Title: Padre Pio for sale: souvenirs, relics, or identity markers?

Authors: Michael A. Di Giovine

Addresses: Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

Abstract: Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper examines the role of material culture (objects, souvenirs, art and built structures) in the contemporary Catholic cult of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, particularly how it is created, 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 also identity markers whose employment by diverse groups within the cult both index 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 the formation of a major saint's cult.

Keywords: Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; San Giovanni Rotondo; Italy; pilgrimage; religious tourism; cult of saints; relics; souvenirs; identity markers; sacred sites; ethnography; material culture; Catholic religion; commercialism; supernatural.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTA.2012.048992

International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, 2012 Vol.2 No.2, pp.108 - 127

Published online: 16 Aug 2014 *

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