Turin’s Medieval Village
The Medieval Village in Turin, located in Valentino Park, is a realistic replica of a 15th century Piedmontese village.
The village was built in the early 1880’s to host the Ancient Art section of the 1884 Turin Expo. Along the Po River and surrounded by walls, the centerpiece of the village is the richly furnished castle, which rises above a small cluster of houses and workshops. The idea behind the construction of the village was to offer an artistic and evocative example of the gothic style which characterized 15th century in Piedmont. This was a century of cultural and economic growth that blossomed under the duchy of Amedeo VIII.
Reproducing 15th century buildings found on the Piedmontese and Aosta Valley territory, the Medieval Village is cleverly set so that spaces and picturesque perspectives multiply along the main alley. In 1884, visitors were able to witness ancient manufacturing techniques through the many workshops that had been recreated, from potters to weavers, carpenters to blacksmiths. A landmark in the study of the Middle Ages and neo-medieval studies, the village has become today a multi-purpose museum.
Inside the splendid castle, the lord’s fortified living quarters are characterized by splendid rooms with gorgeous furniture, fabrics and furnishings, distinctive of the taste and customs of 15th century castle life. The armory shows armors and arms, flasks and hoods. In the dining hall the cupboards reveal embossed kitchenware and pottery, while game hangs in the kitchen. On the first floor, after the throne room with pictures of the valiant heroes and heroines inspired by the Chevalier Errant of Tommaso III of Saluzzo, is the baron’s bedroom, where the great canopy bed stands out with the coat of arms of Amedeo IX. The enchanting chapel is highlighted by frescoes by Giuseppe Rollini reproducing the works of Jaquerio di S. Antonio di Ranverso.
Recreated in 1998, the Medieval Gardens are comprised of three sections: the Garden of Pleasure, with roses, primroses, violets and other flowering plants particularly loved by Middle Ages courts; the Garden of Simple Remedies, containing herbs used as medication by medieval pharmacists; and the Kitchen Garden full of vegetables and fruit trees. These various plants, as well as the ornamental furniture of the three section garden, have been identified through iconographic and bibliographic research and are shown alongside other local botanical species.
Set behind the church façade is an exhibition room, where rotating exhibits offer the chance to step deeper into 15th century Turin.
One of the consultants who worked on creating the village was Piedmontese playwright Giuseppe Giacosa, who among other things was the librettist of Puccini’s operas “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”
Giacosa put his vast talents at the service of this impressive project. He had a passion for the Middle Ages, and set his 1873 play “A Game of Chess” (or “The Wager”) in that time. In the prologue to the play, Giacosa describes a castle with crumbled walls climbed by ivy, decapitated towers and ruined frescoes. The building is surrounded by screeching birds, grotesque yet stronger and more solid than the castle itself. The melancholic poet could never have imagined that in Turin, this project inspired by the dilapidated castles and churches in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, would still be standing over a century later.