Blaeu, Turin (1682)

Few of the original street plans of provincial Roman towns are as well preserved as they are in Turin (Torino). The layout Roman castrum, Augusta Taurinorum established around 30 BCE was little changed during the medieval period. While the city was continuously occupied, it did not expand in any substantial way until after it became the capital of the Duchy of Savoy in the later sixteenth century. The original Roman quarter stretches to the left (west) of the large piazza in which sits the medieval Palazzo Madama. The street running from the piazza to the western gate of the city (modern Via Garibaldi) was the ancient decumanus of the Roman castrum. The ancient cardo intersects the decumanus at a right angle two blocks west of the piazza. Its ancient northern exit from the city, the large gate known today as the Porta Palatina, may be clearly seen in this late seventeenth century plan. The slight irregularities in the original grid in this vicinity are the result of centuries of incremental modifications made by Turin’s medieval inhabitants.. This extended grid, the star-shaped citadel, and the massive surrounding walls were late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century constructions of the Dukes of Savoy, who remade Turin into a great European capital. The stark military aspect of the city suited well the Dukes’ reflected the enormous influence of defense on urban planning in early modern Europe, but it was also an aesthetic well suited to the expression of ducal magnificence and power.

The same can be said of the atlas of cities and towns in which this plan of Turin was published. The work, the last of a series of atlases of Italian cities published by the great Amsterdam house of Blaeu, was begun in the 1650s under the close supervision of Duke Carlo Emanuele II. The Duke saw to it that views of palaces, churches, and other monuments to his growing power were also included in the two volumes. The grandiose work was not completed until after his death, by which time his son, Vittorio Amedeo II, had ascended the throne.



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Sereno, Paolo. “Cartography in the Duchy of Savoy during the Renaissance.” In  J.B. Harley and David Woodward, ed., The History of Cartography, vol. 3. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Pollak, Martha. Turin 1560-1680: Urban Design, Military Culture and the Creation of the Absolutist Capital. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Pollak, Martha. Cities at War in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Joan Blaeu, [Turin], in Theatrum statum regiae celsitudinis Sabaudiae ducis, Pedemontii principis, Cypris regis (Amsterdam: Apud haeredes I. Blaeu, 1682). The Newberry Library, Case Wing oversize G1984 .B6 1682 vol. 1