Documentary

Le Verginelle di Castelvetere

© Pellegrino Tarantino
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Le Verginelle di Castelvetere
Italy
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - April 2018 - View from the Albergo Borgo Diffuso of Castelvetere sul Calore
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy – April 2018 – View from the Albergo Borgo Diffuso of Castelvetere sul Calore

On the 28th of April​ each year, the big day arrives. Upon waking, the hamlet’s alleys echo of prayers and whispers. People gaze into the shadows that appear on the narrow streets of the little Italian borgo of Castelvetere sul Calore in Irpinia.

Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - An Old lady gaze in to the distance. Wainting...
An old lady gaze in to the distance. Wainting…

Everyone waits in religious silence for the ​chiming sound of the necklaces of the verginelle, the “little virgins.” Then suddenly, like ancient souls of a distant and almost forgotten past, they appear.

Young girls dressed as Holy Mary of Grace for the procession and distribution of the “Our Lady’s Bread” or “Holy Bread” or tortani, a kind of bread made specially for the occasion, to all the inhabitants of Castelvetere and the surrounding countryside. To dispense (here another name for the girls is “dispensatrici”) the bread to everyone will take the little girls two days. They fulfill their task no matter what; even under the scorching sun or the violent rain of the Italian spring. They then walk, balancing the bread baskets on their heads, despite their burdensome dresses.

Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - One of the \"Verginelle\" enter the church
One of the verginelle enter the church.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - One of the Verginelle, dressed as Holy Mary of Grace
One of the verginelle, dressed as Holy Mary of Grace.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - The statue of Holy Mary of Grace taken in procession
The statue of Holy Mary of Grace taken in procession.

Only on the second day, when, in the countryside, the dispensatrici deal with the steep ascents and slopes of Irpinia’s hills, will they be allowed to wear more comfortable ones. It is a very serious duty for a little girl, but each one of them (well, almost) is enthusiastic and excited to participate in this ancient tradition.

Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - The \"Tortani\"
The tortani.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - The dispence of the Our Lady\'s Breads
The dispence of the Our Lady’s Breads.

To accompany and help them are the “knights,” men in suits who wield canes to protect the girls. But everyone in the village of Castelvetere lends a hand for the Feast. Women of every age (it is considered sacrilegious for the men to do it) will begin to prepare the Holy Bread 15 days before the Feast of Holy Mary of Grace. They meet at the communal wood oven and knead the dough while singing old hymns to St. Mary.

Men instead are sent to the mountain near the village, Monte Touro, to get the wood for the communal oven. Others accompany children to the mountain to pick flowers with which to decorate St. Mary’s throne, or sew the verginelle’s dresses. All the community gathers around and works restlessly for the big day, the Feast of Holy Mary of Grace.

Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - April 2018 - Women meet to prepare the Holy Breads and sing old hymns to St. Mary
Women meet to prepare the Holy Breads and sing old hymns to St. Mary.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - April 2018 - The communal wood oven
The communal wood oven.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - April 2018 - Woman knead the dough for the \"Tortani\"
Woman knead the dough for the tortani.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - April 2018 - Little girls pick flowers with which to decorate St. Mary\'s throne
Little girls pick flowers with which to decorate St. Mary’s throne.
Castelvetere sul Calore (AV), Italy - 28 April 2018 - People gather around the statue of Holy Mary of Grace, taken in procession on the narrow alley of the borgo
People gather around the statue of Holy Mary of Grace, taken in procession on the narrow alley of the borgo.

 

 

Pellegrino Tarantino
Pellegrino Tarantino (1988) is a photoreporter specialised in social, folklore, and environment reportage. His works touch problems like water pollution, earthquake destruction, green economy speculations, but he also portray life of protesters, volunteers, and refugees. The love for history and legends took him to explore the folklore and traditions of his province, Irpinia, and to portray it to World Exposition Milan 2015. His search for a perfect shot it is based not only on an artistic composition but even and above all on the message that a certain landscape or monuments or portraits made in a place can communicate to who look it.

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