Friday, November 23, 2012
Festa della Salute, Part 2: Keepers of the Flames
The thing about the Festa della Santa Maria della Salute is that no matter how tall the candle you buy it's unlikely to have a chance to burn for more than half an hour.
The size of the crowds simply make a longer life and what might be called a natural demise (or self-extinguishing) impossible.
For a great crush of people presses into the church at the peak periods of the festa, each clutching at least one candle, and there are only so many candle holders available. Basic math dictates the turnover will be great.
And this is where the youths depicted in the photos of this post come in. With infinite patience, in the narrow space between the agitation of the suppliants and the heat of the flames, they take and light each proffered candle. And when every holder is filled, they snuff them just as deftly, remove them, scrape the accumulated wax off the surface of the large table beneath the holders, and start the process all over again.
I found myself watching them for a long time, fascinated by both the intensity of the candle light and of their focus; marveling at these servants within the sanctuary, reminiscent partly of fast-food employees, partly of saints.