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A lecture to pilgrims

Michael A. Di Giovine
Traduction(s) :
Un exposé à des pèlerins [fr]

Texte intégral

Michael A. Di Giovine lecturing to pilgrims at the shrine of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo

Michael A. Di Giovine lecturing to pilgrims at the shrine of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo

1For the past decade, I have been conducting intensive ethnographic research on pilgrimage, heritage, and revitalization in the cult of Catholic stigmatic Padre Pio (1887-1968), known as Catholicism’s "most popular saint." Elsewhere I’ve argued (2011) that tourism research can be undertaken as a “global ethnography” that moves between scales, temporalities and networks. As I do when researching World Heritage tourists, in this long-term study on Padre Pio pilgrimage, I travel alternatively as both a pilgrim and a tour guide with devotees from Ireland, Italy and the United States, who move between devotional centers: Pio’s shrine at San Giovanni Rotondo (Italy), his hometown of Pietrelcina (Italy), Dublin (Ireland), Batangas (Philippines), Boston (USA), and the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania (USA), among other cult centers.

2These different environments and different perspectives elicit diverse types of information, providing a more holistic picture of global tourism, heritage and devotion. Conducting participant observation as a fellow tourist (or pilgrim) enables me to grasp the types of information pilgrims consume and how they are consumed, as well as the embodied emotional experiences of suffering and elation that these pilgrims often experience; while acting as the tour leader who actively disseminates a particular form of knowledge (as in this photo), provides a better understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and methods through which tour guides create lasting imaginaries of the saint, how effective communicative tactics are, and how guides mediate between authorized discourses and popular beliefs. When researching Pio for my dissertation, my wife and I also lived in Pietrelcina, which was also my mother’s hometown—providing further insight as a local and as a kinsman (see Di Giovine 2012, p. 161).

3This photo was taken in February 2016, when five of my anthropology students from West Chester University and I traveled with a devotional group from the National Center for Padre Pioto the Vatican and Pio’s shrines on the occasion of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, for which the Pope extraordinarily requested that Pio’s body be moved from his resting place in San Giovanni Rotondo to St. Peter’s Basilica to serve as an icon of mercy. This was the only time Pio bodily left San Giovanni Rotondo since he received his stigmata in 1918, living or deceased.

4On this trip, I moved across positions, starting as a professor to my students, then a fellow pilgrim, and finally, when returning to my fieldsites, leading the group as a longtime guide and kinsman.

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Di Giovine, M. A., 2011, « Tourism Research as "Global Ethnography" », Anthropologies.

Di Giovine, M. A., 2012, « A Tale of Two Cities: Padre Pio and the Reimagining of Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo », Textus: English studies in Italy, 1(1), pp. 155-167.

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Michael A. Di Giovine, « A lecture to pilgrims  », Via [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2018, consulté le 25 mars 2019. URL :

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