Hundreds of live snakes played a major role in a religious festival at Cocullo in central Italy (6 May).
LV Zoom in town of Cocullo in valley
SV group of children playing with snakes (2 shots)
SV PAN girl with snake on her person (3 shots).
SV priest with snakes around neck
SV statue of Saint Domenic brought from church
SV snakes placed around statue's neck (3 shots)
SV band moves off and statue carried in procession (4 shots)
Initials PS/14.53 PS/15.17
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Hundreds of live snakes played a major role in a religious festival at Cocullo in central Italy (6 May). A procession was held to commemorate the Feast Day of the local patron saint, San Domenico, who is said to have rid the area of a plague of poisonous snakes centuries ago.
For several weeks prior to the event, men of the village catch as many snakes as they can. A few of the snakes are poisonous, but the catchers, known as "serpari", are rarely bitten. The religious procession features a statue of San Domenico, around which many snakes are draped. The "serpari" and other townspeople also take part in the procession, and many of them carry snakes entwined round their necks and arms. Held each year on the first Thursday of May, the festival attracts tourists from Italy and abroad.
SYNOPSIS: On Thursday, in the mountain region of Abruzzi in central Italy, the village of Cocullo celebrated a unique religious festival.
Featuring of hundred of live snakes, the festival celebrates the Feast Day of the local patron saint, San Domenico, who is said to have rid the area of poisonous snakes centuries ago. For several weeks prior to the festival, men of the village known as "serpari", capture as many snakes as as they can find. A few of the snakes are poisonous, but the serpari are rarely bitten. Most of the townspeople feel quite comfortable with the snakes and the children treat them as pets.
The local priest leads the procession, with snakes around his neck. The procession begins when the statue of San Domenico is brought from the church by the serpari.
As the statue is carried through the streets of Cocullo, the serpari and other townspeople drape many of the live snakes around the figure. Most of the large reptiles are of the harmless garden variety, but several poisonous vipers are also included Snake hunting has become a popular pursuit in Cocullo for generations The villagers are so expert at the task that there has not been fatality from snake bite in years. In centuries past the snakes were used in the manufacture of medicines, although the reptiles symbolise the evil temptation to the villagers. Held each year on the First Thursday of May, this religious festival attracts many tourists from Italy and abroad.