Documentary

La Desolata

© Paolo Bona
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Love tatoo on a young woman\’s hand. Women of different ages walk holding his arm, to support each other on a 3 hours procession from 09:00am until 12:00. They sing while walking on the streets of Canosa di Puglia, in southern Italy.

La Desolata
Italy

La Desolata is a female religious procession that happens during the Holy Week, precisely on the day after Jesus Christ’s death.

In fact, women are the only persons present after Jesus dies. First they surround pained Mary at the bottom of the cross and the day after they walk to the Holy grave to share Mary’s desolation: this is what this ritual procession is about.

The procession takes place in Canosa di Puglia, a small village in southern Italy. The choir of 380 women walks around the village for 3 hours (from 09:00am until 12:00am) singing the “Stabat Mater”, a desolation prayer written by Jacopone da Todi on 13th century.

Women of different ages walk holding their arms, to support each other while walking on the uphill narrow roads under the sun. Being part of the choir is often a family tradition passed on from mother to daughter for generations.

By the time the statue of Maria Desolata leaves the church of San Francesco and Biagio, carried on the shoulders of men, while women cover their head and face with a black veil, until the statue makes her return into church 3 hours later.

Thousands of people, even from abroad, come to watch this impressive black spot, and to listen to the song of streaming pain breaking the silent morning.

Top view of the female choir walking through the main road of the Canosa di Puglia's village, Corso San Sabino.
Top view of the female choir walking through the main road of the Canosa di Puglia’s village, Corso San Sabino. Thousands of people are gathering to watch the procession parade.
Antonella, 30 years old, with her mum, a few minutes before the procession’s start. To be part of the choir is often a family tradition to hand down.
The choir procession goes through a narrow uphill road, on the old part of town.
Women are getting ready outside the church of San Francesco e Biagio. At the moment the statue of Maria Desolata leaves the church they will cover their head and face as a mourning symbol.
The female choir singing in the church of San Francesco e Biagio, on Holy Friday.
Holding arms and cross.
An elderly woman, holding a photo of Maria Desolata, touched by the choir procession in front of her place.
The black veil cover women’s head and face for the entire procession. From the time the statue of Maria Desolata leave the church of San Francesco e Biagio, until when she comes back 3 hours later. The statue is carried on shoulder by men.
Exhausted and emotionally touched, women remove the veil at the end of the procession.

Paolo Bona
the authorPaolo Bona
Paolo Bona, was born in 1970 and began work as a photojournalist in 1993 working primarily for the Milanese daily ‘Il Giorno’ In 1994 he began a 13-year freelance association with the ‘Omega Fotocronache’ agency specialising in sports photography. In 2009 he became a stringer photographer for Thomson Reuters. In 2011 he started to contribute sport images to the agency Italy Photo Press. In 2012 he joined the LUZphoto agency.

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