Photographer Piero Pazzi, a Venetian born in 1958, has now admitted in an interview with “Corriere della Sera” what seagulls have always squawked from the rooftops of Rome: most of the priests in his legendary “Calendario Romano” are not.
Political correspondent for Italy, Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.
The “Roman Calendar” has been sold in tourist traps in the Eternal City for two decades, especially in kiosks near St. Peter's Basilica. At prices between six and 25 euros, eight euros are usually required. You can also order the photo calendar directly from the photographer (https://calendarioromano.org), delivery is made worldwide, minimum order of two pieces, the quantity discount increases with the number of copies ordered.
Models with priest skirts
What you get is an A4 pin-up for each month of the year, in classic black and white photography. But the models are not young, beautiful, feminine and possibly half-naked, as in the Pirelli calendar commissioned by the Italian tire manufacturer. But young, handsome and masculine, they also wear the priest's coat with collar or cassock, sometimes also the saturn, the wide-brimmed priest's hat. On the back of the calendar pages you will find information about the Vatican, its plaques and seals, relevant popes and the opening hours of the local pharmacy.
Even the poster boy, who has graced the cover of the calendar with his subtle smile since the first edition in 2004, is not a priest. But he was already 17 when Piero Pazzi photographed him in front of a church in Palermo. Today Giovanni Galizia is 37 years old, still lives in Sicily and works as a flight attendant. He would never have dreamed that his photograph “would still be in circulation after 20 years,” Galizia recently reported.
He never claimed that his photos depicted true men of God
Model Galizia and photographer Pazzi are unaware of the injustice. “I didn’t do anything wrong, I just posed for a photo, nothing more,” says Galizia. And Pazzi adds that she never claimed that photos of her depicted true men of God. He chose the clergy as the model for his “Roman Calendar” because the priest is “a positive face” for the Church and for the cultural richness of the Eternal City: “a clean and honest product that represents Rome”.
He chose young men because the viewer would associate an older priest with something “that is in decline,” while a young man is “a future-focused presence.” In fact, according to Pazzi, the great painters of the Renaissance and Baroque also created their figures as abstract symbols and not as concrete images: “How many times did Tiziano and Tiepolo see the true Mother of God and how many Madonnas did they paint? That’s irrelevant.”
March's priest is a real-life Spanish real estate agent. However, a real priest (from Poland) posed for the month of August. Pazzi captured other “monthly priests” quite randomly and anonymously during processions. Over the decades, the photographer has sold tens of thousands of copies of his calendar. The need for updates from year to year is minimal.
His clients included Catholics and Protestants, housewives and gays, schoolchildren and religious people, tourists and pilgrims, says Pazzi in an interview with “Corriere”.
Pazzi assures us that no one from the Vatican has ever complained to him, although his calendar of beautiful but mostly fake priests is hard to ignore when passing the kiosks on Via della Conciliazione and St. Peter's Square. The photographer has now turned his focus to another extremely popular topic: he runs two cat museums, one in Kotor, Montenegro, and the other in Budapest.