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The Story of The Flying Monk: A Myth, A Legend Or Reality?

In the midst of World War II, Italy was invaded by Nazi Germany and Allied forces made many attempts to liberate the country. According to various accounts, intelligence reported a cache of German munitions near San Giovanni Rotondo, the town in which stood the monastery of St. Pio, but bombers sent by the U.S. Air Command were prevented from bombing the town of San Giovanni Rotondo by the “flying monk” during WWII.

When asked to leave, the townspeople came to Padre Pio informing him about the bombing and he told them not to leave and that the town would not be bombed. As the historical account goes, the bombers began their journey from Puglia to San Giovanni Rotondo and were stopped midair by a monk who was flying right in front of their planes with his arms extended out and his hands open and facing them. The allied pilots who were from many different nationalities and faiths, kept returning to base with the news that they did not complete their mission because a ‘flying monk’ in the air kept preventing them from bombing the city. 

In fact, none of the Allied planes sent to bomb the San Giovanni Rotondo area were able to complete their missions successfully. There were often mysterious malfunctions, causing the bombs to drop harmlessly in the fields or mechanical failures that caused the planes to veer off course.

A painting depicting Padre Pio turning away bombers attempting to bomb San Giovanni Rotondo.
Padre Pio


Stationed at the base was General Nathan F. Twining and upon hearing these bizarre reports of a flying monk, he decided to lead the bombing squad himself to see what was going on.

He couldn’t believe that there was a monk who was flying in the air and that the stories the pilots were telling about their bomb bay doors refusing to open or their bombs falling harmlessly to the ground and not exploding were true, let alone the even crazier reports that planes were being turned around in midair by the flying monk.

U.S. servicemen meet with Padre Pio after the war. Second to the right of Saint Pio is Major General Nathan F. Twining, who converted to Catholicism after meeting the Capuchin Friar.

General Twining happened to be in Bari at the time he kept hearing these incredible stories. He didn’t believe the pilots and he thought that they were seeing things. He decided to launch another bombing raid, so he got into one of the bombers and they all took off for San Giovanni Rotondo to hit their target. He reported that as they neared the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, a monk appeared in the clouds right in front of his plane and that he was flying at the same speed that he was. He reported that the monk had his hands extended and immediately, all the bombers bomb bay doors were opened, the bombs fell harmlessly into the open fields below and their planes turned around by themselves. They aborted the mission and returned to Bari where he filed his own incredible eyewitness account.

After the war, General Twining went to San Giovanni Rotondo and as he walked up the steps to the monastery, he found himself standing right in front of Padre Pio, who humorously quipped, “So you are the one that wanted to destroy everything.” He became good friends with Padre Pio.

It was not just U.S. servicemen that gravitated to Padre Pio. In this picture, the Saint is surrounded by members of the Italian Carabinieri.

While the accounts might appear to be fictitious tales, what is true is that San Giovanni Rotondo was spared during World War II and multiple pilots reported seeing a “flying monk” in the sky over the spot where they were ordered to unload bombs.

This further attests to the remarkable sanctity of Padre Pio and how he was given extraordinary grace during his life. He was united to God so intimately that he could be in two places at once, extending himself to another location because of his deep relationship with God, who exists outside of space and time. Padre Pio certainly did not do any of these amazing feats from his own power, but through the infinite power of God.


Copyright – All rights reserved by Ella Stelluto