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A Holy, Mystical Week

I have always been fascinated by how intensely people celebrate religion in some parts of Italy. Growing up in Rome, my childhood is full of memories of obscure rituals that I didn’t know much about at the time. I remember being surprised at people’s raw emotions, their sudden screams of joy and pain, their mysterious facial expressions that I could not translate. Religious rites in Italy are both an important part of our culture and a mystery for those who, like me, are not religious.

To document Holy Week, I drove through the region of Apulia, in Italy’s southeast, where people are still very attached to religious traditions. From its cities to small villages, I discovered that each place has its own peculiar way of celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the region gets more and more popular with tourists, I wanted to show a different side to the images I had been finding online. I decided to document the spiritual and the bizarre. Although there were people everywhere, I excluded the crowd and isolated my subjects to investigate the hidden aspects of religion. I tried to see the celebrations as a child again.

Blood, sweat, pilgrims that dress up in secret so as not be recognized, women covered in black from head to toe. I visited attics and crypts inhabited by mummies, I witnessed hands being punctured by nails and crosses being dragged on the floor. Easter time, it turns out, is when Apulia reveals its most mystical and disturbing side.

Karl Mancini
Karl Mancini is an Italian photographer based out of Rome. He started traveling in 1997, when he first moved to New York to undertake classes at the International Center of Photography. He has visited more than 80 countries, with a particular preference for Asia and South America.

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