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.    


  1. We've been to the Salute festival three times, last week being the most recent. I always wonder if the candles are recycled otherwise it's such a waste. They're very reasonably priced at 2€!

    1. I was wondering the same thing, Andrew, about the candles. I wish I knew the answer, as they sure go through a lot of them!

  2. I asked about that last year, and was told they do recycle them.

    I wonder how those young folks are chosen for this task? They sure keep busy, don't they?

    1. Does that mean, Y, that they just send them back to the candle factory to be melted down again & refashioned into new candles? Couldn't they also just light them again at later dates, during the less-visited months?

      When one lights a candle isn't part of the appeal--and perhaps even significance--that it will burn down to nothing? At the festa, I guess all the significance is in the intention, and the first lighting, not the endurance and fade.

      I wondered about the selection process for the lighters, also... Volunteers? Seminarians?