Ceri Tripletta in Gubbio
This May in Assisi, La Parte de Sotto (“Lower Assisi”) won our four-day medieval festival, Calendimaggio, in a smashing tripletta victory over La Parte de Sopra (“Upper Assisi”: Sopra took home il Palio (the victory banner) for the third year in a row.
And this May, I conquered my own “tripletta”: in late May, I finally saw the race of the Ceri Mezzani (when young me in their late teens, early twenties run the Ceri up Mt. Ingino, backdropping Gubbio). For decades, I’ve been in Gubbio every May 15th for the astounding Corsa dei Ceri when the men run the huge pyramidical wooden structures on their shoulders in a surging relay, all day around the town and then upwards in early evening. A few years ago, I experienced the passione of the younger children mimicking the adults in the Ceri dei Piccoli race.
And this year – with Marc and Therese (from Arizona) – I rounded out my full “Ceri experience, “ taking in the passione of the young men, i mezzani. After all, if you’re a male born in Gubbio, you run those Ceri every May – or June (June 2nd for the Ceri Piccoli) – from the time you’re old enough to zoom around on your bike until your back tells you it’s time to pass on the Ceri to younger ceraioli.
We felt the passione of all as the three Ceri “rested” in a medieval backstreet, colorful banners flying from windows above, people waving from the windows. As all awaited the priest’s blessing before the run up the mountain, young and old gathered close to the Ceri, in animated conversation about the race as they perched young children up on the Ceri I for a photo memento or reached out to caress the beloved Ceri, many kissing them. Youth in canary yellow shirts, arms around each other, gathered under the Cero di Sant’Ubaldo. Sangiorgiari – in royal blue shirts – would dash behind, the Cero topped with San Giorgio on horseback on their shoulders. Santantoniari in black shirts, the carriers of the Cero di Sant’Antonio, would follow at a dead run.
All grew quiet as the priest arrived, raised the Crucifix in blessing, flung holy water on the three upright Ceri. Then the cry “VIA!” and they were off and away, running through the twisting medieval backstreets of Gubbio, scores of frantic eugubini running behind.
We headed to Palazzo dei Consoli, the 14th-century stately city hall, to await the arrival there. The piazza slowly filled, umbrellas went up as the sky dripped a sprinkle, dampening raincoats but not spirits as all awaited the culminating moment: the run of the three Ceri around the red flag in the piazza center. Three times. And from there, up the mountain to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo.
I talked to young sangiorgiari in the square who’d be carrying their Cero on the run up the mountain.
“How does it feel to carry the Cero?” I asked them.
“I do it for the Saint, to do him honor,” Francesco answered solemnly. Gabriele put it this way: “It’s an enormous responsibility to run with the Cero. It’s an honor, it’s a privilege.”
..and any ceraiolo would tell you the same, whether the men running on May 15th, the youth running in late May… or the little ones running their hearts out on June 2nd.
And now, I’ve seen all three Ceri races.
I’ve made la tripletta.
Read about – and see! – the Ceri passione in Gubbio
Click here to read more about Ceri passione
Read about the May 1st entry of the Ceri into Gubbio.
Click here to read about the main race, May 15th
Read about the Ceri Piccoli
Click here to read about an “emotional” May 15th for me
Read why rain never dampens Ceri passione