Updated: Aug 3
By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — A local man inspired thousands when he built a local shrine on his property last year, and with a little faith he will see that shrine be blessed this month.
John Landino, 80, of Rowe Road built a holy shrine he called: Grotto of The Pieta across the street from his historic homestead.
The shrine shows Mother Mary holding Jesus in her arms after the cross. It took about five years to complete and has inspired many locals, out of towners, and people around the world.
On Aug. 16 the shrine will be blessed by Very Rev. Stephen Karani and Rev. Michael Twordzik. A classical soprano from Belarus named Anna Pender will sing four songs including Ave Maria. The program starts at 2 p.m. and social distancing will apply on the three-acre field. If you are interested in this historical faithful event bring your own chair.
Landino said there has been a huge turnout with the faithful coming to view the shrine. He created a welcome sign at the bottom of the hill to make everyone aware they are able to see the shrine anytime.
“I have traveled all over Europe and seen many shrines. I never saw a shrine like this one here. I have added a bronze plaque that tells when it was built and who built it. I have added Marigold Flowers at the base of the statue since these are the Heart of Mother Mary flowers. I wanted to show the heart of the shrine,” he said.
Landino wanted to do the blessing of the shrine in May, but had to push it ahead a few months due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. He hopes to have a good blessing. Many of the older locals come to pray and be reminded of Mother Mary and Jesus. There is a rosary someone left on the statue.
“I have placed a bench here for our older visitors who come to sit and reflect at the shrine. We have many regulars who come here often to pray. You can’t get a more beautiful view or find a better setting for something like this. It is a nice place to sit and have peace with God. I think we as Christians need this more now than ever before,” he said. “Christians are being persecuted all over nowadays. With all of this political climate trying to take this away from us; it is important to remind people that these things have meaning. A lot of people are afraid to admit they have Christianity.”
Landino made it clear with the giant statue showcasing his faith that he is putting his Christianity on display for the entire world. He wants to make it clear that he is not praying to the statue. The statue represents a symbol of his faith. He comes up here to reflect on God.
The Grotto of the Pieta was inspired by his religious Italian grandmother who used to take him to the famous grotto at the St. Michaels Mission in Conesus. Sadly, that grotto is in ruins now and all the statues have been removed. It was a very holy place many years ago to so many of the faithful.
Landino attributes this latest achievement to his Italian grandmother who was a very religious woman. This religion was carried on with he and his brothers as they grew hearing her stories. She would take them to St. Michael’s Mission in Conesus to show them the grottos they had placed along the hill. This image stuck with Landino all through his life.
“I guess you could say this goes back to my youth. My grandmother was a very religious woman who came here from Italy. She would show my brothers and I the smaller Grottos on Hemlock Hill at the St. Michael’s Mission. Some of these moments just influence you throughout your life,” he said. “When I purchased this home and property the entire area was covered in stones and trees. Rose (Landino) would go around collecting the stones. I took a lot of them and some from the farmers field next to us to make this.”
Landino’s entire property is an artistic masterpiece to anyone who drives by. He has had plenty of people who slow down to look at the house, gardens, landscape, and of course the shrine.
“We have some people who come to look at the stones. We have some who come for the statue. We have a woman who likes to come here and do the rosary. We even had a few who came to dump ashes of loved ones at the shrine. This is the reaction we are getting up here so far,” he said. “The shrine is really beautiful the closer you get towards it. I did all of the work myself. I really wanted this to be mine. I didn’t want anyone else’s name attached to it. I had a vision of what I wanted it to be a few years ago, and I have been working on it ever since. I had some who asked to help work on it, but everyone has a different way of doing things. I just wanted to do this one on my own.”
The shrine is meant to be a special place for people to come and have a moment with God. It is a symbol of faith. It brings some light in the seemingly darker world we find ourselves in these days.
“Faith comes from your very foundation. When you come from a family who practiced their faith religiously it shows. My family all came from Italy and brought that faith with them to America. This sort of faith doesn’t happen anymore,” Landino said.
Blessing of the Grotto of the Pieta is Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. It will be on Aug. 23 at 2p.m. for the rain day. The location is 11763 County Rd. 38 (Rowe Road) in Wayland. There will be some transportation to the shrine If needed. Anyone interested in viewing the shrine can do so on the hillside overlooking the historic homestead.