Accepted Paper:

Expressions of popular piety at the shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie: the construction of Padre Pio's sanctity  

Author:

Evgenia Mesaritou (University of Cyprus)

Paper short abstract:

The paper proposes a new theoretical model for the analysis of popular piety in the context of Christian pilgrimage, drawing from social theories of pilgrimage and space and based on fieldwork at the Santa Maria delle Grazie shrine in S. Italy, where the tomb of Padre Pio is located.

Paper long abstract:

Focusing on the expression of popular piety in the context of Christian pilgrimage, this paper proposes a new theoretical model for its analysis, departing from Eade and Sallnow's proposal to see pilgrimage sites as 'religious voids', deriving their power not only from their own religious significance, but also from their character as a platform (Eade and Sallnow 1991:10) able to accommodate the different and often conflicting meanings, ideas and practices that officials, pilgrims and locals bring to the shrine . Taking on board the criticisms of Coleman and Elsner, who also stress that the "'religious void' is in fact full- crowded with material props, holy objects and […] crowded with pilgrims who may even reaffirm the sanctity of the site […]" (Coleman and Elsner 1998:49) - the paper draws on De Certeau's theories on everyday practices in order to illustrate the role of expressions of popular piety such as pilgrimage practices, in the construction of the sacred. The paper will make use of ethnographic data collected during fieldwork at the Southern Italian shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo, Puglia, where the tomb of Padre Pio, as the recently canonized San Pio is universally known, is located, focusing on expressions of popular piety in the shaping of space and its structures. It will therefore show how the notion of the sacred is constructed through the interaction of shrine managers and shrine visitors, as this is filtered through the physical landscape of the shrine.

Panel W008
What makes popular piety popular?