The Sanctuary of Padre Pio
Next to the Monastery rises the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, originally dedicated to Santa Maria degli Angeli, consecrated in 1629. Inaugurated in 1959, thanks to the perseverance and passion of Pio, the old Sanctuary welcomed the thousands of faithful and pilgrims that arrived in droves everyday.
They came to this small Apulian village to see the places where the Saint lived out his faith, up until the realization of the new Church. The Church’s crypt also hosted, up until a few years ago, the tomb of St. Pio, now found inside the crypt of the new adjacent complex. Long dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie, the new Sanctuary conceived by Renzo Piano occupies – with its enormous conch-shell structure – approximately 6,000 sq.m. (64, 584 sq. ft.) and represents the second-largest church in Italy after Milan's Duomo. Finally opened after ten years of construction, and also known as the Church of St. Pio, the new Sanctuary was almost entirely financed by the offerings of pilgrims. Today it can hold up to 6,500 people at once.
By the request of Pio, the Church, whose walls are composed of stone from Apricena, was to be used as a place of welcome for the faithful: the external churchyard, in fact, features details and characteristics that repeat on the church’s interior – corresponding floor designs were planned to emphasize harmony between the exterior and interior.
This choice is also evident in the separation of the two environments by a stained-glass window decorated with scenes from the Apocalypse. On the Church’s subterranean level is located a lower church (similarly to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi) where the remains of the Saint reside. The roof, of oxidized copper, confers to the structure its characteristic green color. This profound mixture of historic, religious and architectonic elements render the Sanctuaries of Padre Pio an indubitable point of interest for all, including those who are not particularly devout, or who may not profess any faith at all.