Saintly Relics of Italy II

Popular Pilgrimages: Saintly Relics of Italy II

Don't forget to read Part I of this article to learn more about the Saints! Click Here!

Saint Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony, simply known as "Il Santo" in Padua is one of the most popular Christian saints of all time. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal and from a very early age he was in search for a better way to serve God. He found it in the form of the Franciscan Order, which was quickly spreading across Europe. Anthony would have had a much shorter and obscure life of martyrdom if not for a fateful illness and shipwreck that left him in Italy in time to attend the General Chapter of Franciscans in 1221. A Franciscan in the mold of Saint Francis himself, Anthony was a stalwart against the Christian heresies spreading through Europe during his lifetime. In a time when heretics were being burned at the stake, his kind words and his ability to listen as well as speak, led to the conversion of countless non-believers. Anthony was known for his miracles, which included the phenomenon know as bi-location (seen in two places at the same time) in order to absolve his father of a crime. Saint Anthony is still performing miracles centuries after his death in 1231, and his statue is found in Catholic households around the world.

A pilgrimage to Saint Anthony's basilica in Padua can be very rewarding experience as the saint is know for answering prayers offered at his tomb. The Basilica, with its Byzantine domes and Islamic influenced bellowers is filled with artistic works, ornate chapels and of course, plenty of pilgrims. Saint Anthony rests in a magnificent tomb in a side chapel while a portion of his relics lie in the treasury. The Basilica offers pilgrims a reception and welcoming area where members of the Order can assist the faithful in their devotion. However before praying at the saint's tomb, pilgrims should travel north to the town of Camposampiero to visit the Santuario Sant'Antonio. The Santuario is now the site of a Franciscan monastery but hundreds of years ago it was a small hermitage where Saint Anthony spent his last days. Devoting time for prayer at the Chapel of the Nut Tree before moving on to Padua will add that much more significance to your Saint Anthony pilgrimage.


Saint Catherine of Siena

Catherine made such an impact in life, and performed so many miracles after her death that she has been made the co-Patron Saint of Italy with Saint Francis. In life she made great strides in the church doctrine of self-knowledge being knowledge of God and the concept of Divine Intervention. Her writings on theology helped mold modern Catholicism and Catherine is only the second women to be considered a Doctor of the Church. Catherine was also one of the religious giants of her time that helped in returning the Papacy from the "Babylonian Exile" of Avignon, France. At her death she had become so popular that her funeral mass was drowned out by the sounds of the prayers of the attendants.

A pilgrimage to venerate Saint Catherine should start in her hometown Siena, where her preserved head is kept in the Chapel of Saint Catherine at the church of San Domenico. This church, where Catherine came to confess is where many of her miracles and visions were performed as well as being the home to the earliest portrait of the saint. There are many other locations in and around Siena to include in a pilgrimage, including La Casa di Santa Caterina, a monastery built over the saint's home, but the journey should end in Rome. The body of Saint Catherine of Siena is located under the high altar of Rome's only Gothic church: Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Within the church is the stanza di Santa Caterina, a reconstruction of the room in which Saint Catherine died and now an ideal spot for prayer and contemplation.

Loretto: Sanctuario della Santa Casa

In the Marche town of Loretto stands a sanctuary to one of the most amazing of the pilgrimage sites in Italy. Within the Basilica della Santa Casa and encased in an immense marble screen is the Holy House, were the Virgin Mary once lived in Nazareth. It is in this once humble home of brick that the Annunciation, the subject of so many Renaissance masterpieces is said to have taken place. Its arrival in Italy is also miraculous as the Holy House is said to have suddenly appeared in Croatia from its location in Nazareth in 1291. Three years later the Holy House appeared in Loreto and has become a major pilgrimage site ever since. How it arrived in Italy may be legend but examinations of the materials, including ancient Christian graffiti have proved the house was once located in the Holy Land.

The Sanctuary of Loreto is a very active pilgrimage site and is especially frequented by the sick and disabled for its miracles. Pope John Paul II visited several times during his pontificate and the Sanctuary is popular with young pilgrims, Catholic organizations and tour groups. The pleasant town of Loreto has grown up around the shrine and offers pilgrims accommodations as well as year round activities. Once per year the Catholic Movement of Communion and Liberation promotes a night pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Loreto starting sixteen miles away in the town of Macerata. Each year thousands of pilgrims make this journey reciting the rosary and singing songs of faith as they walk to the shrine in deep prayer.

Saint Padre Pio

Saint Padre Pio of Pietelcina, the most famous Stigmatic in recent history was a pilgrimage destination even before his death in 1968. Millions of pilgrims visit his resting place at San Giovanni Rotondo in Apulia each year, many hoping for the saint to cure their illnesses. This is one of the largest of the Christian pilgrimage destinations in the world and is constructing a brand new basilica to accommodate the steady stream of pilgrims as well as a new crypt for the saint. For more on the life and deeds of St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Click Here!

Saint Nicholas of Bari

Saint Nicholas (San Nicolo) is the Patron Saint of children, merchants and sailors and has been located in the southern port of Bari since the late 11th century AD. The bones of Saint Nicholas are one of the few relics said to emit a fragrant liquid known as Manna and is collected for is healing properties. Nicholas continues to be a very popular saint throughout Christianity and a pilgrimage site for both Catholic and Orthodox Christians, a rarity in Western Europe. For more on Saint Nicholas (San Nicolo di Bari): Click Here!

Be Sure to read Part I of this article to learn more about the Saints! Click Here!


Sources/For More Information:

  • Omer Englebert: The Lives of the Saints. trans. Christopher and Anne Fremantle, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1994.
  • James, Colleen Heater: The Pilgrim's Italy: A Travel Guide to the Saints. 1st ed. InnerTravel Books, Nevada City, 2003.
  • Lucinda Vardey: Traveling with the Saints in Italy: Contemporary Pilgrimages on Ancient Paths. HiddenSpring, New Jersey, 2005.


By Justin Demetri

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