“Ceri Fever” in Gubbio
Head to Gubbio during the first days in May and you’ll see signs of “Ceri fever” all over town.
May 15th, la Corsa dei Ceri – one of the greatest medieval festivals of Italy – is not far off and Gubbio’s feverish anticipation is simply palpable.
All over Gubbio, you’ll see images of the three beloved saints which top the huge wooden pyramidical Ceri: Ubaldo, Giorgio, and Antonio.
Banners of their colors – yellow for Sant’Ubaldo, royal blue for San Giorgio, black for Sant’Antonio – are already hanging from balconies, festooning hotels, draping shop windows.
In local grocery stores, arrangements of pastas, salamis, cheeses, and local wines surround miniature wooden Ceri and small statues of the three saints.
At the alimentari where Claudia and daughter Eleonara serve their customers, Sant’Ubaldo takes center stage.
They’re all sant’ubaldari and the men in the family carry the Sant’Ubaldo Cero in the race. And not only: Eleonora’s uncle sculpted the Sant’Ubaldo statue in the grocery store window. A few steps away is my favorite Gubbio cafe’ where owner Roberta displays all the Santi – and they’re lined up on a shelf above the array of sodas, fruit juices and tonic water.
As you walk the winding medieval backstreets, stop in to see the fine Gubbio ceramicists at work: these days, many are putting the last brush strokes on maiolica creations depicting I Ceri. Friend and talented ceramist, Sabrina, was adding the finishing touches to a maiolica wall plaque of Sant’Ubaldo (a private commission from a santubaldaro, one of the men who’ll proudly carry his cero).
Another private commission was on display in her shop window: a wooden statue of San Giorgio, exact copy and same size as the statue of the saint on his Cero.
Not far from the majestic city hall, Palazzo dei Consoli – where the Corsa dei Ceri race starts on May 15th – young Marta was painting maiolica in her shop, ceramic creations of the three Ceri saints all around her. A short walk away, the funiculare carries visitors up over Gubbio’s terra-cotta rooftops right up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, where the Ceri stay all year until the first Sunday in May when they’re carried down to the town in triumphant procession, children straddling them, all the Eugubini reaching out to touch them. They’ll be on display in City Hall until the race on May 15th.
If you ride the funicular up to the Basilica (housing the body of Sant’Ubaldo, 12th-c bishop and patron saint of Gubbio), look down to see the dirt path the ceraioli will run on May 15th: up to the Basilica in eight minutes, about 700 lbs of Ceri on the backs of twenty men (nearly a thousand on each team, running the statues in relay but without stops).
An emotion for me just to look down at that path from the funiculare.
A greater emotion inside the Basilica, touching the Ceri..but especially that of San Giorgio.
I am an appassioned sangiorgiaro. My Dad’s name was George.
I’m counting the days now til May 15th when I can yell til I’m hoarse, “Vai, Giorgio!”
Read about the story of the Ceri
Read more about Gubbio’s Ceri “fever”
Read about May “passione” in Umbria
Read about la passione of the little ones for the Ceri
Read about the Ceri and Steve Mc Curry
Read about the June 2nd celebration of the Ceri Piccoli