying the restorations of the Cathedral done in 1926-1928 (Nicolotti 2015, pp. 230-231).

Official Portait of Archbishop Maurilio Fossati: a reproduction of the Shroud can be seen in his hand, stating his personal devotion.
Official Portait of Archbishop Maurilio Fossati: a reproduction of the Shroud can be seen in his hands, stating his personal devotion.

An intervention of Pope Pius XI, who was personally devoted to the Shroud and also claimed to be a scholar himself, apparently solved the problem. He said to Fossati: “We are talking … as a scholar and not as pope … Some objections have been made, but they are inconsistent” (Pugno 1961, p. 326) and the Exhibition could take place, coordinated by an Ecclesiastical General Committee (Ostensione 1931, pp. 14 ff).

References:

Pugno 1961 = Giuseppe Maria Pugno, La Santa Sindone che si venera a Torino, SEI, Torino 1961.

Fossati 2000 = Luigi Fossati s.d.b., La Sacra Sindone. Storia documentata di una secolare venerazione, Elledici, Torino 2000.

Nicolotti 2015 = Andrea Nicolotti, Sindone. Storia e leggende di una reliquia controversa, Einaudi, Torino 2015.

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