Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio, May 15, 2020: Blue Iris and Friends’ Tributes
No glorious Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio on May 15th, 2020.
Only three times in history has Gubbio’s Corsa dei Ceri ever been cancelled and only in wartime (in 1916, 1918 and 1941 – 1945).
With COVID-19, we’re fighting another battle and the eugubini have had to bow to the enemy.
The RAI television Umbria regional news announced the cancellation last week: to be expected.
I grabbed my phone and took photos during the news report, photos of last year’s glorious May 15th Gubbio festival:
I was there, logicamente; after all, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be on May 15th than in Gubbio.
And what emotion the other day to see the TV news coverage of the San Giorgio ceraioli in their blue shirts and red scarves, carrying their Cero topped with San Giorgio on horseback, his blue cape flowing in the breeze:
That main piazza in Gubbio will be empty this year on May 15th.
But I wish to pay tribute to the Ceri and to Gubbio, even this year.
I did so the other morning.
As I have always been a sangiorgiara, I put on my San Giorgio fazzoletto (neck scarf) and dressed in blue (the color of the shirts the sangiorgiari wear as they dash up Gubbio’s Mt. Ingino, panting and grunting under the 700 lb+ San Giorgio Cero):
I set out to find some blue flowers for my Gubbio vases….
…and Pino joined me:
As I snipped three irises (one for each of Gubbio’s three Ceri),….
…..I decided that our goats, too, could enjoy my “Gubbio tribute”: they’d have iris leaves, stalks and dead blossoms:
After the goats had feasted on their iris snippings…
…….I went back to the field for those three blue iris shoots, my tributes to the three Ceri, our black cat seeming to be a sentinel guarding those blue buds stretched out on top of the field daisies:
The irises are now on our table, a floral tribute to Gubbio, to the Ceri – and to the force and spirit of all the people in Italy who are foregoing their treasured springtime rites and festivals all over the peninsula this May 2020.
One of the vases holding the irises is, appropriately, my coveted San Giorgiaro vase:
Last year, friends Gino and Celia were in Gubbio with me on May 15th for la Corsa dei Ceri, welcomed kindly by my tour group. They wrote me these notes when we emailed each other recently about COVID-19 annulling this year’s May 15th festivities:
**Here’s Celia’s note:
“Joining Annie for Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio last May really was the experience of a lifetime! The costumes and pageantry were so colorful and fun to see. However, the most amazing part of this day- long festival is the absolute, unbridled enthusiasm and pride of the citizens of Gubbio. From the bishop and mayor down to to the youngest child, everyone in Gubbio participates.
And because this is Italy, having the three teams of St Ubaldo, St George and St Anthony the Abbot makes all the tradition and pageantry more exciting.
We didn’t plan to be with Annie for the Festa.
It just worked out that we arrived the day before, but we knew if Annie recommended attending, it would be worthwhile.
With the reality of COVID-19, we look forward to see what the people of Gubbio can do this May 15.
Thank you, Annie, for one of our most memorable Italian experiences!”
**Gino put it this way:
“Being of Italian descent, I thought I knew how Italians celebrate. But my experience of the Festa di Ceri with Annie took that celebration to another level.
First, I was brought back to my roots with a theme song sung throughout the day that my mother used to sing. It is called “Mazzolin di Fiori”, that means “bouguet of flowers”. I was surprised that Italians sung this song in Umbria when I thought it was regional from the Veneto where my family is from.
Second, I was impressed that the whole town of Gubbio was involved from early morning to late at night. The colors of yellow, blue, and black shirts with common red kerchiefs and white pants representing the teams of St. Ubaldo, St. George, and St. Anthony, the Abbot can be seen throughout the crowd. The piazza and the surrounding streets are filled with wall-to-wall people including grandparents cheering from their balconies.
Third, as usual in Italy, there was an abundance of food. In the middle of the day,everyone congregates in one restaurant or another and has somewhere around a five-course meal in the midst of the excitement, music, and dancing.
It is a festa that I will never forget.“
**And two other dear old friends, Jack and Carina, were in Gubbio with me on May 15th a few years ago and just wrote me these notes:
**Jack wrote “…..such a civic engagement and the total participation of the entire town and guests, makes for an invitation to be a part of something greater. That’s no mean thing, especially now. And, in that vein, my hope is that those involved see even deeper and intensely, the gift that the Ceri is and will continue to be.”
“In 2006, I attended my first Ceri in Gubbio. I am a friend of Anne Robichaud who attends the Ceri each year with a group of tourists who procure Anne as their guide. I was amazed and touched by the scope of grandeur, religious fervor and dedication to their three saints. I was thrilled to be a participant at what I consider is the most INTENSE RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL that I have ever witnessed.
I have Italian relatives in Roma and I have been to several religious festivals throughout Italy. GUBBIO IS THE BEST OF THE BEST!!!My heart goes out to the people of Gubbio who will have to reserve their jubilant fervor until next year.
I am certain they will celebrate with open windows and the sound of singing and laughter permeating the air as well as the aroma of Divine Food caressing the breeze floating amongst the streets of the “Ceri” !!! Blessings to the People of Gubbio…stay Healthy and Safe to Rise again in 2021!!!
Carina, one of the maiolica vases holding the iris is glazed in the famed Gubbio lustre (lustro) ware – with a peacock feather motif, the symbol of everlasting life:
Auspicious. Like your augury, Carina: Gubbio will “rise again in 2021.”
Learn more here about the Corsa dei Ceri
Read about the Corsa dei Ceri, 2019
Read about the year Steve McCurry photographed the Ceri
Read about a “lockdown liberation” for April 25th, la Festa della Repubblica (and so very linked to Gubbio, as well)