SAINT MARY OF PIETRASANTA SHRINE
The "Sughere Trail" connects three towns: Vibonati, Ispani and Santa Marina.
The historical and artistic heritage of San Giovanni a Piro includes fifteen chapels that outline a real journey of faith. Among them all, the chapel dedicated to St. Mary of Pietrasanta stands out for its position and importance: it is about 2 km far from the town and 650 m above sea level.
Between the church and the town there is a deep valley covered with scrub, oak and holm oak .
An old tortuous path passes through this thick forest; it is accessible only on foot or donkey . Today, a large driveway fits perfectly into the historical landscape of the site , allowing easy access to the shrine. It is quite certain that the Basilian monks of the nearby monastery of St. John the Baptist sculpted, around 1200 on the peak of Mount Piccotta, a statue of the Virgin, forming “a whole” with the niche built into the stone. The statue has the characteristics of the classic Byzantine iconography . The rock chapel dedicated to the Virgin, with a small semi-cylindrical apse, was able to contain just a few dozen people; it has been later enlarged by the devotees who, thanking for the benefits received by the Virgin, entrusted her the protection of the town . Today, only a section of the apse of the original building remains.
It is a one-nave building and, as it is not aligned to the presbytery (because it was built on an uneven rock floor) it results very characteristic. The interior of the church, all in stone and masonry, is decorated in simple style with stuccoes and creamy-white angels; the windows create a special atmosphere, typical of a place of meditation and prayer.
The church is equipped with some rooms where are kept some old furniture and the votive cinte (it is a typical votive arrangement made using long white candles, put as to form a small altar, usually adorned with ribbons and flowers, that women carry on their head during processions as a sign of gratitude for favours received) . The church entrance is a simple stone arch with wooden doors. In the hall there is the font made of stone. A couple of angels, placed on the sides of the tabernacle, replace the original two angels in white marble stolen in 1989. Outside, on the left of the sacristy stands the three-storey bell tower.
The plaster is pink and adorned with chiselled stones.
A few steps below the bell tower there is a spring and, along the path leading to it, is placed a gravestone. The building has been renovated and expanded several times. An intervention was necessary after 1806, when the troops of Murat, having mistaken it for a military fort, attacked it. The sanctuary has been recently restored. In 1988, on the Marian Year, was erected an obelisk dedicated to the Virgin.
In order to arrive at the top, where is placed the statue, you must climb a local stone staircase. Iodine lamps illumine the whole area making the shrine look like a lighthouse that guards the Gulf of Policastro.