Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza
HOME FOR THE RELIEF OF SUFFERING
The Hospital of Padre Pio
Since coming to the convent in 1916 Padre Pio wanted a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. The convent was surrounded by poverty stricken sick people, in a depressed area of the deep South of Italy, were tuberculosis, pellagra, typhoid fever, smallpox, septicemia, meningitis, Spanish flu, infantile paralysis, where endemic. 
Civilian Hospital St. Francis
On April 23, 1925 the local Congregation of Charity, with the support of Padre Pio, and the backing of Padre Ignazio da Jelsi, Guardian of the Capuchin convent, opened a Civilian Hospital called the Hospital of Saint Francis, downtown San Giovanni Rotondo, in a section of the former convent of the Clares.
The entrance to St. Francis Hospital, downtown San Giovanni Rotondo.
It had 20 beds. Two large rooms had 8 beds each for male and female patients. 2 smaller rooms had 2 beds each.
The Capuchin friars took care of the spiritual needs.
Nursing was provided by the sisters Adorers of the Sacred Heart, and later by the sisters of the Very Precious Blood. The girls of the Franciscan trade school provided the cleaning of the linen.
The sign commemorating the opening in 1925 The Giuva buses.
Medical director was dr. Francescantonio Giuva; vice was dr.Angelo Merla.
The surgeon dr. Bucci came twice a week from Foggia for the more difficult surgeries. The hospital was active for 12 years.
The building was irreparably damaged by the earthquakes of July and December 1937. It was permanently closed also because of financial difficulties.
The souvenir plaque on the outside remembers the events. 
A brand new hospital
One day Padre Pio was in the square outside the church and some people approached him. Pointing at the mountain he said: “A great hospital will be built here.” “But there is a mountain here” he was told. Padre Pio replied: “And we shall level the mountain.”
A tiny little lady approached Padre Pio and offered him a 50 cents coin saying: “This is for the hospital.” Padre Pio: “Keep it; you need it,” The lady: “You’re right, it’s too little!” Padre Pio understood that the woman felt humiliated, and said: “Give it to me, and God bless you.” Padre Pio started crying, and every time he reported the episode he showed the coin that he had kept, and there were always tears in his eyes.
The first meeting
Towards the end of 1939 Padre Pio expressed to dr. Sanvico the idea of building a hospital near the convent.
On January 9, 1940, a meeting was called at 6:30 PM by Dr. Mario Sanvico, dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti, and dr. Carlo Kisvarday.
The three doctors were spiritual children of Padre Pio. They were “shipwrecked souls, who had peacefully reached the shores of faith from other, far different lands.”
Dr. Sanvico was a veterinarian from Perugia. He was also a businessman agronomist with the passion to make beer and had started his own brewing company that he sold when he moved to San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio told him: “I want you here, I need you”.
Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti from Parma. Was a country doctor in Ronta di Borgo San Lorenzo in Mugello area, in Tuscany near Florence. In Borgo San Lorenzo he was member of the Confraternity of Misericord. He married Emilia Spilman, his high school sweetheart at the Liceo Tasso in Rome. Sanguinetti visited Padre Pio on June28, 1935. He told him: “You have to come here to help me to build a large hospital. Sell what you have and come to live here.” Sanguinetti: “I am a country doctor, I don’t have savings, I can’t afford the move.” Padre Pio: “You have a piece of paper that will soon solve your problems.” Back in Borgo San Lorenzo Sanguinetti kept ruminating what Padre Pio had told him and couldn’t find any sense. One day he finally understood what piece of paper Padre Pio was talking about. It was a lottery ticket he had bought some time ago. He won a large sum of money and was able to afford the move to San Giovanni Rotondo.  
Dr. Carlo Kisvarday was a pharmacist from Zara in the north eastern corner of Italy. Zara now is called Zadar and belongs to the State of Croatia. The Yugoslava confiscated all of his belongings. He and his wife wandered all over Europe.He felt Padre Pio had saved him from drawning when his car plunged into Adriatic Sea. When he and his wife Maria visited Padre Pio he told him: “I want you close to me, very close to me.” The Kisvardays bought some land near the convent, built a house, and remained in San Giovanni Rotondo.
The meeting was joined by the wives of the doctors, Maria Antonietta Sanvico, Mary Kisvarday, and Emilia Spilmann Sanguinetti, and by miss Ida Seitz.
The participants were told of Padre Pio’s desire to start a hospital, and subscribed a document forming a “Committee for building a clinic according to the intentions of Padre Pio.” The document stated that “everything that will be done will be first subject to the advice of Padre Pio”. 
After the meeting the doctors went to Padre Pio asking for his approval.
Padre Pio approved and said: “Tonight starts my great earthly work. I bless you and all who will donate to my work, which will be very beautiful and very big”.
The gold coin donated by Padre Pio
Then Padre Pio drew from his pocket a 10 French francs gold coin and said: “I want to make the first donation.” 
The coin donated by Padre Pio is displayed in the Museum of Casa Sollievo.
Ida Seitz gave 30 francs and the others gave 967 Italian lire.
40 francs and 967 lire was the humble starting of a grandiose miraculous project.
The plan goes forward
On January 11, 1940 Padre Pio pointed to dr. Sanvico the area were the hospital would be built. On January 14, 1940 dr. Sanvico asked for the name of the new hospital. Padre Pio said: “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza.” (Home for the relief of suffering).
The first substantial donation
The committee advertised the project in a six page brochure printed in Perugia.
On June 9, 1941, Emanuele Brunatto sent from Paris, France, a check for 3 ½ million French francs to the “Committee for the construction of the clinic of San Giovanni Rotondo”. It was a large amount of money. 
Groundbreaking could not be started because of WWII.
To avoid devaluation of the currency the committee invested the money in a ranch in Lucera. The project took new life at the end of WWII.
On October 5, 1946, the juridical standing of the hospital was established. The notary Girolamo Caggianelli of Foggia created a share holding company named “Societa’ Anonima Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” with the purpose of building and managing a Hospital in San
Giovanni Rotondo for the cure and care of the sick, including spiritual care. 
The capital was of one million lire, constituted of 1000 shares of 1000 lire.
The six underwriters were dr. Sanguinetti, eng. Eleanora Figna (graduated in engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Turin (Piergiorgio Frassati was her classmate), dr. Kisvarday, rev. Giuseppe Orlando, Pasquale De Meis, and dr. Panicali. Each of them renounced any personal profit.
The project was joined later by dr. Sanvico, Angela Serritelli, count Telfner, Mario Cacciaglia, marquis Sacchetti, marquis Patrizi, att. Ungaro, att. Pennelli and others.
Bernardo Patrizi was a scion of the Lee family of Virginia, through his great - grandmother, sister of the general Robert Lee.
Count Telfners was cousin of Irving Berlin. Iriving Berlin visited the Telfners when he was performing in July 1943 for the American troups in Foggia. Berlin, who was Jewish, visited with Padre Pio who gave him a rosary for his wife, who was Catholic.
On October 5, 1946 Padre Pio was assisting his dying father Grazio at the home of Mary Pyle.
When Dr. Sanguinetti and Eng. Figna presented him the documents defining the legal corporation Padre Pio gave his blessing: “May it be as God has wanted. May it grow. May it heal bodies and sanctify souls.” And for the collaborators: “May the good Lord reward them a hundred times over in this life, and with eternal life in the next.”
Donations of the landMaria Basilio
Three days after Casa Sollievo was incorporated, Maria Basilio, a wealthy lady from Turin, donated the land adjacent to the friary were the hospital would be located. It was a tract of public land sold by the city council to Maria, for a charitable institution to be built. The land was a steep slope of the mountain near the convent. 
The following day Angela Serritelli donated a parcel of land that she owned adjoining the Basilio donation.
Maria Basilio was a businesswoman from the Venchi family in Turin. She met Padre Pio on December 5, 1918. Padre Pio told her: ”Welcome Maria; I have been waiting for you.” On May 9, 1923 she donated a gold calyx to Padre Pio. She moved to San Giovanni Rotondo and, as spiritual daughter, dedicated to the cause of Padre Pio her life, thoughts, heart, and possessions. In December 1935 she officially purchased from Filippo Lombardi the land near the friary were the hospital would be built.
Angela Serritelli was from San Giovanni Rotondo. She was an elementary school teacher. She met Padre Pio on January 23, 1917. In that year she became Franciscan tertiary and dedicated herself to the cause of Padre Pio. She died on May 30, 1976. She left a manuscript, later published in Foggia “Notizie su Padre Pio”, where she reported personal experiences, prodigies, and facts related to Padre Pio .
The construction begins
On May 1947 the first administrative council of the new society was formed. Sacchetti, president; Sanvico, vice president; Sanguinetti, delegate; Kisvarday, treasurer.
Padre Pio was pressing for the work to start.
The overall supervision was given to don Peppino Orlando.
Orlando reported that in every meeting Padre Pio would nudge him in the side with his elbow, so much that he avoided sitting near him. Padre Pio pressed him to start work, and Orlando replied: “How can we start work without a plan, without a blueprint, without a contractor?”
Consequently sketches were requested.
A sketch admired by most was the one by “Civil Engineer Candeloro”. The man was summoned, but was nowhere to be found. They soon realized the sketch had been presented by Angelo Lupi under false name.Angelo Lupi
Angelo Lupi from Castel Frentano, province of Chieti, in Abruzzi region, was not an engineer and not an architect. He had some schooling but no degree. He had little more than an 8th grade education. He had worked in various places in costruction, learning on the field.
Angelo Lupi was an eccentric temperamental genius. Padre Pio decided that he was the right man for the job. Lupi was put in charge of the project and construction of Casa Sollievo.
On May 16, 1946 Padre Pio blessed the cornerstone, and on May 19 the first shovel of dirt was turned.
Construction continues at steady pace
Angelo Lupi recruited and organized more than 300 workmen who began to level the mountainside. Making use of the natural resources of the mountain he constructed a lime kiln to extract from stones the lime for the plaster. The tiles for the flooring, the sinks, tubs, bowls and artificial marble were also made from material that he got from the mountain. 
In the basement of Casa Sollievo a workshop was set up for the manufacture of the artificial marble used to cover the outside and inside walls, an to make floor tiles, doorposts, and doorsteps.
In September1949 the bulletin Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza was started in order to provide the friends of the institution with first hand information on the progress. It was located in a wooden hut built with wartime leftovers. Soon it had to expand the number of pager and increase the amount of copies, and moved to more acceptable quarters.
Padre Pio and dr. Sanguinetti goin over a bulletin before publication.
Padre Dominic Meyer wrote to his American relatives: “Angelo Lupi is architect, contractor, superintendent and a lot of other things for the new hospital. Through his genius, all manner of necessary equipment and supplies are being made here. This saves a lot of money and gives work to the poor people here.”
While the construction was going on, Lupi was charged by and engineer in Foggia of “abusive exercise of the profession of an architect.” Padre Pio told Angelo: “Don’t worry my son. That person has received his degree from men. You have received your from God.” He was called into court for presenting himself as an engineer, but it was impossible to accuse him of not knowing how to do that which he had already done so beautifully. The matter was dropped.
The balance sheet was made public, and showed that the money had been well
spent, with great savings over average similar costs.
All sorts of means were used to collect funds, including lotteries, raffles,
bazaars. In every shop and store there was box for donations,
There were also female workers. They laid down the mosaic floorings.
Everybody was saying that an intervention of the Divine Providence was needed.
Padre Pio was firmly against bank loans. He wanted the project financed only with donations.
At this point Barbara Wards got involved in the project.
Payday for the workers Lunch break Padre Pio testing the food of the workers
Barbara Ward was born in Heworth, Yorkshire, England. She went to a convent school, then studied at the Sorbonne and graduated from Oxford. She was a fervent Catholic involved in numerous catholic organizations.
As a journalist for “The Economist” she went to Rome in the fall of 1947 to write a report on the postwar reconstruction. In Rome she was guest of marquis Bernardo Patrizi.
Patrizi was one of the early supporters of Casa Sollievo. Barbara Ward expressed the desire to meet Padre Pio, and Patrizi offered to accompany her. In San Giovanni Rotondo they were guests of the Sanguinettis.
When Barbara Ward arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo she first visited the work site of the hospital, asking many questions especially about costs and financing.
They saw and old priest directing a gang of laborers. It was Padre Pio’s friend from Pietrelcina don Orlando. Don Orlando who had now retired, and come to San Giovanni Rotondo. Ward stopped at the massive work site and asked the priest how much it would all cost. “Four hundred million lire” was the reply. “And who is paying for it?’ asked miss Ward. “Whoever passes by, pays” said Orlando.
Barbara passed by and went to see Padre Pio.
She met Padre Pio and asked for the conversion to Catholicism or her fiancée Robert Jackson. Padre Pio said: “If God wants, he will convert.” “When will that be?” “If God wants, right now.”
Back in London she found out that on the very day and hour that she was visiting with Padre Pio, Commander Robert Jackson has converted to Catholicism.
He had been passing by a Jesuit church on that particular day and time, and felt inspired to go in and visit the rectory were he asked to be accepted in the Catholic faith. Barbara talked to Robert at length, describing the construction of the hospital.
Robert was deputy director of “United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration” (UNRRA), the organization set by the United Nations for the rebuilding of Europe after WWII.
Robert Jackson went to San Giovanni Rotondo, and meeting Padre Pio told him: “I know that you need funds. I will do what I can to help you get them.”
Robert got into action, and on June 21 1948 the U.S. Congress approved the proposed funding, and UNRRA notified Alcide De Gasperi, prime minister of Italy, that the hospital of Padre Pio had been assigned 400 million lire. That was an immense amount of money at the time.
The Italian government didn’t know anything about the hospital and asked information to the Prefect of Foggia, the province where San Giovanni Rotondo was located. The prefect was not aware of the construction and delegated the provincial medical director to investigate.
Padre Pio visited frequently the construction site.
The medical director went to the construction site, and had to report back that a new hospital was being built without any documentation of approval. However he offered to help Padre Pio in gathering the necessary documentation for approval from the department of health in Rome.
It took six months of bureaucratic battles, but at the end the project was approved. However the Project received only 250 of the 400 million lire allocated. The difference was kept by the Italian government for other projects.
The grant would be in memory of Fiorello La Guardia.
Fiorello La Guardia former mayor of New York City, was general director of UNRRA in 1946. His father had migrated to the USA from Cerignola, in the province of Foggia, Italy. He had recently died of pancreatic cancer.
For about a year the construction was named “Clinica Fiorello La Guardia, “afterwards it was resumed the original name of “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza.”
Varius phases of the construction on Casa Sollievo.
The construction continued at a steady pace, and the providential gift stimulated an upsurge of donations.
Dr. Sanguinetti, an amateur in landscaping, planted 3000 trees on the slopes of the mountain to prevent slides.
Stained window Madonna
Barbara, with her fiancée Robert visited again the construction in the fall of 1950. They were very pleased with the way the money from UNRRA had been used.
The stained window in the chapel of Casa Sollievo. Barbara Ward standing in front of it.
When Barbara Wards entered the chapel of the hospital she was pleasantly surprised that the face of Mary in the stained window on the altar resembled her own.
Angelo Lupi had had the idea, since everybody considered Barbara Word the godmother of the hospital.
Barbara Ward wrote of Padre Pio: “He had downright common sense and intensely practical attitude towards life. Nine tenths of the people who came to Padre Pio were in unrelieved poverty. Poverty was the root of so many neglected diseases, lifelong ill health, crippling, blindness, infirmities and miseries. That entire tragic load had to be borne by him day after day, from the moment he entered the church at dawn until the last penitents went on their way. Padre Pio was the last man in the world to let his friends forget that Our Lord not only preached to souls but also healed bodies and promised Heaven to those who feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If there was to be medical care, the hospital needed to be in San Giovanni Rotondo. This was the common sense of Padre Pio and he expected from his friends common sense practical support for his charitable project.”
Angelo Lupi (clear pants) with Padre Pio at the construction site, and showing him a painting of the Holy Family that he made for the church in Pietrelcina.
Padre Pio on the roof of Casa Sollievo Padre Pio blessing the analysis lab.
Padre Pio admiring a stained window in the chapel; With dr. Sanvico and other employes.
Padre Pio with workers in the emergency room, with Angelo Lupi and engineer Nora Figna.
When the building was completed, other architects, the ones who actually had degree, called the work of Angelo Lupi a genuine miracle.
The grand opening of Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza took place on May 5, 1956.
Padre Pio celebrated Mass
Ribbon cutting: Cardinal Lercaro, Padre Pio, and a lot of people
Padre Pio read a memorable speech. 
Pope Pius XII sent a congratulatory telegram, praising “the work of a high evangelic feeling of love”. Cardinal Lercaro and Padre Benigno, the general superior of the Capuchin order were present, among many thousand people, including Enrico Medi, Beniamino Gigli, and the widow of Guglielmo Marconi.
Cardinal Lercaro gave a stirring address
Guglielmo Sanguinetti was not at the grand opening. He had died on September 9, 1954 of a heart attack. Mario Sanvico ha died oofcancer seven month after, in April 1955.
Beniamino Gigli,Cesare Merzagora and mayor Morcaldi
The New York Times on July 29, 1956 described Casa Sollievo as "One of the most beautiful as well as one of the most modern and fully equipped hospitals in the world. It even has an helicopter landing place on the roof. Its different shades of lovely green marble, it's fine tile work, its bright pleasant rooms ... its ultra-modern operating rooms, laboratories, and kitchen, its little chapel with its precious stained-glass windows, its staff of top-flight surgeons and specialists - every detail - make it as beautiful and up-to-date a place to take away suffering as one can hope to find."
At the end of the memorable opening day Padre Pio had a group picture with
some of the people that had made it all possible, including Dr. and mrs.
Sanguinetti, Angelo Lupi with his wife and children, clerks, technicians and
At the end of the memorable opening day Padre Pio had a group picture with some of the people that had made it all possible, including Dr. and mrs. Sanguinetti, Angelo Lupi with his wife and children, clerks, technicians and laborers.
The prodigy continues
The first patient was admitted on May 10, 1954 and was assigned one of the 250 beds.
May 5, 1957 first anniversary of the grand opening
May 5, 1958 second anniversary of the grand opening
In 1959 a new wing was built, increasing the capacity to 600 beds.
Padre Pio visiting with patients. nuns, nurses and doctors.
Padre Pio called the Casa Sollievo “The structure that will defy the centuries”.
Pictures of the Congress on Radiology in 1964
When somebody told him the Casa Sollievo was too luxurious, too richly adorned Padre Pio replied: “Too luxurious? If I could have done so, I would have made it all of gold, because the sick are Jesus, and what is done for the Lord is always too little.”
Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro celebrates the 10th anniversary of Casa Sollievo.
Dr. Pavone reported: “Padre Pio continually told the nuns, the nurses, and the doctors: “When you see the patient, look at Jesus Christ. In every sick person, see Jesus suffering. Do everything out of love for Jesus Christ. Do it with love. Bring love.””
On February 1958 Laurino Costa sent a telegram to Padre Pio: "Pray for me to find a job." He received a telegram back “Come to San Giovanni Rotondo at once.”
On the 4th he met Padre Pio for the first time: “Laurino, I see you have arrived. You will feed my sick.” “But Padre, Laurino protested, I’ve never cooked an egg in my life.” Padre Pio insisted: “Go and prepare the food for my sick. I’ll always be near you.”
Laurino went to Casa Sollievo and was told: “You must be the experienced cook we’ve been waiting for.“ “It was a frightening sight. This great spacious kitchen with huge kettles, stoves, sinks, pipes, basins, kitchenware and so forth. I never saw anything like that in my life. But the most alarming feature was the sight of the kitchen employees standing there, waiting for my orders.However, I had the sensation that I had always been there. The same day he was preparing meals for 450 people.
Laurino admitted: “To this day I still don’t know what happened. All day long I found myself calmly working and telling others what to do, as though I was carrying out a routine I had been used to. After a while Padre Pio insisted that my family move her. So my family came and we settled here. We have been here for fourteen years.” 
On the feast of Corpus Christi Padre Pio took the Blessed Sacrament
in every room of every floor.
On the feast of Corpus Christi Padre Pio took the Blessed Sacrament in every room of every floor.
A Fatima celebration on the womens floor.
At Christmas Padre Pio visited the nativity scene prepared by the employees of Casa Sollievo, and assisted at a children's religious plays written and directed by Cleonice Morcaldi.
Visiting the school for the children of the employees.
Wherever Padre Pio went outside the convent, Carabinieri were needed to regulate the crowds.
On July 16, 1968 the cornerstone of the new wing of Casa Sollievo was
put in place. Padre Pio was present at the ceremony.
On July 16, 1968 the cornerstone of the new wing of Casa Sollievo was put in place. Padre Pio was present at the ceremony.
Busts of Angelo Lupi and dr. Sanguinetti, and a statue of Padre Pio at the main entrance of Casa Sollievo. Guglielmo Sanguinetti was not at the grand opening. He had died on September 9, 1954 of a heart attack. Mario Sanvico ha died of cancer seven month after, in April 1955. Angelo Lupi had been let go.
Casa Sollievo today in 2013
Currently in 2013 the Casa Sollievo is property of the Holy See as disposed by Padre Pio in his wills on October 4, 1960 and May 11, 1964. It is administered through the Secretary of State. The current president of the Administrative Council, appointed by the Secretary of State Card. Tarcisio Bertone is Mons. Michele Castoro, Archbishop of Manfredonia, Vieste, and San Giovanni Rotondo.  
Casa Sollievo has 1000 beds, 26 departments, 50 clinical specialties, 3000 employees.
The large Poliambulatory John Paul II is close to the hospital.
There are dialysis centers in the surrounding towns of Manfredonia, Rodi Garganico and Vieste.
In Rome there is the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza – Mendel.” It is a structure for scientific research founded by dr. Luigi Gedda in 1953, and donated in 1998.
The hospital owns two large farms in the area, which provide wine, olive oil, grain, meat and other products for its daily needs.
One of the farms is “Masseria Calderoso”, located in National Park of Gargano, where on 70 hectares of olive groves, extra virgin biological olive oil is produced.
The other farm is “Azienda agro-zootecnica Posta La Via”, cattle and dairy farm, on 200 hectares, were 700 bovine produce milk, cheeses, mozzarella, ricotta, caciocavallo, caciotta, butter, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, and meats. They are fed biological forage grown on the farm. Vegetables are also grown.
Casa Sollievo Opera Padre Pio administers several other social activities near the hospital:
The “Casa Padre Pio” for elderly people, has 56 beds as retirement home, 36 beds as nursing home, and 114 beds as long term hotel like setting.
The “Centro Accoglienza S. Maria delle Grazie” has 207 beds and a convention center.
The “Casa San Francesco” has 25 beds for relatives of hospitalized people, and for people needing outpatient care for more than one day.
The “Cenacolo Santa Chiara” has 70 beds for “spiritual exercises”.
If one thinks just for a moment of the immensity and complexity of the task of setting up such a grandiose hospital in the middle of nowhere, no amount of thought and planning, of blood, sweat and tears, could be up to the task, of creating a powerhouse of love for the neighbor, and alleviation of human suffering, as Padre Pio did.
The new chapel inside Casa Sollievo
Museum of Casa Sollievo:
Bravo Padre Pio!
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