The Padre Pio Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, Southern Italy, is a popular Catholic pilgrimage shrine. About seven million pilgrims a year flock to Santa Maria delle Grazie Church (dedicated in 1676) to pay homage to Padre Pio, a well-known Italian saint who died there 40 years ago.
Who Was Padre Pio?
Padre Pio came to the Capuchin monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 and made his home there for 52 years until his death in 1968. Besides being devoted to God, he was known for his care of the sick and supernatural powers. He was declared a saint in 2002.
In April 2008, the saint's body was exhumed and put on display in a glass coffin in Santa Maria delle Grazie sanctuary. The coffin with his body can be viewed in the crypt of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church.
The Pilgrim's Italy: A Travel Guide to the Saints is an excellent book about Pilgrimage sites in Italy. It includes a chapter on Padre Pio and the new church in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Visiting Padre Pio Shrine
The Padre Pio Shrine is open daily and is currently free, though donations are appreciated. Visitors can see where Padre Pio said mass, his cell that still contains books and clothing that belonged to him, and the Sala San Francesco where he greeted the faithful. There are a gift shop and a pilgrim's office where English is spoken and a map and guide to the shrine are available. It's open daily from 8 am to 7 pm. Tours can also be booked at the office.
To accommodate the huge number of pilgrims, the modern Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church was built in 2004 behind Santa Maria delle Grazie Church. It was designed by architect Renzo Piano and can hold 6,500 people seated for worship and 30,000 people standing outside. Daily masses are held in the new church as well as in Santa Maria delle Grazie. On the forested hillside above the church is a modern Way of the Cross, Via Crucis.
A Commemoration of Padre Pio is celebrated with a torchlight procession and religious ceremonies September 23 in San Giovanni Rotondo. There are hundreds of stalls selling religious items and more celebrations for several days around September 23.
San Giovanni Rotondo has a small center where you'll find restaurants, shops, and hotels. Many new hotels have been built in or near the town to accommodate the increased number of visitors.
- Le Terrazze sul Gargano is a 3-star hotel within walking distance of the shrine and has terraces and a restaurant.
- La Solaria is a 3-star hotel near the shrine with a restaurant and private parking area.
- Hotel Leon is a fairly new and highly-rated 3-star hotel outside the center. They offer shuttle service to the shrine, about 2km from the hotel.
- Bed and Breakfast Santa Lucia is an inexpensive option by the bus stop from Foggia and within walking distance of the sanctuary.
The train station in Foggia, a big city on the coast, is on several main rail lines. Frequent buses connect Foggia train station to San Giovanni Rotondo, taking about 40 minutes. The smaller San Severo train station is closer and also has connecting buses on weekdays. Local bus lines connect the sanctuary to other parts of town.