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  • TURIN'S HISTORY
    as portrayed by its commemorative plaques

    Part 3 of 5: The 18th Century
    Continued from part 2

    In the late 17th-early 18th century Turin continued to expand along the lines imposed by dynastic urban planning, and realised by the court architects with the second and third expansion phases. During the same period, however, the city was faced with a lengthy war that culminated in the siege by the French in 1706.

    It was rescued by the arrival of the allied Austrian army and by the heroic action of Pietro Micca in the tunnels under the Citadel.

    Filippo Juvarra's basilica at Superga was erected in 1714-1717 as a mark of gratitude to God for granting the city victory. The Peace of Utrecht in 1713 made Vittorio Amedeo II king of Sicily and then king of Sardinia in 1720.

    In order to rein force his authority has absolute monarch, the new king reorganised the army, the government and the civil service. He also admitted the middle classes to the corridors of power and took action to limit the influence of the aristocracy and clergy over the Kingdom's economic life.

    This meant new administrative, political and military functions for which new institutions like a Secretariat of State, a War Office and a Council of State were created and detailed regulations were drafted on the organisation of the Court Archives. New barracks were built as well as new government offices in building that ran from courtyard of the Royal Palace to the Military Academy.

    The period also brought profound economic changes, introducing new working and apprenticeship systems. Documents in the royal archives paint a clear picture of the regulations governing the city's trade at the time including instructions on trading standards and prices. As an example of the city's economic revival at the time, we might mention Benedetto Carpano the inventor of vermouth.

    Throughout the eighteenth century Vittorio Amedeo II and his successors were involved in the reconstruction of every aspect of the city's life. One particularly important project was education and the reform of a university that dated back to the XVth century. In this century, a new university building was erected on via Po and it was Vittorio Amedeo II himself who engineered the university's change of status from independent body to organ of State. There are numerous plaques inside the building now occupied by the Faculty Secretariat which commemorate the great scholars who occupied the University's most prestigious chairs.

    In both scientific and humanist university teaching and research Turin boasts many figures of eminence: a plaque at Number 29 via lagrange, for example, marks the former home of Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange, one of the 18th century's greatest mathematicians. Turin was in fact the cultural home of many of the century's most enlightened reformers and intellectuals: at the corner of Via Alfieri and Piazza San Carlo where Vittorio Alfieri lived for five years and wrote his first tragedies. In 1792 the Kingdom of Sardinia, with Vittorio Amedeo III, declared war on revolutionary France with annexed Piedmont a few years later. The fifteen year exile of the Savoy dynasty and the period of French domination generated a new political order in which the middle classes rose to political and administrative power. However, the union with France proved damaging for the Piedmontese economy. This was also a period of further expansion for the city, triggered by Napoleon's decision to knock down its ancient walls to make it more suitable for modern tactical warfare. It was a decision that was to free the city for further expansion in later years.

    From that time on, while Turin retained its 18th century grid layout, rigidly programmed town planning became a thing of the past, as we see in the so-called Borgo Nuovo that was developed in 1822-29. Here, the Po enters the urban fabric as the link between the 19th century square dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele I and the Gran Madre church which was erected as a mark of gratitude for the same King's restoration in 1814.

    During the restoration period it became public policy to return the kingdom to its condition prior to the arrival of the French. This involved a return to the constitution of 1770, the abolition of all Napoleonic legislation and the revival of earlier legislation discriminating against non-Catholics.

    Part 1: Emperor Augustus to the Savoy Government
    Part 2: Planning & Architectural Projects
    Part 4: The 19th Century
    Part 5: The 20th Century


    Additional Resources:
    Photos of Turin
    Shroud of Turin
    Turin City Guide
    Torino Clothing & Novelties

    "Courtesy of the Comune di Torino. Reprinted with permission."

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