Photo Gallery of Pietrelcina:
The Birthplace of Padre Pio
Not far from the city of Benevento in the region of Campania is Pietrelcina, a rural village of late medieval origins. For Catholics, it is renowned throughout the world as the birthplace of one of Italy’s most well-known modern saints.
Often eclipsed by San Giovanni Rotondo, the lesser visited town of Pietrelcina contains numerous places associated with the saint’s childhood and the early part of his priesthood.
Many visitors to Pietrelcina, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of San Giovanni Rotondo, claim that it is more faithful to the spirit of Padre Pio. Devoid of the souvenir stores and hotels, the grandiose churches and modern artwork, Pietrelcina has largely conserved its origins as a rustic farming village.
Padre Pio, once reminiscing on his native village, said, “In Pietrelcina, no one ever had five lire in their pocket. But other than money, we had everything.”
BIRTH HOME (CASA NATALE)
On May 25, 1887 Maria Giuseppa de Nunzio gave birth to a baby boy at home in her bedroom. It was 5:00 in the afternoon. His parents entrusted the protection of their newborn son to St. Francis of Assisi.
Padre Pio’s birth home is open to the public. Visitors are often struck by its simplicity. It is not a single unit; rather, it is composed of several rooms overlooking the same street, Vico Storto Valle.
Visitors can observe the kitchen, with original fireplace and furnishings. There are the utensils of the time, including some terracotta containers, pots and an oil lamp. Behind the kitchen is a bedroom where the children slept but was turned into a dining room. There is also the parents’ bedroom where Padre Pio was born. On the bedroom floor is a trap door that led to the barn housing Orazio’s donkey.
THE CHURCH OF SANT’ANNA (LA CHIESA DI SANT’ANNA)
The day after the birth, his parents took him to the small church of Sant’Anna where he was baptized Francesco, after Francis of Assisi.
Sant’Anna is about 250 meters from Padre Pio’s birth home. It is the oldest church in town and located near the Belvedere, or lookout point over Pietrelcina. It dates originally to the 13th century, but was rebuilt after it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1688.
The baptismal font in which young Francesco was baptized is located near the entrance just off the left. Francesco received other sacraments here including his First Communion, confession, as well as Confirmation.
Of note are relics of St. Pius the Martyr, a second-century pope originally buried in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. His relics were donated to the church of Sant’Anna by feudal lords in 1801 and placed beneath the main altar. These relics were revered by young Francesco and led to his religious name, Pio.
CHURCH OF ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS (SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI)
Closer to the birth home of Padre Pio is the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Here, Padre Pio celebrated his first Mass on August 14, 1910, four days after his ordination. For the next six years, Padre Pio’s pastoral ministry was based here.
A bronze door was added in 2000. It is made up of eight bronze tiles that tell the story of Pietrelcina and Padre Pio.
CHURCH OF HOLY FAMILY (SACRA FAMIGLIA) and PADRE PIO MUSEUM
Built at the entrance into town on Viale Cappuccini, the Church of Sacra Famiglia was built during Padre Pio’s lifetime following his expressed wish. The church and Capuchin friary were financed by the wealthy American benefactress, Mary Pyle. Begun in 1926, it was completed in 1951.
Next to the church is a simple museum housing objects related to the life of St. Padre Pio.
MADONNELLA DOOR (PORTA MADONNELLA)
Adjacent to the old city gate leading to Padre Pio’s “Homes” as well as the ancient and evocative “Castello” district is the Madonnella door. Recessed in the wall above a door is a series of three tiles made of majolica, or glazed ceramic.
Here Padre Pio gathered in prayer with local residents. In time, the group became the first Padre Pio prayer group.
THE HOUSES OF PADRE PIO (LE CASE DI PADRE PIO)
Also in the old part of Pietrelcina are the “houses of Padre Pio.” After returning home as a priest, for health reasons, the saint spent various periods of time in these houses.
Among the houses is the Tower (La Torretta), the home of his brother, Michele, in via Santa Maria degli Angeli, 44, the Maternal House (the home of Padre Pio’s maternal grandparents) on Via Sant’Anna, 2, and the House of the Priest (Casa del Sacerdote), on Via Sant’Anna 44.
A few kilometers Pietrelcina, on a hill in the countryside, is the rustic area of Piana Romana. An inviting tree-lined avenue welcomes visitors and pilgrims to this sanctuary space rich in memories of Padre Pio.
Francesco’s parents had a farmhouse here where they worked the land. As a boy, Francesco spent many months helping his parents tend to the fields and flocks of sheep. Here, young Francesco met a friar named Fra Camillo from Sant’Elia a Pianisi who influenced him to become a Capuchin friar.
After he had become a friar and returned to Pietrelcina for health reasons, Padre Pio spent much time in this area enjoying the fresh air, studying and reading under the elm trees, and praying.
The masseria, or farmhouse, belonging the Forgione family has been preserved much the way it was in Padre Pio’s time. Visitors can observe life in the early twentieth-century with the various farm tools and bare stone floor.
Nearby are two large stones known as the seggiolone (high chair) where Padre Pio used to sit. He said: “They were my high chair. From there I watched the rising and setting of the sun.”
There is also a stone well. As a teenager, Francesco’s father, Orazio, was irritated that he could not find water. The boy told his father to dig at this site, and he soon found water.
The First Stigmata
Perhaps the most important site in Piana Romana is the chapel of St. Francis. Built over the trunk of an elm tree under which Padre Pio often took refuge from the hot summer days, here the saint received the so-called “invisible stigmata” the first time on September 7, 1910. After he showed his hands to the parish priest, the two prayed that they would disappear. The physical wounds indeed disappeared, though the invisible wounds remained.
There is a walking pathway between Piana Romana and Pietrelcina. Known as the Way of the Rosary, Padre Pio often walked this 3-kilometer (2-mile) route. It has been restored and the faithful can walk it today.
Though Padre Pio never returned to Pietrelcina after arriving in San Giovanni Rotondo, he never lost his fondness for his hometown.
When he spoke of Pietrelcina, he often became visibly moved. Once, reflecting on his home, he said: “I remember stone upon stone in Pietrelcina.”