Abstract: The paper will focus upon the issue of saintly presence and the ways in which this is felt, experienced and enacted at the pilgrimage centre of Padre Pio. This issue will be examined in relation to the material and spatial structures of the pilgrimage centre and in particular the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, at the crypt of which the tomb of Padre Pio was until recently emplaced. In examining the issue of saintly presence in relation to the sanctuary’s materiality, the paper will also explore the relationship of two of the dimensions Eade and Sallnow ( 2000, ‘Introduction’, in Contesting the Sacred: The Anthropology of Christian Pilgrimage., 2nd ed., edited by John Eade and Michael J. Sallnow, 1–29, Urbana: University of Illinois) propose for the examination of pilgrimage, namely person and place. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered during fieldwork (2004–2005), it will argue that the feeling of saintly presence is mainly generated by the knowledge people have of Padre Pio having lived and being buried there. This knowledge shapes their pilgrimage experience.
Abstract: Any community supposedly identified with a “single” kind of Christianity is likely to contain conflicts and divisions due to the different logics and temporalities associated, respectively, with ecclesiastical institutions, popular practices, and scriptural texts. These conflicts may extend even to basic ontological assumptions. This article looks at clashes concerning popular practices surrounding relics and icons in Eastern Orthodoxy. It asks what are the ethical stakes when people insist on the powers of material things even in the face of withering criticism and contempt from inside and outside their church. That criticism, which can have both theological and atheistic bases, often focuses on the allegedly instrumental reasoning and selfish motives of people who expect to receive divine intervention from objects such as relics and icons. I argue that popular practices that focus on the agency of objects may above all be responding to material properties as ethical affordances. These affordances provide ways of treating the world as ethically saturated. In the Eastern Orthodox context, this may be one way for ordinary villagers to take lofty theological claims about the divine nature of humans in concrete terms.
Abstract: Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper examines therole of material culture (objects, souvenirs, art and built structures) in the contemporary Catholic cult of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, particularly how it iscreated, contextualised, contested, and consumed by pilgrims at Pio’s shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo. The shrine’s managers have frequently been criticised for its commercialism and invasive nature. While some critiques are warranted, this paper argues that they fail to consider deeper meanings of these objects. In particular, they are conceived of as relics – social and spiritual mediators – that connect the pilgrim with the saint and with other devotees; they are alsoidentity markers whose employment by diverse groups within the cult bothindex and construct deeply held cosmological notions of their relationship to Pio and the supernatural. The examination of these factors, therefore,ultimately provides a valuable look at the discourses and practices during theformation of a major saint’s cult.