Ceri Countdown in Gubbio
It’s official: countdown to the May 15th Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio has started. Almost as if a gun at a starting line had been fired. Today, after a solemn High Mass at the mountaintop Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo high above Gubbio, the three towering wooden Ceri – for Sant’Ubaldo, San Giorgio and Sant’Antonio – were taken off their stands and carried horizontally on the backs of ceraioli down into Gubbio to the medieval city hall where they’ll lay on display until the race, May 15th.
And the first Sunday in May marks the only day of the year when the Ceri move slowly! Excited children – some waving flowers, other waving flags – straddled the three Ceri – in yellow, blue or black shirts (red scarves around their necks) depending on the Cero they ride.
Santubaldari wear bright yellow satiny shirts, the color of the cape of Sant’Ubaldo, 12th- c Gubbio bishop topping the first Cero in the race. Sangiorgiari sport a rich royal blue, copying the blue cape of San Giorgio on horseback crowning the second Cero. Santantoniari run the third Cero in the race and wear black shirts like the cassock of St. Anthony Abbot topping their Cero.
The allegiance of the children riding the Ceri? That will depend on the Cero their father will carry on May 15th. Or on the Cero their grandfather – or even great-grandfather – once carried. After all, if you’re a male born in Gubbio, you carry the Ceri – for as many years as health permits. The girls? They can run the Ceri Piccoli on June 2nd. But on the last Sunday in May when the Mezzani ceraioli run, their Ceri may be slightly smaller than the May 15th ones (over 700 lbs) but the race won’t include females.
They were there today, though: little girls rode the Ceri along with small boys, all linked together as if riding tandem on the top of an artistically-sculpted log. Gubbio’s drum corps led the procession winding throughout medieval alleyways, beneath festive banners of yellow, blue and black waving from window ledges. Booming brass bands preceded each Cero with young and old surrounding the Ceri, holding onto the children balanced on top. It was a rainy day so instead of yellow, blue or black satin shirts, many wore windbreakers of their Ceri colors.
As we awaited the arrival of the Ceri under the 17th-century loggia, elderly “retired” ceraioli talked to me about the grande emozione of carrying the Cero. An excited group of sangiorgiaro mezzani hugged each other with nervous anticipation – and posed for a photo with a smile when they heard I was a sangiorgiaro. Inspite of the rain, the sun was out for the children of Gubbio today. And not only.
Read more on the Corsa dei Ceri, May 15th in Gubbio
Read more on Ceri passione in Gubbio
Read about “Ceri fever” in Gubbio
Read about the June 2nd celebration of the Ceri Piccoli