Honorable Mention TOKYO-2017 People / Culture

I Battenti

  • Photographer
    Stefano Gerardi

Every seven years Guardia Sanframondi, a little town of south Italy, the week following the 15th of August, has penitential rites in Honor of the Assumption Madonna. The four quarters of town organize a parade of "mysteries" (religious scenes), with volunteers in period costumes from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Lives of Saints. On Sunday all the quarters form a procession and several flagellanti ("flagellants"), who gently strike their backs with a metal scourge, and several battenti ("beaters"), who strike their chests with a spugna (literally "sponge," it is really a disk of cork holding dozens of pins), join in. The flagellanti and battenti are anonymous. They wear white hoods and are not even supposed to tell family members they are participating. Scourges and sponges are not carried openly or displayed in homes after the rite. The battenti are all men, although a few of the flagellanti are women.