|Our Lady of Grace Chapel|
|Over the main doors to Our Lady of Grace Chapel, visitors will find the carved symbol of the Franciscans: the crossed arms over the cross. Directly below the Franciscan symbol is a colorful tile portrait of Saint Francis of Assisi, The Virgin and Child, and Saint Michael the Archangel. Upon entering the small but inspiring chapel, visitors will find tiled floors and a domed ceiling, recreating the Italian architecture of Our Lady of Grace Church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. The cream-colored walls are enlivened by geometric designs, formed by the gracious curves of the arches trimmed in white and gold. Authentic design and pious mood transport devotees back to a time when monasticism played a much more significant role in the lives of Catholic believers.
The main altar is carved to give the appearance of polished marble and recessed amidst the vaulting arches of the largest alcove in the chapel. Centrally located on the main altar is a golden tabernacle, topped with a golden crucifix. Both are situated below renditions of three famous paintings in Our Lady of Grace Church in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Moving from left to right, the first of the three paintings is Saint John the Baptist, whose special feast day is celebrated in San Giovanni Rotondo every June 24. Wearing his traditional animal skin, symbol of his total spirit of abandonment to God's holy will, and garbed in red, symbol of his martyrdom, he holds a staff topped with a cross, draped in whit cloth, symbolizing the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Next is Our Lady of Grace, holding the Christ Child. Both Mother and Son are crowned in glory and adorned by angels. This is the painting to which Padre Pio had great devotion, and before which he often emptied his heart in supplication to the Christ Child and His holy Mother.
Next to Our Lady of Grace hangs Saint Paul the Apostle, Padre Pio's favorite author from Sacred Scripture. In one hand, Saint Paul holds a spear, suggesting his martyrdom as well as the Word of God piercing our hearts. In the other hand, he cradles a text, representing the writings of Sacred Scripture.
Moving from the main altar to the first side altar on the right of the chapel, Saint Francis of Assisi resides with his stigmatized hands crossed lovingly over his heart. Below him lies an image of Saint Massimiana, virgin and martyr. Although she is no longer on the official church calendar, the people of San Giovanni Rotondo still venerate this local martyr, regarding her with great affection.
The second side altar on the right side of the chapel is devoted to Saint Felix Cantilice. A humble Capuchin, Saint Felix had been responsible for answering the door to the friary. His great gifts of humility and holiness were matched by the supernatural gifts of prophesy and holding the Christ Child, as depicted by Our Lady offering her Son to the open arms of St. Felix, while he is being crowned with sanctity by a cherub.
The first side chapel on the left of Our Lady of Grace Chapel celebrates Our Lady under Her title of The Immaculate Conception. Here, the Mother of Jesus stands below God the Father, as the New Eve, crushing the head of sin, depicted as Satan in the form of a serpent.
The last side altar on the left side of the chapel houses an actual confessional, used by Padre Pio, in San Giovanni, to hear the confessions of the women. It is ironic that this confessional would be the one to find its way to America through the efforts of one woman who wanted to thank the holy stigmatist for healing her daughter. Because of the confessional's historic significance and sacred nature, it is surrounded with a black wrought iron fence to protect it from harm.
An elegant choir loft overlooks Our Lady of Grace Chapel, crating an atmosphere that is both intimate and sacred, while replicating the place where Padre Pio received the five wounds of Christ crucified in 1918. Centered on the banister of the choir loft and framed by spacious domes and arches, a stunning crucifix rises, crowning a visual sweep that is simultaneously inspiring and overpowering. Around the perimeter of the chapel, beautiful scenes, hand-painted in oil, recreate the Stations of the Cross, leading pilgrims' eyes, minds, and hearts on a silent journey to Golgotha.