Waiting for a vial of blood to liquefy was the last thing I expected to be doing on holiday but there I was in the Duomo in Naples camera in hand doing just that. Festivals – as it turns out – are great to photograph. They show a city or village on one of its most important days and this was no exception.
This time last year, I was photographing the Ceremony of the Liquefaction of the Blood of San Gennaro. San Gennaro’s blood liquifies every September 19th and predicts how the year ahead will be. If the blood liquifies, it ushers in a year of good fortune for Neapolitans. Thousands of people gather in the Cathedral to witness the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of their protector and Patron Saint, San Gennaro. Shrouded in myth and superstition, the liquefaction is a religious ceremony that dates back to the late 1300s.
I headed to the cathedral early in the morning to scope out the best positions for photographs, to get a feel for the rhythm of the place, to understand how the event will unfold and to plan my approach. For more than two hours, I waited, watched and observed the goings on of the church that morning. It was quite peaceful and then all of a sudden it wasn’t, the event had started and I was amongst it all.
All photos copyright Kris Ashpole
Some years it can take quite some time for the blood to liquify and on the odd occasion it has been known to liquify days before the celebration, or – most ominously – not liquifying at all. Waiting for news of what the coming year will be is an emotional experience for devotees and thousands gather in the Cathedral and outside to hear of the news. This time the news was good and Naples was set for another great year ahead. And so the festival began in earnest and celebrations were heard well into the night.
It was an incredible and very special experience to witness this event and share it with the people of Naples. I felt both exhilarated and somewhat exhausted after about five hours of photographing the event. A long lunch was called for and I headed off to find a coffee and a bite to eat.
The opportunity to take photos during this festival was made possible by Carla Coulson whose travel photography workshop I was on. Many thanks for this amazing experience – one I’ll never forget. I’m absolutely putting festivals on my travel photography must do.
I hope you enjoyed these photos – love to hear from you in the comments below.
We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls. Anais Nin p>