Nothing Dampens Gubbio’s “Ceri Passione”
I’ve been told by more than one that you can’t truly feel the passione for the Ceri unless you join in carrying one of the three mammoth pyramidical structures, called “candlesticks.” Said to represent those candles carried solemnly in Gubbio patron saint Bishop Ubaldo’s funeral procession mid – 12th c, the wooden Ceri – phallic in form – link to ancient May fecundity rites. (Isn’t every festival in Italy Christian/pagan?)
I caught the “Ceri passione” years ago – the first time I was ever in Gubbio on May 15th. I am not sure what grabbed me – nor do I understand today – but I would be nowhere else in the world but in Gubbio on May 15th for la Corsa dei Ceri (“the race of the candles”). Part of the joy of the day this year was in asking the ceraioli (“candle-carriers”) what hefting their Cero means to them.
Tall, bearded Alessandro – in the bright yellow shirt of those carrying Sant’Ubaldo’s Cero – put it this way, “It’s an unexplainable primordial emotion combined with the intense feeling of belonging to a family, for we santubaldari form a second family. The Cero famiglia is just as important as your ties to your mother and father, brothers and sisters.”
You felt the pride, the joy, la passione, in the royal blue-shirted nonno (who’d once carried the San Giorgio Cero) holding his granddaughter in matching shirt, awaiting the parade of the Ceri. You could see that same pride on the face of little Luca, in his black shirt of Sant’Antonio, bearing his Santo’s flag – and you absorbed the family unity in the group of ebullient santantoniaro teens nearby who took in me like one of their own. I hadn’t been in time to receive the blessed traditional mazzolin di fiore (little bunch of flowers), which the ceraioli tuck into their neck scarves but a sangiorgiaro gave me one.
A treasured gift which I clutched all day. When I met another Anna that morning – a sangiorgiaro like me (my beloved Dad was George) – she and I compared our flowering bunches. Pino and I found Anna again after the momentous moment of the day, l’Alzata (raising up of the Ceri ) in the main square. We shared together a celebratory glass of vino rosso with a panino di porchetta – at the stand of a sangiorgiaro, of course.
The festivities continued all afternoon as bands played throughout the town, joyous locals joining in dance. At almost 7 pm, the run of the three Ceri – born on the shoulders of grimacing, panting ceraioli – up to the monastery of St. Ubaldo on Mt. Ingino started, drizzling raining dampening the spirits of no one. Nothing stops the culminating moment of the astounding Corsa dei Ceri festival. Nothing dampens la passione.
Click here for more on la Corsa dei Ceri
Read about Gubbio
Read more about the Ceri – and la passione
Click here to read about Assisi’s amazing May festival, Calendimaggio
Read about another Umbrian festival with Ceri similaritites
For more on La Corsa dei Ceri story, click here
Not to be believed until you see it
See and feel the emotion of the Alzata on YouTube
Click here to read about La Corsa dei Ceri in Jessup, Pennsylvannia (!) run by descendants of Eugubini.
Read about the Ceri passione of the little ones
Read about “Ceri fever” in Gubbio
Read about Ceri emotions
Read about three “Ceri moments”
Read about the June 2nd celebration of the Ceri Piccoli
Read about Calendimaggio preparations, usually with Gina…