Padre Pio's Birthplace
The home where Francesco was born is the paternal home of Zio Grazio, his father, which can be found at 27 Vico Storto Valle, a one room house, which one enters by walking up three steps from the outside. Upon entering and on the right are a night table and a double bed supported by wrought iron battens and iron feet.
In front of the four-pane window is a very used washbasin and an antique chest, and beyond is a square table covered by a faded light carpet on which are piled books that were used by Padre Pio when he went to school with his teacher Caccavo. A modest picture frame holds a photograph that he sent to his mother by means of a young lady from San Giovanni Rotondo. To the left of the entrance door is another antique chest. This, together with two chairs, completes the furnishings of the brick and wood beamed ceiling room.
The Small Tower
Not far from the birthplace of Padre Pio, on the summit of the remains of an ancient baronial castle one can find the “Small Tower,” a small room constructed on a rock in which one enters by a steep staircase. This small room welcomed Padre Pio from 1909 to 1912, difficult years of sickness that kept him away from the convent and during which he was not permitted to stay at his parents’ home. In fact, during this epoch the strict rules of the Capuchin Monks required monks that lived outside the convent to take off the habit of Saint Francis.
During these years, Padre Pio began to correspond with his confessors Father Benedetto Nardella and Father Agostino Daniele. The letters to and from Padre Pio form an extraordinary autobiography through which we can participate in his spiritual life as he dealt with his sufferings and fought his demons.
In this place, the letters tell us that Padre Pio was consoled by the maternal presence of the Madonna and comforted by the presence of Jesus, his Guardian Angel and Saint Francis. In his home town, Padre Pio lived these years surrounded by the love of his family and the affection of his fellow villagers. He passed moments filled with serenity and peace made of simple genuine sentiments that remained always in his memory. Here, Our Lord prepared him for his mission in the world. Padre Pio observed, “I don’t know how to thank our Dear Jesus for the great courage and force that he gives to me to bear not only the many sicknesses that he sends to me but also the continuous temptations that he permits and that day by day are multiplied. These temptations make me shake from head to foot, thinking that I could offend God.”
The Church of Saint Anna
The church has two naves, and behind the main altar one can admire a canvas painting from the 1600s that represents the Madonna of Loreto. In the smaller nave are small niches with statues from the 1600s representing the Assumption, the Crowning of the Virgin and Saint Rose. Always in the smaller nave there is an altar dedicated to Saint Ann, and there is kept the relics of Saint Pio, the martyr, taken from the catacombs of Priscilla and donated to Pietrelcina by the feudal Carafa in 1801. At Pietrelcina there is strong devotion to this saint, and because of this, the name of this saint was chosen by Francesco Forgione for his religious life.
On the left, when entering the church, is a fresco representing the Baptism of Christ. There is also the baptismal fountain made of stone with a wood ciborium. This is where on the 26th of May 1887, Francesco was baptized by Don (Father) Nicolantonio Orlando. Here Padre Pio took his First Communion and on the 27th of September 1899, when he was twelve years old, he was confirmed by the secretary to the archbishop of Benevento Monsignor Donato Maria Dell’Olio.
This small church was witness to his mystical experiences: the apparitions of Mary and the Guardian Angel, his intimate moments in the Holy Sacrament with Jesus to whom he opened his heart with the most tender confidences and expressions of love. In his letters we can read how much love he had in his soul for Jesus: “The beating of my heart is so strong when I find myself in front of the Holy Tabernacle that I feel sometimes that my heart is going to jump out of my breast. At the altar I sometimes feel such lightning in all of my body that I cannot describe it, and my face, especially, feels like it is on fire.”
The Chapel of Saint Francis in Piana Romana
“That small hut became a real small church for me.” These words were said later by Padre Pio. Near the place where once stood the small hut of hay, Mercurio Scocca, childhood friend of Padre Pio, lived on a large farm close to the home of Padre Pio’s family in Piana Romana. In 1958, there began the construction of the church dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. It is now a large shady street with pine trees, and it draws one to this place dear to Padre Pio. It is the destination of more and more numerous pilgrims. Here was where Padre Pio received his first sign of the stigmata.
The Convent and the Museum "Padre Pio"
The story of the construction of the convent is wrapped in a “prophesy.” According to an eyewitness, during one of his usual evening walks, accompanied by seminarians and a young Capuchin monk, the archpriest Don (Father) Salvatore Pannullo “listened more to the talks of Forgione, and he stopped suddenly to ask the others to keep silent and to listen to Forgione. The monk heard a chorus of angels and bells that were ringing in the distance near a place that wasn’t so far away, and he indicated where by stretching out his arm in the direction of the sound.
They remember a young Capuchin monk that had heard them many years before there arose a convent and church for his brother friars in Pietrelcina, and was once open countryside and meeting place for shepherds.
The construction began after some of the town people of Pietrelcina asked Mary Pyle to help them build a convent for the Capuchin Fathers of the province of “Angelo” in their own town. Mary consented to help in this request and spoke with her confessor. “Father, can I help construct a convent in Piertelcina?” Padre Pio answered her: “Yes, do it right away and dedicate the church to the Holy Family”.
Saint Mary's of the Angels Church
The church of Saint Mary’s of the Angels, today the Mother Church of Pietrelcina, is situated near the Saint Annunciation square (Piazza Santissima Annuziata). The Madonna of the Libera, whom Padre Pio affectionately called “Our small Madonna,” is venerated here. This is where he was ordained as a deacon in 1909 and had administered his first Baptism to a child that would one day become a Redemptorist priest.
On the eve of the Assumption of the 14th of August 1910, four days after being ordained a priest, Padre Pio celebrated his first Mass. A few days later he wrote to Father Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis saying, “For a few days I have been a little sick. Maybe the principal cause of this was the strong emotion to which my spirit was subject during this time. My heart overflows with joy, and I feel so much stronger now and am able to face whatever afflictions that may be sent to me if this gives pleasure to Jesus.”
In this church, Padre Pio passed interminable moments of prayer and intimacy with God, ecstasies at the foot of the altar, and the mystical phenomenon of the fusion of hearts that he described in his letters: “The heart of Jesus and mine permit me to use this expression. We were two hearts that beat as one. My heart disappeared, like a drop of water that vanishes in the sea.” And again, “I feel myself burning without fire. A million flames consume me. I feel like I am continuously dying although still alive.” Padre Pio celebrated Masses in this church that were “too long” and “incomprehensibly mysterious” such that the Father Guardian instructed the parish priest to remind Padre Pio of this fact so that, being subject to the vow of saintly obedience, he would conform promptly.