English version by Benedetta Tintillini
On May 15th, a party linked to Gubbio’s sacred and profane traditions, dear to the people of Gubbio all around the world
THE MORNING OF THE DAY
5:30am: At dawn the drummers through the streets of the old town go to wake up the protagonists of the race: the Ceri’s Captains and Capodieci.
6:00am: The big tower bell, played by hand by skilled members of the bell-ringers Society, alarm throughout the city and in the meantime the drummers join the Capodieci, the Capocetta and the Captains.
7:00am: All ceraioli hierarchies in procession, after having met at the door of St. Augustine, reach the Civic Cemetery to lay a wreath in memory of the deceased ceraioli.
8:00am: A Mass is celebrated in the Church of San Francesco della Pace (of the Masons), on top of Via Cavallotti, where the procession moved up from the Graveyard. At the end of the religious celebration, the names of the captains (First and Second) that will be in office in two years are extracted from the dice, by a child.
9.00am: The procession of the “Saints” starts. The three statues of St. Ubaldo, St. George and St. Anthony are brought out of the church and placed on the appropriate stretcher. At the head of the procession are the drummers, the band, the Mayor, the two Captains, the Capocetta, the Capodieci, the Chaplain, the ceraioli and citizens,they accompany the statues of the saints in solemn procession through the streets of the city, to the Palazzo dei Consoli great hall (entering from Via Gattapone), where already the Ceri are. The ceraioli, at the end of the parade go to the lower halls in Via Baldassini, where they eat the traditional breakfast with dried cod at the “ceraiola way”.10.00am: Meet at Castle Gate and distribution by ceraioli households of “Nosebleed”, traditional amulets for the success of the race. The big parade starts with the drummers, followed by the flags and the band of the city of Gubbio. On horseback the Captains follows, the trumpeter and standard bearer, then the representatives of the institutions and separate groups of ceraioli.
11:30am: On a signal from the bells the lift of the three Ceri takes place, preceded by the launch of three local artistic ceramic amphoras. After a brief carousel in the center of the Piazza della Signoria the Ceri divide each one by itself in moderate running to “show” in the streets of the city. The rise of the Candles is one of the most intense and fascinating moments. The square is crowded with people flowing from the side streets of dei Consoli and XX Settembre, it is not easy to find a good and safe viewing position.
12:00am: The Ceri, each one on his own, pass through the narrow streets of the city, stopping in front of the homes of the old ceraioli families, only to be lying in Via Savelli for some rest. Then follows the great banquet in via Baldassini.
5:00pm: Just before the race, there is the solemn and impressive procession with the statue of St. Ubaldo, who descends from the Cathedral in Piazza Grande, where it is received by the pealing of the big bell. The statue goes through the streets of the city plowing through the crowd already waiting for the overwhelming rush and asking the Holy protection.
AT 6:00pm THE RACE STARTS
6:00PM: After the blessing of the Bishop the long-awaited race begins, quivering, fiery, dramatic as few in the world. Ceraioli and people are one thing in the exaltation of those first moments when Capitani, Standard Bearer and Trumpeter on horseback are galloping before the Ceri.
The Captains of the previous year give the “go”. The crowd cheers, burst into a shout compact, chorus, “Via ch’eccoli.” The race winds through the narrow medieval streets, the Ceri fluctuate wildly, touching and often touching walls and windows. With great skill and years of experience ceraioli take turns in the race, it is a proof of great strength and the ability to run the candle as much as possible while avoiding vertical “dropouts” and “pendute.” This is the victory, knowing that there is no overtaking and that Ceri come on top of the mountain in the same order in which they started: St. Ubaldo, St. George and St. Anthony. The route covering Ceri in the race is about 4 km, starting from the Alzatella to the Basilica on the top of the Mount.
The Ceri run impetuously down to Via Dante, Corso Garibaldi, Via Cairoli in the bottom of which they will remain for 15 minutes. They restart on the way down Via Mazzatinti, then continue on the flat for Piazza 40 Martiri, from there to the district of San Martino, form which they run through Via dei Consoli to Piazza Grande where they stop for about 15 minutes.
After the First Captain has given the keys of the city to the Mayor, they appeare at the window of the Council Chamber, waving a white handkerchief, giving the order to the bell-ringers to start playing and the second captain to resume the race.
They continue through Via XX Settembre, before tackling the hard climb of the First and Second Buchetto, sunken lanes between walls and so narrow as not to allow the use even of the braccieri. Once near of the Porta S. Ubaldo, Ceri are resting on the ground for about half an hour before crossing the same door in the horizontal position because of the narrow passage. The last stretch of the race runs entirely on dirt roads of the Mount. In ten minutes it is covered in a hurry, here Ceri on shoulder, a km and a half climb, consisting of nine boulevards and eight turns, with an average gradient of about 20%.
Here the race reaches its climax. With a final surge the Ceri arrive at the foot of the steps of the Basilica of St. Ubaldo and here the race ends with the ‘”down” to enter the portal, the ascent of the stairway and the closing of the door at the top. The last “Abbassata” is highly spectacular, because it takes place in full stroke and is linked to it and the competition between Sant’Ubaldo and San Giorgio for the closing of the door.
The candles can not be exceeded, if a candle falls, the candle or Ceri that follow have to wait. The Cero only stops at the established stops. The Ceri should be run at the maximum possible speed. The aim of the festival is closely linked to the celebration of the Patron Saint Ubaldo. This is a tribute that the other two Ceri recognize. The imperative of every ceraiolo is to contribute to the success of the race and to respect the rules. Make a good impression, avoid pendute, falls and detachments, overcome possible difficulties, are the cornerstones of the “philosophy of ceraiolo.”
THE FEAST OF THE CERI UNESCO INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
“UNESCO places the feast of Ceri of Gubbio among the treasures of Italian folklore. News that the town of Gubbio waited with great trepidation, namely the signing of the Conventions on Cultural Diversity, has already taken place and the imminent Intangible Heritage, to see finally completed the journey that will lead the Festa dei Ceri to be among the first, if not the first ever, events that will be protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The direct consequence would be the state’s commitment to protect and, therefore, finance, forms of “living archeology” that witness the most authentic cultural identities linked to popular devotion.