This chapel is on the left, near the main entrance. It is small, pleasing and quiet, and very suitable for anyone who wants to pray. Many ordinary folk and pilgrims visit it. 

Why the Sacred Heart?

Don Bosco's own great devotion. He himself wrote that, after the revelations to St Margaret Mary Alacoque,

"This devotion was taken up by clergy and lay people with exceptional zeal, as though it corresponded to some pressing need of the human heart".

Fr Giulio Barberis SDB wrote about Don Bosco's devotion: 

"Don Bosco's devotion to the Sacred Heart was admirable. He recommended it in a big way to his boys…".

He showed his love and devotion by undertaking, near the end of his life, and at great cost and sacrifice to himself, the construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, next to Rome's Termini Station.


At the back of the Basilica can be seen the two paintings of the Dream of the Two Pillars and the Dream of the Raft.

30 May 1862, Don Bosco told how, in a dream, he had seen a terrible sea-battle with thousands of crafts, big and small, launched against a single stately ship symbolising the Church.

The ship had been hit several times, but was still proudly afloat. Directed by the Pope it was able to anchor itself securely between two pillars rising out of the sea. On top of the first pillar was a large Host and the words

"Salus credentium" / Salvation of believers.

The second pillar was smaller and there was a statue of Mary Immaculate on it with the words

"Auxilium Christianorum" / Help of Christians.

Don Bosco told the dream of the Raft in 1866. Caught by a frightful flood, the boys try to save themselves by getting on a raft with Don Bosco and they see the mysterious word MEDOUM in the sky.

The Saint explained it as "Mary, Mother and Lady of the whole universe". When the raft was tied up in a safe place, the Virgin Mary spoke to the boys:



When you enter the Basilica by the main door, on the right-hand side you will find a stairway leading to the Crypt or "Chapel of the Relics".

It has one nave and is shaped like a Latin cross. The ornamental motifs and symbols recall the Christian catacombs.

Numerous relics of martyrs and saints are preserved in the chapel.

Its centrepiece is the relic of the Wood of the Cross, conserved in a container with an alabaster background.

Important in its own way is the little chapel dedicated to Our Lady, and commonly called the

"Chapel of the Apparition"

on account of the 1845 dream related by Don Bosco: I seemed to be in a vast meadow with a huge crowd of boys.

I saw a Lady beside me. She told me:

"In this place, where the glorious martyrs of Turin, Adventor and Octavius, suffered martyrdom, on those clods soaked and sanctified by their blood,

I wish that God be honoured in a very special manner.

So saying, she put our her foot and pointed to the exact spot where the martyrs had fallen". The spot is indicated, on the floor, by a golden cross.

Two altars contain the mortal remains of 

                  Blessed Michael Rua,
Don Bosco's first successor, and of
 Blessed Philip Rinaldi, Don Bosco's third successor.


Michael Rua was born very near Torino-Valdocco. He was eight years old when he met Don Bosco and asked him for a holy picture. The saint made a sign that looked like he was cutting something in half. As he did so, he told the child:

"Take it, Michael, take it: the two of us will always go halves."

He was right in his prediction: Don Rua would be his most faithful collaborator and his first successor in guiding the Salesians. He was a tireless worker and the genial organiser of the young Salesian Society. Don Bosco said of him:

 "If I had ten Don Ruas I would conquer the world". He also said:

"DON RUA, IF HE WANTED, COULD PERFORM MIRACLES. If I wanted to single out any point where he was not absolutely perfect in virtue, I would be stuck, because I could not find any."
He was a great worker and a great saint, exactly like Don Bosco. He was declared Blessed by Paul VI on 29 October 1972.


He was Don Bosco's third successor in guiding the Salesian Society. Like Don Rua, Philip knew Don Bosco from childhood.

But he only surrendered himself to him when he was 21 years old.

Don Rinaldi is considered the real founder of Salesian work in Spain and Portugal.

He was the genial (for those days) founder of the flourishing VDB Secular Institute, the Women Volunteers of Don Bosco.

A deeply prayerful man, with a rich inner life and a son's devotion to Mary Help of Christians, he was declared Blessed by John Paul II on 29 April 1990. He wrote this spiritual note to his VDB Daughters:
What must you do to have life? Before all else, the first thing you have to do is pray for courage every day to carry the cross the Lord has assigned you. Then let each of you do your own work really well, the work proper to your state, as God wants it, and according to your condition, which means according to the spirit of the Lord and of Don Bosco".

The Crypt also contains objects that belonged to the first Salesian martyrs Mgr Luigi Versiglia and Fr Callisto Caravario, both of whom were pupils in the Mother House at Torino-Valdocco.

The First Salesian Martyrs:


Aloysius Versiglia was born at Oliva Gessi (Pavia, Italy) in 1873. At the age of 12 he went to study at Turin-Valdocco - on condition he didn't become a priest! But God's grace, the thoroughly religious atmosphere, the enthusiasm for the missions and of course the charm and sanctity of Don Bosco, by now in his last years, transformed the boy's soul. One day he heard the Saint of Youth say,

"Come and see me; I've something to say to you".

The meeting never took place owing to Don Bosco's death, but he'd been won over all the same and so after his studies he asked simply 'to stay with Don Bosco', fostering in his heart the secret hope of one day setting out as a missionary.

He studied philosophy and theology in Rome, but all the while he gave an important pastoral service in the Sacred Heart Oratory near the city's main railway station Stazione Termini. He became a teacher and novices' assistant at Foglizzo near Turin. He was always an effective 'shaper' of personalities, loving and a good friend to all. At the age of thirty three he went to China as leader of a small group of Salesians. In 1920 he was consecrated bishop and appointed Vicar Apostolic of Schiu Chow.

In 1929 Bishop Versiglia ordained Callistus Caravario as a Salesian priest at Schiu Chow. He had been born at Cuorgnè near Turin and he, too, had studied at Turin-Valdocco. There in 1922 he had met the bishop and promised him, "I'll follow you to China". And so he did.... On 23rd February 1930 they set out together on a long apostolic journey. But two days later they met their deaths together at the hands of communist bandits.

They were killed because they were Catholic missionaries who were preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and also because they had protected some young female catechists travelling with them, whom the bandits wanted to carry into slavery.

These two Salesian martyrs died not only for their faith in Christ, but also for defending human dignity.

Pope John Paul II declared them saints in Rome on 1st October 2000, the Jubilee Year. Their Feast is celebrated on 13th November.


Like every great church the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians has a spacious sacristy. It runs alongside the gallery which is behind the high altar. Not only is it big and well lit, but it is also very functional, especially on big occasions when there are many concelebrants.

It provides two access points to the church, which facilitate religious services.

As well as the great vesting table, where the sacred vestments are kept, there is a line of choir stalls against the wall facing the sanctuary. They are elegant in their simplicity and usefulness and provide priests with the opportunity of quietly preparing for their celebration of mass. Sometimes they are also used as confessionals by the faithful who come into the sacristy for information or counselling. The floor is made of marble. There's also a simple, but artistic, wash hand basin, of special marble.

The sacristy is enriched by six interesting paintings by the artist Crida, which depict certain moments in Don Bosco's life and give the pleasant feeling of still seeing the saint wandering about his beloved Basilica of Mary Help of Christians.

        Let us give you a brief description and explanation of them.

 1 - In the first painting:

the artist goes back to little Johnnie Bosco as a youthful catechist amidst the poverty of his birthplace.

He is sitting on a basket and is surrounded by a group of companions, who after being led by him in their games are now listening to his words very attentively.

Don Bosco said later that the Salesian Congregation was founded on catechesis.

2 - The second painting:

shows the scene of the meeting between Don Bosco and the orphan Bartholomew Garelli in the sacristy of St. Francis of Assisi church in Torino.

This historic meeting took place on the 8th December 1841 and it marked the beginning of his apostolate for the young, first in Torino and then throughout all the Salesian Family in the world.

3 - In the third painting:

we find the mysterious dog 'Grigio' depicted. (In English 'grigio' means 'grey'.) He 'appeared' several times when Don Bosco's life was threatened by the enemies of his work and

  the mysterious 'Grigio' would get him out of danger.

We have no doubt about the existence of 'Grigio', because he was seen by very many witnesses (also Mamma Margaret); but it is still debatable who or what this dog represented.

4 - In the fourth picture:

we see Don Bosco hearing his boys' confessions. He gave great importance to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He used to consider it one of the pillars of the Christian formation he gave to the boys (along with Holy Communion and Devotion to Mary Help of Christians). The boy making his confession is Paul Albera, who later became, after Fr. Michael Rua, Don Bosco's second successor in leading the Salesians.

5 - The fifth picture:

shows Don Bosco in the middle of his boys, who hold him in great affection and listen to his every word.

In the background of the painting is the first building he ever built in Torino-Valdocco.

On 31st January 1988, the first centenary of his death, Pope John Paul II declared Don Bosco to be the

'Father and Teacher of Youth'.

"For you I study, for you I work, for you I live and for you I am willing to give my life." (Don Bosco).

6 - The last painting:

shows Don Bosco returning to Torino with Mamma Margaret on 3rd November 1846.

For ten years she helped Don Bosco in very practical ways in his ministry to young people, keeping him company, advising him and encouraging him.

She acted as mother also to the first boys gathered in the poverty-stricken Pinardi House. Many of these were orphans, too.

Her cause for beatification and canonisation has been introduced.


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