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Padre Pio in Scotland
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- San Giovanni Rotondo -

San Giovanni Rotondo

Padre Pio spent his life in the Friary of Our Lady of Grace.
There were two churches attached to the friary - the "old one" and the "new one",
both dedicated to Our Lady of Garce.
After his death another church was built and dedicated to Saint Pio.
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Padre Pio's body has been exhumed and put on display for a period of
public veneration. Click
on the image below for more information.

Padre Pio on view for public veneration

The Church of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina:
(Click on any image for a larger picture)
The church is built on the side of a hill and as such has several levels. This makes the site very compact, yet still able to accommodate everything needed for such an important place of pilgrimage.
The church can be approached from either level. For the purposes of this description we are approaching it from the lower level as the architect intended. Since most of the town is below the church he probably thought this was the way most people would appraoch it.

The Long Avenue: The architect Renzo Piano started with the idea of a 310m long pedestrian way, perfectly straight, leading to the church. The final 40m of the avenue is intended to be walked slowly by the pilgrim on his way to meet God. The picture on the left looks down the avenue from the church.

The Great Stone Cross
: This stands at the end of the long avenue and is more than 40m high, tapering from 2.5sq m at its base to only 0.4 sq m at its apex. There are 65 carved stones, each one different from the next strengthened with steel cables through the centre to allow movement in the strongest winds and even in the event of an earthquake. Each of the arms is 4.5m. The cross also has the appearance of scales, signifying the balance between the sins of the world on the one hand and God's love and mercy on the other.

The Reception Areas:
As you walk up the long avenue you come to the pilgrims' reception areas.
These lie beneath the main church. As you face the entrance to the reception area there is to your right the great stone cross and a long walkway covered by a colonnade leading up the side of the building to the churchyard and the church proper.
(There are of course lifts in the foyer for the disabled and infirm who cannot manage the walk up the walkway to the churchyard).
The Foyer forms the reception hall where there are offices for bookings, guided tours, information etc. There are officials and tourist guides available, fluent in various languages.
It is intended that this area will include a museum and exhibition area.

The Meeting/Conference rooms: There are three such rooms (A, B & C) equipped with all the modern multimedia technology necessary to give groups help and support in most languages. (Picture on the left)
The Pilgrims' Hall is reached from the foyer by special elevators or by a small staircase on the right of the foyer. This is a long room divided into three sections for the use of pilgrims.

The Wall and the Colonnade:
The wall in question supports the churchyard and also forms part of the colonnade giving a cloister effect enclosing the walkway up from the end of the long avenue and the reception areas. The picture on the right shows the Wall on the left hand side, with the steps of the walkway and the colonnade over it.

The Churchyard:
is reached by going up the walkway from outside the
reception area. The churchyard is not flat like most churchyards but slopes down towards the church. This enables the churchyard to act like an amphitheatre on those occasions, such as feast days, when there are too many pilgrims for the church to hold.
The churchyard can hold 30,000 people! The sides of the church can be opened so that those outside in the churchyard can see what is happening inside the main body of the church, albeit at a distance.
The picture on the left is taken form the left hand side of the churchyard and shows the Great Stone Cross and the colonnade with the walkway beneath.

The 12 Running Streams and The Olive Trees:
To the north (on your right, facing downhill, towards the church) the churchyard is lined by a stream with 12 tiers, the water cascading down towards the church. This water eventually empties into the baptismal font.
Bordering the stream are 19 olive trees which complement the other 21 olive trees positioned about the churchyard.

The Ensemble of Bells: On your left as you look down the churchyard there is a row of pillars with a bell hung between them. This "bell tower" lies on top of the wall supporting the colonnade. There are 8 bells, each carrying the Franciscan Greeting "Pax et Bonum". Each bell is dedicated to a saint with the 3rd bell being dedicated to Padre Pio. The order reflects the liturgical importance of the saints in the Gargano region. It may seem strange that Padre Pio is only third in the order but then he is the newest saint and the others are of long standing. They are: First St. Michael the Archangel, followed by St. John the Baptist, (then Padre Pio), St. Veronica Giuliani, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare, St. Anthony of Padua and finally St. Lawrence of Brindisi. You will notice that the one on the right is missing, it had fallen and been damaged at the time the photo was taken.
The Eagles:
On the bell tower, before the bells, are 8 young eagles, wings spread, apparently flying in the direction of the church. The number 8 has associations with Easter.

The Great Facade: As you walk down the churchyard towards the church itself, the first thing you see is The Great Facade, an enormous stained glass window. There are 84 panels in all, giving the appearance of a large mosaic and representing scenes from The Apocalypse of St. John.
The picture on the left shows The Great Facade from inside the church, the side from where it was intended to be viewed - with the daylight behind it.

The Church: The church is very modern, some say too modern. It takes getting used to but it will grow on you.
As you enter the church, look at the aisles - they are semi-circular, not straight as is the norm. Look up and you will see the great stone arches that support the church. The church can seat 6,500 people and many more standing. The altar is of solid stone with a great bronze cross above it. The pulpit is more than just a pulpit as we know it here in Scotland. It is approached through a series of sculptures representing Mary Magdalene assisting Christ down from the cross through to the announcement of the resurrection to the apostles. The Organ is the largest ever made in Italy, 11m high, 10m in length and 6m deep. There is a confessional hall with 31 confessional boxes including ones for the disabled. The lower church lies beneath the main church and can seat about 500 with room for another 500 standing.

View of the altar from the
left side of the church

The Statue of Padre Pio wth
the organ in the background

The Main altar with
the bronze cross above

The pulpit with organ to the
left and the Facade to the right

The lower pulpit shows the
story of Mary Magdalene

The courtyard with seats
ready for a large crowd
Click on any image for a larger picture
The new church is landscaped with the same plants that you will find in the surrounding area. Care has been taken to integrate the plants with the building and many of the plants have a symbolic meaning beyond their simple landscaping value. Padre Pio was particularly fond of flowers.

The Friars of San Giovanni are appealing for donations to finish the building of a retirement home for priests. This has been an ongoing project for some years now but has stalled from lack of funds. The Friars do not borrow money, they rely entirely on donations.
If you would like to help click here for more information.: Retirement home
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Within a day's travel of San Giovanni Rotondo there are the Churches and Basilicas of:
These are well worth visiting - as are the other international sites of pilgrimage below
click on the links above and below for more information on each.

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How to get to San Giovanni from Scotland -:- One Pilgrim's story of a trip to San Giovanni
St. Francis of Assisi
"God Bless You" message with Bible and floral background