When St. Patrick set his feet on Irish land to preach Christianity, it is unlikely there were any Irish travellers in his sight. Almost 16 centuries later, the Irish traveling community is one of the strongest Catholic communities in the world, and every year thousands attend pilgrimages experiencing the same sacrifices as St. Patrick.

Irish travellers were a nomadic family-based community, trading horses and tools with the farmers of rural Ireland. Since Ireland became more mechanised, travellers lost their economic role and traveling became less convenient. Hence travellers became more settled and their lifestyle began to adapt to the new conditions. What has not changed much since they settled is their Catholic faith. Among traveling people religion has always played a vital role and their adherence to Catholic morals is still one the most stringent worldwide.

This photo-reportage is a result of a whole summer spent in Ireland moving from campsites to churches, holy wells to shrines. Living among travellers gave me access to the more personal religious experiences. Interestingly, the way travellers experience faith is far removed from the intimate and discreet – even the Christian moderation does not obfuscate the vitality and exuberance of the Irish travelling community.

Francesco Alesi/Anra Photo