Marco in Lamis
San Giovanni Rotondo is in the middle of a hollow, about 9 miles away from Monte Sant'Angelo, at 567 meters above sea level.
The town is spread on the Pianoro plateau, halfway between the highest mountains in the Gargano: Monte Nero and Monte Calvo. The town still preserves the classical structure of ancient mountain villages, with its white houses covered with the typical red roof tiles.
There are no historical sources concerning the origins of San Giovanni Rotondo; tradition tells a story whereby its early founders were Greek, the followers of Diomedes. Early settlements date back to the Neolithic period; during the Iron Age the area was visited by groups of Illyrians who were later known as the Daunians.
The village became a Roman settlement in the 4th - 3rd century BC; a round-shaped temple was erected to the east of the village. It was initially dedicated to Apollo, then to Vesta, and finally to Janus. The temple was called "La Rotonda" (Round) because of its round shape. Excavations have revealed tombs dating back to that period. Later, the inhabitants of the area converted to Christianity; the temple was demolished and a church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist was built in its place.
During the Norman-Hohenstaufen period, Emperor Frederick II fortified the village, surrounding it with walls and towers (there were actually fifteen of them), thus becoming an impregnable fortress.
The town looked like a castle. Pilgrims coming from the Tavoliere delle Puglie and heading towards Monte Sant'Angelo to venerate the grotto where Saint Michael the Archangel had appeared would travel along the "Via Sacra Langobardorum". After a short rest at the sanctuaries of Santa Maria di Stignano and of San Matteo at San Marco in Lamis, they would almost always stop at San Giovanni Rotondo.
Also Saint Francis of Assisi left signs of his presence at San Giovanni Rotondo in the year 1222, on his way back from the Holy Grotto of San Michele. A Franciscan convent was erected in via Michele D'Apolito, on the corner of via Pietro Giannone. No ruins of the convent remained after the 18th century.
The Convent of the Capuchin FriarsFar from the town is the convent of the Capuchin Friars, where the famous Monk from Pietrelcina lived and worked. He occupied cell number five in the convent upon his arrival in S. Giovanni Rotondo and until the year 1968. The cell is furnished with a bed, a Crucifix, a chest for linen, a bedside table, a writing table, two chairs and a hanging shelf with some books on it. The cell cannot be visited as it is in the part of the convent dedicated to cloistered life. A chapel with a niche housing a statue of the Virgin Mary faces the cell. Here, Padre Pio celebrated Holy Mass during his period of cloistered life from June 11th 1931 to July 15th 1933. The service lasted about three hours.
- Construction work began in 1538, requested and paid for by the local people and with the approval of the Archbishop of Siponto, Cardinal Giovanni Maria of Monte San Sabino, who later was to become Pope Julius III.
The property, donated by Orazio Antonio Landi, included a country house and a well. In 1540, it was taken over by the monks, bearing witness to God by leading a holy life and receiving divine aid in return. On February 1st, 1575, Camillo De Lellis stopped over at the convent. Following a long conversation with Padre Angelo, superior of the convent, he decided to change his lifestyle. 1811: the convent was shut down for the first time. 1818: the convent was reopened. 1867: at the beginning of the year, the convent was shut down once again. 1867: October 20th, convent, church, land, furniture and furnishings became property of the municipality of San Giovanni Rotondo for the purposes envisaged in art. 20 of the suppression law issued on July 7th 1866. Until the year 1908, the convent was then utilized as a poorhouse. 1904: Provincial Father Pio of Benevento made several attempts with the municipal administration to get the convent back. 1909: Provincial Father Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis managed to get the convent back and, at the beginning of September, ownership returned to the monks again.
- 1916: July 28th, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina arrived at the convent. As of that moment onwards, the history of the convent is linked to that of the blessed Father.
THE SHRINE OF SANTA MARIA DELLE GRAZIEThe sanctuary comprises the old church and the new basilica. They are both dedicated to Our Lady of Grace.The old church:
- 1540: construction work began.
- July 5th 1676: with grand solemnity, it was consecrated and dedicated to Our Lady of Grace.
It has a delightful lunette, where the Madonna and Child are depicted together with Saint Francis and Saint Michael the Archangel.
The Municipality of San Giovanni Rotondo placed two memorial plaques, one on each side of the door, in remembrance of two dates: fifty years of Padre Pio's priesthood (August 10th 1910 - August 10th 1960) and his fifty years of residence at San Giovanni Rotondo (1916 - 1966).
Inside the church, the altar of Saint Francis, where Padre Pio celebrated Holy Mass from 1945 to 1959 deserves a visit.
The new basilica:
- Designed by architect Giuseppe Gentile of Boiano (Campobasso). July 2nd 1956: construction work began. July 1st 1959: Monsignor Paolo Carta, Bishop of Foggia, consecrated the basilica. July 2nd 1959: Cardinal Federico Tedeschini crowned the painting of Our Lady of Grace. It has a nave and two aisles; at the far end of the nave, a grand mosaic stands out on the wall of the apse, depicting Our Lady of Grace; it was designed by Prof. Bedini and manufactured by the Vatican School of Mosaic.
- Eight mosaics are mounted on the altars along the two aisles; they were manufactured by the Vatican School of Mosaic and were based on drawings by Prof. Antonio Achilli and Father Ugolino of Belluno (only for the mosaic of Our Lady of the Rosary).
Church of Santa Maria degli AngeliThe Church of Our Lady of the Angels is situated between the convent and the new sanctuary. It was built in 1540 with local stone taken from Monte Nero; it was severely damaged by the 1629 earthquake. In July 1676, it was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.The Shrine
Because the church was too small to hold the enormous flow of pilgrims and faithful coming to San Giovanni Rotondo, a new sanctuary was built next to it. Construction work was completed on July 1st 1959.
The Way of the Cross starts outside the sanctuary, on the left. Construction work started in May 1968, shortly before Padre Pio's death.Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering)
Already in 1925, Padre Pio had wished for this building to be erected, as he hoped to provide the people of S. Giovanni Rotondo with a nursing home for the ill. He gathered generous contributions and managed to transform a former monastery into the small civil hospital of San Francesco, with two wards, functional equipment and twenty beds. In 1938 an earthquake destroyed the building. However, Padre Pio's idea was to build a "clinic" near the convent.
Construction work began in May 1947. Offerings came from all over the world for the construction of the clinic which was inaugurated on May 5th 1956. Padre Pio named it "Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza", and it is the most eloquent example of his work. Today, the House for the Relief of Suffering is a big hospital center, as its early twenty beds have now become about twelve hundred.The Monastery of the Resurrection
Plunged in the greenery on a hill, the modern monastery houses a community of Clarisse Nuns. The surrounding silence favors praying. Moreover, a breathtaking view stretches all the way to the Gulf of Manfredonia.
Construction work on the monastery began on September 23rd 1975, on the anniversary of Padre Pio's death. Nearby the monastery is a church where Mass can be attended.A new grand church is currently being erected, designed by architect Renzo Piano; it will have a capacity of about 10,000 seats.
For all of the above, San Giovanni Rotondo is currently one of the world's major spiritual venues.
Church of Sant'Onofrio This church dates back to the 14th century. On April 23rd 1344, Pope Clement VI granted special indulgences to its visitors by means of a pontifical bull.As of the 16th century, it ceased being a parish church but, following an initiative undertaken by the community of San Giovanni Rotondo, Gonsalvo Ferrante, duke of Terranova, granted it the permission to celebrate Sant'Onofrio's day every June 11th.Church of San Giovanni Battista or Church of the Rotonda
Walking down the narrow and steep paths, one can visit the Church of San Giovanni, also known as the "Rotonda", after which the town was named. It is on the eastern side of the town. Light is provided by an opening in its roof.
Having the Benedictine monks of the convent of San Giovanni in Lamis (today's convent of San Matteo) converted the Pirgians to Christianity, the latter dedicated the ancient circular pagan temple to Saint John the Baptist.Chapel of Madonna di Loreto
It is near the Church of Sant'Onofrio. The original building dates back to the 15th century. It was built by the faithful people of the Marche region who used to go on pilgrimage to the Archangel at San Michele. The church was built in remembrance of their continuous presence in the area.
Chiesa Madre (S. Leonardo Abate)
What can be seen today at the beginning of Corso Regina Margherita is a reconstruction of an ancient church; no traces of the original remain. There used to be a 13th -century temple in the place of the church. It was called "the Church of San Leonardo" because, apart from being dedicated to the abbot saint, it received payment of several ground-rents from the homonymous monastery in Siponto.
Monument by Fazzini dedicated to Padre Pio
In Piazza degli Olmi one can admire the last work produced by sculptor Pericle Fazzini, whom the poet Ungaretti defined as "the sculptor of wind". It is a statue of Padre Pio with his hands raised up in the air in the act of showing the monstrance. On the lower section, four episodes of Padre Pio's life are represented: in the first one, he is threatening as he uses a pitchfork to push back a friend who tries to convince him not to devote his life to the Lord; in the second, the devil's temptation; in the third, he administers the sacrament of reconciliation; and in the last one, he receives the marks of Christ's passion.
The Church of Sant'Orsola
Also known as "the Church of Purgatory", it was built between 1596 and 1600.
It is in the baroque-rococo style; on the facade are a portal made of marble-stone, a large window and two niches from which the statues of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Anthony stand out. The bell cote rises transversally to the facade, housing two bells of different sizes. On the smaller one is inscribed "Verbum caro factum est", while on the larger one the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua is reproduced.
The Churches of San Donato and Santa Caterina
In the inner city and on both the streets named after the saints, there are two small churches, both built in the 13th century. Unfortunately, no sign is left of their glorious past. In the first church, one can admire a 17th-century canvas on the high altar, while in the second one is an admirable frescoed vault depicting scenes of the Holy Virgin Mary's life.
The Church of Santa Maria MaddalenaAlso known as the "Church of the Nuns", it was commanded by vicar forane Father Bernardino Galassi who, in his will, stated his desire to leave a sum of money for the construction of a convent. The cloistered nuns coming from Monte Sant'Angelo moved to Manfredonia in 1905. Padre Pio willed that a hospital be constructed in the place of the convent. However, the hospital was shut down following an earthquake. Today, the only remains of the ancient building are those of the facade, buttressed and unsafe.The Church of San Nicola
The church dates back to the 17th century. Inside the church is the statue of the Madonna Addolorata. Every Good Friday morning, it is taken to the Church of Sant'Orsola for the liturgy, while in the evening it is carried down the streets of the town in the procession of the Way of the Cross. Padre Pio deeply venerated the Madonna dell'Addolorata and was very devoted to Her, to the point that in 1965, he himself arranged for the statue to undergo restoration. Once the restoration was completed, Padre Pio personally blessed the statue.
The Church of San Giuseppe Artigiano
It is a modern church, erected in Piazza Europa, near the monument to the Fallen. Padre Pio attended the ceremony of the laying of the first stone on May 1st 1958, and he signed the remembrance parchment which was then placed in the foundations. Work was completed, after many difficulties, in August 1965. Padre Pio had been invited for the consecration which had been scheduled for September 11th of that same year; he replied: "Why should I attend? Someone more important than myself will be there!". Indeed, from the cathedral where it was being kept temporarily, the painting of the Madonna delle Grazie was carried in procession, stopping for two days in the new church before being taken back to its original place.
The Church of San Giacomo
There is another church deserving a visit along Corso Regina Margherita. Its main cult is the devotion to the Sacred Heart. In the past, it was connected to the first ancient hospital of San Giovanni Rotondo.
By train: trains arrive at the Foggia railway station. From there you can take a Sita bus to the convent of S. Giovanni Rotondo. Buses depart approximately every hour (see below for timetable), bus runs begin at 5.00a.m. and end at 10.10 p.m. Distance from Foggia: about 18 miles.
By car: Bologna Bari highway (A14) Southbound: exit at the San Severo toll station in the direction of S. Marco in Lamis;
Northbound: exit at the Foggia toll station in the direction of Manfredonia, crossing for San Giovanni in Rotondo; coming from Naples: exit at the Candela toll station, take the free highway to Foggia in the direction of Manfredonia.
SITA BUS TIMETABLE
SITA bus timetable
By plane: airports: Foggia "Gino Lisa" tel. (+39) 0881 617982, Bari "Palese" tel. (+39) 080 5382370
Airline "FEDERICO II AIRWAYS".
Arrival at "Gino Lisa" Airport in Foggia.
Shuttle service linking Foggia and the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo.
Information and bookings:
Call Center Federico II Airways: (+39) 0881 720800 - (+39) 0881 720242
Fax: (+39) 0881 777099
Operator: (+39) 0881 760111.
Nr. 2 in Contrada Pozzo Cavo
Nr. 4 Contrada Patariello
Nr. 1 Contrada Faina
Nr. 1 v.le Della Gioventù
Nr. 1 v.le Padre Pio
Nr. 1 via Campanini