Guardia Sanframondi is a town and comune in the Province of Benevento, Campania region, Italy. It is best known for the penitential rite held every seven years. The rite honors the discovery of a Madonna and Child statue found in a field hundreds of years ago. The rite consists of a series of processions the week following the Assumption.
During the neighborhood processions, several flagellanti (“flagellants”) join in. They gently strike their backs with a metal scourge. On Sunday, the procession is joined by several hundred battenti (“beaters”) who strike their chests with a spugna (literally “sponge,” it is really a disk of cork holding dozens of pins). Designated helpers pour white wine on the sponges during the procession, supposedly to ward off infection. There are a few dozen flagellanti during the Sunday procession, who also provide crowd control. The flagellanti and battenti are anonymous. They wear white hoods and are not even supposed to tell family members they are participating. Scourges and sponges are not carried openly or displayed in homes after the rite. The battenti are all men, although a few of the flagellanti are women. Additionally there are a few dozen symbolic child flagellanti. They wear black robes and caps, and very gently swing a small scourge over their shoulders.
Here is how the devil has deceived these people here in Italy, who call themselves Christians but actually they are far from God, for they are idolaters and superstitious. And thus they are lost and slaves of sin.
Repent, repent, Roman Catholics, and believe in the Gospel, otherwise you will go to hell. And bear fruits worthy of repentance leaving immediately the heresies, the idolatries, and the superstitions of the Roman Catholic Church.