By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — A local man led by his passion and faith built a huge shrine to withstand the test of time.
John Landino, 80, of Rowe Road built a magnificent shrine all by himself he calls; Grotto of The Pieta across the street from his historic homestead. This shrine took roughly five to six years to build and has already begun to inspire locals to gather. Landino’s dream is have the Bishop of Rochester come down to bless the shrine in the near future.
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 Hemlock 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.
“It was built for the centuries. I didn’t build it to last 10 years and crumble to the ground. It is built to stay. I had someone help pour 50 tons of concrete in the ground for the foundation, and we made some cement slabs for the stones,” he said. “I have roughly 1,200 stones that I found and put in the shrine. I cut them and placed them together the way I envisioned them. I often found that the beauty was found inside the stones. Each of my stones took over an hour to work on.”
Landino has visited his family roots several times in Italy and Rome. He said the shrine is of Rome quality and nothing like it can be found in our area.
“You can stand here and look out at the beautiful view of the valley, the rolling hills of Naples, and we are surrounded by the woods,” he said. “I want people to understand this is a symbol of faith. We are not praying to the statue. We are praying to God.”
Having been born and raised just a mile down the road from where he now calls home, Landino talked about the importance of fulfilling this personal quest.
“I was born a mile down the road. Our playground was the rivers, hills, and railroad tracks. We all went to a Catholic school and were heavily influenced by the nuns there. I recall setting up a shrine in the woods from a holy photo I took with me there,” he said. “My grandmother went to church every day of her life, she had seven children, and they were all raised poor. She would pray one day and, on her way, back the hospital would ask her to clean up the place. She would be able to bring meat and potatoes home that night to feed her family. We were all brought up in a time where you would do anything for money, and to provide for your family. I have always admired this kind of upbringing.”
The last stone was placed on Sept. 14, 2018 and that marked the end of the several years invested in this religious project. It is 37-feet-long and five-feet-thick in the middle. It weighs about 1,500 pounds.
Landino plans on putting a small plaque on the cornerstone of the shrine soon and hopes that the legacy of what he has done will carry on through the ages.
“I feel like this is my silent way of preaching. I don’t have to stand on a corner of Main Street with a sign. I have been to many religious sites and none of them have anything like this,” he said. “I owe a lot to my wife Rose for helping me find stones and allowing me to do this throughout the years.”
Rose Landino said in her hometown, Amtzell, Germany they had a naturally made Grotto.
The community there put a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Grotto there at some point. All through her childhood they would go to this Grotto on Sundays. Farmers in the town built little chapels on the hill by it, and it would be like a pilgrimage to go up the hillside. These small chapels had religious artifacts in them.
John Landino’s grandmother came from the South of Rome in a place called Bassiano, Italy. He had a painting made in honor of his family’s villa, which now hangs on the wall in the dining room.
Since the shrine is located on an historic homestead the Landino’s ask that you be respectful of the property if you wish to view it on Sunday afternoons only. It is located at 11763 Country Road 38 in Wayland.