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Gubbio’s Corsa dei Ceri: Explosive Passion

Date: May 26, 2019 - categories: , , , , , , , - 2 Comments

On May 15th, friends and I relished our serene drive from Assisi through lush green Umbria springtime splendor to Gubbio.

But on arrival in medieval hilltop gem, Gubbio, I knew we’d  leave behind serenity for beating drums, blaring bugles,  lively band music and an explosion of full-blown passione  – as every year on May 15th for la Corsa dei Ceri (“Race of the Candles”)

From morning to evening, riotous passione takes over  when the towering wooden Ceri (“candles”) are run up Mount Ingino backdropping Gubbio, by teams of grimacing, panting— and joyous— men, ceraioli. 

Destination of the mad dash?  The Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo perched on the tip of the wooded mountain where Gubbio’s patron saint, Ubaldo, is buried.

The all-day festivities celebrate Ubaldo, 12th-century bishop but ah, what a mixture of Christian traditions and Roman fertility cults! ***  Do read here about the Corsa dei Ceri.

And I hope you can feel my own “Ceri passionehere.  Not quite?  Well, try clicking here.

How to be anywhere but in Gubbio on May 15th?!

Which are the peak moments of the passion?
       -in the morning when the beat of drums and trumpets anounces the arrival of the capitani (true “masters-of-ceremony”) on horseback, swords upraised proudly:
      – when the three ceraioli groups parade proudly behind the bands:  Sant’Ubaldo ceraioli in saffron yellow shirts, San Giorgio ceraioli in royal blue and black for the sant’antoniari (i.e., those who will carry the Cero of Sant’Antonio):

      –  just before noon  when all gather before the elegant 13th-c Palazzo dei Consoli  as trumpets announce the exit of the Ceri from Gubbio’s medieval city hall and medieval banner-wavers pay homage:

     (- and what emotion for all as the trumpets blare and all wave their hands as if flags of homage):
      – when the Ceri are carried out, as well as the pitchers of water which will “baptize” each
    -and what emotion when the three Saints which will crown the Ceri are carried out:
     -and words cannot transmit the emotion of the the Alzata (“the raising up”):  after each Saint is fitted onto the top of his Cero, the three Ceri are lifted up – hopefully in unison –  and then raced around the flag pole in the center of the piazza:
Emotions build as the Ceri are run throughout Gubbio for most of the day. At times, the ceraioli pause in their runs so their Cero can stop to bow in front of a window (where an elderly ceraiolo probably lives).
This year, Sant’Antonio bowed before the window of the widow of a deceased Sant’antoniaro (a Sant’Antonio ceraiolo). 
At lunchtime, all the ceraioli take a pause, feasting.  And our group paused, too, to savor tasty eugubino specialties.  We lunched to the tune of the celebratory music of the bands coming right into our restaurant:
All afternoon, the Ceri of Sant’Ubalo, San Giorgio and Sant’Antonio were carried by the teams of dashing ceraioli throughout the medieval alleyways of Gubbio
Eugubini of all ages cheered on the Ceri:

…..and around 6 pm, the run up the mountain to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, swarms of townspeople following the three Ceri.
But we were home in Assisi by then: resting up after a glorious day of astounding passione eugubina.
I’m now counting the days until the next May 15th.
Read more here about the Ceri
Read about the carrying down of the Ceri from the Basilica to Palazzo dei Consoli
More on “Ceri fever”


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