Mole Antonelliana

Entertainment & Arts

Europe, Italy, Torino

The Mole Antonelliana is a major landmark of the Italian city of Turin. It is named for the architect who built it, Alessandro Antonelli. In Italian "Mole" (literally, "size") indicates a building of monumental proportions. Construction began in 1863 and was completed 26 years later, after the architect's death. Today it houses the National Museum of Cinema, and it is believed to be the tallest museum in the world. The building was conceived and constructed as a synagogue. The Jewish community of Turin had enjoyed full civil rights since 1848, and at the time the construction of the synagogue began, Turin was the capital of the new Italian state, a position it held only from 1860 to 1864. The community, with a budget of 250,000 lire and the intention of having a building worthy of a capital city, hired Antonio Antonelli. Antonelli was notable for having recently added an "idiosyncratic" 121 metre-high dome and spire to the seventeenth-century Church of San Gaudenzio at Novara. He promised to build a synagogue for 280,000 lire. The relationship between Antonelli and the Jewish community was not a happy one. He immediately began to propose a series of modifications which raised the final height to 167 meters, over 46 meters higher than the dome in the original design. Such changes, in addition to greater costs and construction time than were originally anticipated, did not please the Jewish community and construction was halted in 1869 with a provisional roof. With the removal of the Italian capital to Florence in 1864, the community shrank, but costs and Antonelli's ambition continued to rise. In 1876 the Jewish community, which had spent 692,000 lire for a building that was still far from finished, announced that it was withdrawing from the project. The people of Turin, who had watched the synagogue rise skyward, demanded that the city take over the project, which it did. An exchange was arranged between the Jewish community and the city of Turin for a piece of land on which a handsome Moorish Revival synagogue was quickly built. The Mole was dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II. Antonelli again began construction, which took the height to 146, 153, and finally 167 meters (548 feet). From 1908 to 1938, the city used it to house its Museum of the Risorgimento, which was moved to the Palazzo Carignano in 1938. On 23 May 1953 a violent cloudburst, accompanied by a tornado, destroyed the uppermost 47 metres of the pinnacle, which was rebuilt in 1961 as a metal structure faced with stone. Since 2000, the building has housed the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema). The Mole appears on the reverse of the two cent Italian euro coins and was the inspiration for the official emblem of the 2006 Winter Olympics, as well as those of the of the 2005 World Bocce Championships and the 2006 World Fencing Championships. On one side of the four-faced dome, the first Fibonacci numbers are written with red neon lights: they are part of the artistic work Il volo dei Numeri ("Flight of the numbers") by Mario Merz.