According to recent studies the origins of San Giovanni Rotondo are very old; in this sense, it seems that San Giovanni Rotondo is derived from ancient settlements, and in the 4th-3rd century BC the village had been Romanized.
In Roman times the village was called "Bisanum" or "the village of God with two faces (Janus)" and the local inhabitants, before the advent of Christianity, seems to practice the cult of Janus, in whose honour they built a temple, called "La Rotonda", due to its circular shape. Afterwards the area's inhabitants were converted to Christianity, the temple was demolished and in its place a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was built.
The village belonged to the Monastery of “San Giovanni in Lamis”, and the mention of the city with the modern name of "San Giovanni Rotondo" dates back to a document of 1095.
Later, the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) fortified the town and surrounded it by walls and towers. After the Swabians, the city passed to the Angevin, and towards the end of the 13th century it was given by the Monastery of San Giovanni in Lamis in emphyteusis (a sort of lease agreement) to a French feudal lord, T. Helamant.
Then, San Giovanni Rotondo was dominated by the Aragonese and in the 16th century it was the center of the struggle between Spain and France for dominance in Italy.
In the Napoleonic age it was ruled by G. Murat (1767-1815) and after the “Risorgimento”, to which the town made an important contribution, it entered the Kingdom of Italy (1861).
In more recent times its importance as a religious center grew with the advent in 1916 of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), who remained here until his death in 1968; then he was canonized in 2002 under the name of Saint Pio. Today, San Giovanni Rotondo is the second most visited shrine in the world with approximately 7 million annual visitors.
See the travel guide for San Giovanni Rotondo.