Above Gubbio, the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo on “the Chosen Hill”
The Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo is perched near the peak of Mt. Ingino, seeming to survey Gubbio spread out below.
There are two options for climbing Mt.Ingino so as to visit the Basilica, housing the body of patron saint, Saint Ubaldo and site sacred to all the eugubini. And for more than one reason…
You may wish to take on the nearly vertical 40-minute hike up a winding dirt road….
Of you may choose the funivia – a sort of human birdcage holding two persons – for a 6-minute ride with sweeping views below up to the Colle Eletto or the “Chosen Hill” as Dante called it in the Paradiso of his Divina Commedia:…..” acqua che discende del colle eletto del beato Ubaldo”….(that water which flows down from the chosen hill of Blessed Ubaldo..”).
The pre-existing medieval church on the mountaintop dedicated to Saint Ubaldo, had been reconstructed in the early 16th century – when Gubbio was dominated by the Dukes of Urbino – thanks to the patronage of Pope Julius II and the duchesses Elisabetta and Eleonara Gonzaga.
The Duke and Duchess of Urbino, Guidobaldo and his Elisabetta, were affectionately linked to Gubbio, enjoying summers in their Gubbio palace.
Raphael immortalized both in his early 16th-c portraits of them:
The church restored and enlarged thanks to the Gonzaga and Papal contributions was then assigned to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine of the Congregation, a religious order of 4th-century origin, with name bestowed by Pope Eugene IV in 1446.
The 16th-c church with three naves was amplified to five naves between 1916-1922.
The santuario housing the body of 12th-c beloved patron saint of Gubbio, Ubaldo Baldissini, on Monte Ingino was declared basilica minore in 1919.
At the end of the 18th century, the Passionate fathers administered the Basilica until the Napoleonic suppression, lasting from 1798 to 1814. As of 1816, the Franciscans became custodians of the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo but in 2013, the three Franciscan friars in the Gubbio monastery were called to Assisi to assist in caring for the many Franciscan sites in the town of San Francesco. Now, Diocesan priests administer the Basilica.
The incorrupt body of Saint Ubaldo lies in a glass urn behind the altar:
Behind the glass urn – and in side chapels flanking the altar – a series of vetrate istoriate (stained glass windows illustrating a story), created in 1922, recount the life of Saint Ubaldo (early 12th century), including his ordination, his peace-keeping missions in his beloved Gubbio, the rebuilding of the cathedral after a fire…
…and his meeting with Frederick Barbarossa, thus saving his Gubbio from ravages by imperial troops:
The Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo is destination of Gubbio’s race, la Corsa dei Ceri, on May 15th, vigil of his feast day (May 16th). Ever seen it? If you have, you’ll know why the eugubini are deemed i matti dell’Italia (“the mad ones of Italy”). And you’ve probably also decided – as I have – never to be anywhere else but in Gubbio on May 15th.
The three Ceri (literally, “candles”) – vertical incised wooden prisms, each one to be topped by a saint for the race – “rest” all year long in St. Ubaldo’s basilica. They’re standing against a wall to the right:
Whenever eugubini stop in at the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, they’ll stop at the Ceri to touch each one.
As they do, I imagine they’re remembering past May 15th races and anticipating the next one, each race, in honor of Gubbio’s patron saint.
I certainly am whenever I touch the Ceri.
Click here to enjoy a short video of the ride up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo on the funivia
Click here to read about la Corsa dei Ceri
Read here about Gubbio’s Palazzo dei Consoli