Italian Altar Boys: Chronology

Figure 1.-- These altar boys were from Conflenti a village in southern Italy (Calabria region). The photiograph looks to have been taken in the 1950s, perhaps the late-1950s. It shows how shoes and sandals were both commonly worn for a formal occasion like the Sunday Mass.

We have begun to collect chronological infornation about altar boys and now girls in Italy. We do not yet have much 19th century information, principally because our Italian 19th-century archive is very limited. We do have images from the 20th century. We see little change in how the boys dressed over the century. Boys in the modern age wore black or red cassocks and white surplices. In Italy traditionally altar boys wear black or red cassock (talare) and surplice (cotta). We are not sure how altar serving was affected by Fascism and the Balilla. Unlike Scouting, which was banned by the Fascists, we do not see the Church involved in the Balilla. There was a tension between the Fascists and the Church throughout the Fascist era, but the Facists never wnt after the Church in the same way that the NAZIs did in Germany. Nor do we know how this was affected by the growth of the Communist Party after World War II. As far as we can tell, the Church had no trouble recruiting altar boys, although this may have varied over time or in areas where the Fasists or Communists were particularly strong. Hopefully our Italian reades can tell us more. The biggest threat to finding altar servers may be the increasing secularzation of Italian society. This was somewhat offset at the end of the 20th-century by the appearance of altar girls for the first time. There is still some resistabnce from conservative elements in the Church, but the trend to allow girls to serve is clear. And the need to find interested children also supports this chasnge in Church policy.


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Created: 6:08 PM 7/1/2013
Last updated: 6:08 PM 7/1/2013