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La Chiesa di Padre Pio da PietrelcinaIn the life of believers, the pilgrimage has always been a significant moment, for the confirmation of faith. Pilgrimage belongs to the history of Christianity. An analysis of the history of religion shows that it is a universal phenomenon in nature and tends to put a man in connection with the divinity. Along with religious motivations, there are cultural and relational stimuli as well.

In the land of Gargano, there are two religion routes: one dating back to the early centuries of Christianity, and one very recent: S. Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo and St. Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo. All Gargano is full of sacred roads and paths. Roads leading to places of worship around the country (rural churches, S. Maria di Merino, cave of St. Michael on Lake Varano …) and ways that move toward the great sanctuaries: S. Michael especially, but also S. Matthew and Madonna Incoronata.

Let’s go in the direction of S. Marco in Lamis. About 750 meters from Hotel Garden, you are at the roundabout of State Road 273 and proceeding straight ahead you can find the way of San Marco in Lamis. After the village of Borgo Celano Stignano, we enter the valley and after a few bends we reach the fortified convent of San Matteo, also know as St. Giovanni in Lamis, built on the site of an ancient hospice of the sixth century and shelter for pilgrims.

The monastery is today in all its majesty on the forested slopes of a hill. A stairway in the middle of nature experience, or a narrow street are the alternatives to reach the monastery, with its many artistic as well as ancient relics of saints and a rich library, where there are precious codices and manuscripts. After leaving the convent, continue on the path downhill, following the valley of Stignano. After passing the characteristic town of San Marco in Lamis, which has preserved the old charm of its row houses gathered around the Abbot’s Palace, you reach Stignano from which it is named the second of the sanctuaries of our itinerary: S. Maria Di Stignano.

The monastic complex, already mentioned in the thirteenth century, has a church and a cloister with two beautiful Baroque artistic monuments. It presents the visitor with an oasis of peace surrounded by the ruins of its surroundings numerous hermitages (hermitages carved in rocks) including one dedicated to remember SS Trinity. The road that goes down towards San Severo is one of the oldest access roads to Gargano and is known as the Sacred Way of the Lombards; it was a millennial path followed by pilgrims on their way to the shrines of Gargano and to Palestine. At the height of the railway station of S. Marco in Lamis, placed at the end of the valley, we turn left onto the road “Pedegarganica”. Follow the signs to Manfredonia.

Monastero di San LeonardoContinuing towards Manfredonia, the church of St. Mary of Siponto, (right, this one clearly visible from the street). Cathedral of the ancient city of Siponto, now lost, this church stands out among the ruins of a Christian basilica and other ancient buildings.

Among the remains of various archaeological material, the visitor can admir their unique columns, mosaics, capitals and sarcophagi. In addition to a precious portal, the attention gets soon focused on the crypt of the twelfth century, where the lines of columns alternate with ancient burials. Outside the church itself, a long walkway along the archaeological area of the fourth century.

Not far away from Siponto, lies the ancient city of Manfredi, Manfredonia. The center arose after the destruction of ancient Siponto, at the behest of King Manfredi, son of Frederick II of Svevia. Towered city, with a massive castle overlooking its stands on the marina, full of churches and aristocratic palaces, Manfredonia collects in the National Museum, housed in the stately rooms of the castle, numerous archaeological evidence, such as stelae Daunia, details of ancient artifacts people of this territory.

Santuario di PulsanoClimbing up towards Monte Sant’Angelo, is worth stopping and admiring the scenery of the Gulf of Manfredonia. The Shrine of St. Maria Di Pulsano is placed near the large bay to guard the city. The ancient monastery of the twelfth century (now completely restored), rises above the hills overlooking the seaside resort port Gargano.

The church is partially built in a natural cave full of charm and mystery, and the monastery, protected by massive walls, has an artistic portal decorated with zoomorphic reliefs and ancient coats of arms.

Monte Sant’Angelo is home to the millennial sanctuary dedicated to St. Michael, this town is a real box art: old Romanesque churches, an ancient baptistry, a Norman castle and medieval entire neighborhoods still intact. The Middle Ages is at home in Monte Sant’Angelo, where the Sanctuary of San Michele, located in the bowels of the earth, in a vast natural cave, brings us back to ancient times, leaving visitors to imagine crowds of pilgrims praying by candlelight and descend hundreds of steps that goes into the subsoil. The lines of scales, devotional shrines, chapels and tombs will lead your visit to this ancient shrine of Gargano, which in the Middle Ages was the most important center of Christianity. The internal road between the woods and the farms leads us back to San Giovanni Rotondo, the village along the Via Sacra by pilgrims.

The oldSantuario di San Michele Arcangelo Via Sacra had in its path S. Giovanni Rotondo, where we can find, on the outskirts of the village in the Capuchin monastery, the tomb of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the Franciscan friar who has marked the history of this corner of the Gargano and is revered for the many miracles attributed to him. Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione, was born of humble parents in Pietrelcina, a small town in the province of Benevento, 25 May 1887. Only fifteen years old he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Morcone and after several stays at several convents of his order, including S. Marco la Catola and Foggia, he settled in the Franciscan monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo.

Just in the church choir attached to this monastery, dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie, September 20, 1918, he received the stigmata. From that day until his death, September 23, 1968, his monastery is visited by millions of pilgrims receiving spiritual help and his prayer. The pilgrims who today visit the tomb of Padre Pio and the new church, also dwells at the monumental Via Crucis that winds through the woods surrounding the monastery of St. Maria delle Grazie.