Piana Romana is a wide, flat plain of farming land on the outskirts of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio’s family had a small plot of land there and a small stone farmhouse/store.
When he was an ordained priest living in Pietrelcina, Francesco used to walk there after mass, taking the path through the woods (the Rosary Walk). This was the same route he took as a child both alone and with his family members. Once there he would spend his time praying, sitting under the shade of a large Elm tree. On the afternoon of 7th September, 1910, an event happened which was to take his life in a new direction.
This is an account of that event (Taken from the book ‘Padre Pio The True Story’ by C.Bernard Ruffin)
“On the afternoon of September 7, 1910, Padre Pio appeared at Pannullo’s office and showed him what appeared to be puncture wounds in the middle of his hands. Pati asked him what had happened. Pio told him that he had been praying in the Piana Romana when Jesus and Mary appeared to him and gave him the wounds. Pannullo examined the young man’s hands, then insisted that Pio see a doctor. The first physician he consulted diagnosed the phenomenon as tuberculosis of the skin. Pio then went to Andrea Cardone, whose response to his colleague’s diagnosis was “Humbug!” He observed sores about a half inch in diameter on both the backs and the palms of Pio’s hands. Although the wounds apparently did not bleed, they seemed to extend all the way through the hands. Cardone was positive that they were not of a tubercular origin. Apart from that, he could not explain them. ……
A few days after seeing Cardone, Pio went to Pannullo. “Pati, do me a favor,” he said. “Let’s pray together to ask Jesus to take away this annoyance. I do want to suffer, even to die of suffering, but all in secret.” …..(Pannullo replied) …”You must yield yourself to do His will in all and over all. And remember, since this is for the salvation of souls and for the good of the entire world, you must say to Jesus, ‘Do with me as Thou wilt”.
The two men prayed, and the wounds went away – for a season.”
Perhaps this is why people now go to visit Piana Romana; not just to remember Padre Pio but to share this sacred location.
The tree is now preserved in the exact place it once grew and a small chapel has been erected around it to preserve the very spot where heaven touched earth in such a real way. Both Jesus and Mary had actually stood with Padre Pio under that tree. Perhaps this was what he was referring to when he confided:
“In Pietrelcina there was Jesus and everything started there”
As Cardinal Comastri said in his sermon to the people of Pietrelcina, like Jacob exclaimed after the famous vision of the ladder that stretched between earth and heaven, “The Lord is in this place and I did not know it. This is the house of God, this is the gate of Heaven “ (Genesis 28,16-17)
As the years passed and the pilgrim steadily increased, there was a need people to hear mass and go to confession. The large sanctuary of Piana Romana was built to meet this need. It now stands alongside the shrine and can be seen, with its distinctive shell-shaped roof, for many miles around the countryside.
Within this sanctuary, besides the paintings of St. Padre Pio and St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, are two other remarkable works of art.
One is a light-filled crucifix on the wall behind the altar.
This is a most beautiful depiction of God’s light coming through his Son’s sacrifice at the moment of our redemption.
The second is the set of 14 Icons of the Resurrection. These are placed around the walls of the sanctuary in the place you would normally find ‘The Stations of the Cross’ The ‘Stations of the Resurrection’ depict the main events which happened after the Resurrection and reach their climax at the birth of the church – the descent of Holy Spirit on 120 of the followers of Jesus, including the Apostles and the Virgin Mary who were all gathered in the ‘Upper Room’.
We have created a separate page which is dedicated to these icons as they represent a call to hope and conversion in the meditation of these events. Please click on the following link to go to the Stations of the Resurrection page
Outside, a new section is now under construction. This will provide an outdoor ‘Stations of the Cross’ where it will be possible to follow the route of Jesus’ passion amidst the sights and sounds of nature. We will update you on the progress of this project at a later date.