‘Forgive me, Father, for I am in the mood to sin’: how the ‘hot priest calendar’ became a publishing hit

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If you’ve been to Rome, there’s a precocious accidental you returned location with a slab of guanciale, 2 Fabriano notebooks and a transcript of the blistery clergyman calendar successful your luggage.

December. Photograph: Piero Pazzi

The blistery clergyman calendar is not its authoritative sanction but, implicit the past 2 decades, the moniker has stuck (for reasons wide to anyone who’s seen it). Next twelvemonth marks 20 years since the “calendario Romano” was archetypal published, during which clip it has grown from labour of emotion to cult souvenir.

Each period of the A4 flip calendar is represented by a nameless antheral of the cloth, photographed successful achromatic and achromatic and usually against an ornate liturgical backdrop. Some deterioration a cappello romano (a benignant of wide-brimmed hat), others a clerical collar. December, the unequivocal favourite among calendar fans, seldom changes – helium is pictured holding a transcript of Le vie di Roma adjacent to this cassocked chest. Broadly speaking, each “priest” is “hot”.

Much similar the Pirelli calendar, published by the UK subsidiary of the Italian tyre manufacturing company, the transportation betwixt the images and the taxable being promoted tin feel, astatine times, tangential. But the information is pure, says the calendar’s 60-year-old Venetian photographer, Piero Pazzi. It is, helium says, a “clean and honorable merchandise that simply advertises Rome and its astir eloquent symbol: the Catholic clergy”.

But confession time: “They are not each priests, and they are not each from Italy,” says Pazzi, himself a Catholic, who has spent the past fewer decades visiting Rome and Seville to instrumentality these pictures. He uses a Fuji camera and photographs the men during trips to the cities during Easter. It’s a random process of selection, helium explains, which means it tin sometimes backfire: successful 1 instance, an property cause from Spain was mistaken for a clergyman and appeared arsenic 2008’s “Father March” (he was wearing a achromatic tunic astatine the time). But those photographed successful Seville “are mostly acolytes of the countless brotherhoods that parade successful the processions of Holy Week”, according to Pazzi.

April. Photograph: Piero Pazzi

During its mid-2010s heyday, the calendar is said to person sold astir 75,000 copies a year and, contempt a dip during the pandemic, it remains successful precocious demand. The 2023 iteration has conscionable gone connected sale, costing astir 10 euros depending connected which store oregon kiosk you bargain it from – and is already fetching 3 times the terms connected eBay. Pazzi prefers not to estimation however galore are sold present successful lawsuit helium gets it wrong, but helium volition spell truthful acold arsenic to accidental that “in Rome, it is rather common”.

Rather than “photographer”, helium uses the presumption “archivist and archive researcher”; photography, helium says, is conscionable a hobby. His favourite taxable is really animals, particularly cats – helium has 2 of his ain – and helium besides likes photographing gondoliers, a calendar of which predates that of the clergymen, but it’s the blistery clergyman calendar that turned him into the Rankin of Catholicism. He says helium created it to “educate the tourists who sojourn Rome by providing precise accusation connected the Vatican state” – with facts and titbits written inside. He describes this arsenic “very elemental information, which the mean tourer afloat disregards”.

Still, the calendar is not without controversy. It has been criticised for repeating the aforesaid images twelvemonth aft year, though Pazzi disputes this claim. “Sometimes I regenerate the pictures,” helium says. Looking done backmost issues, it appears to beryllium existent that February, May and July often change. Some of the repeated priests occasionally power months, too.

Equally, accusations of Vatican propaganda person recovered their mode connected to assorted chat forums (the Vatican did not respond to requests for comment). Pazzi says the 2 are not linked: “I person ne'er been reproached oregon called into question by immoderate spiritual authorization for the calendar,” helium says, adding that, astir 10 years ago, the Vatican confirmed that “it was not its authoritative inaugural but that of a backstage individual”.

October. Photograph: Piero Pazzi

The calendar itself is printed by a specializer “and distributed successful an artisanal way”, helium says, alternatively than being mass-produced. According to the calendar bumf, profits spell to Snap, a enactment radical for women and men abused by spiritual and organization authorities.

Pazzi says the lack of the priests’ names is simply impervious that neither the calendar, oregon its poster boys, are “products of vanity”. As to whether the calendar has led to a beingness of fame, helium thinks not. “These are photos of priests,” helium says, “not photos of movie stars.”

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