Photographer Karl Mancini documents the most mysterious and disturbing religious rituals of southeast Italy.
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.