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Go to Gubbio for the Corsa dei Ceri

creato da Marcello Parmeggiani ultima modifica 06/08/2008 10:46

The Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio is one of Italy's liveliest traditional festivals. Join in the fun without facing the crowds thanks to our exciting report. All over Italy the beginning of the Lenten period is celebrated in a myriad of ways.

gubbioGo to Gubbio, near Perugia in Umbria, on May 15th, for one of Italy's most famous and striking traditional festivals. The origins of Gubbio's Corsa dei Ceri (Race of the Candles) are mysterious, and, like most popular Italian festivals it is a mix of the sacred and profane. Some people date it back to the 12th Century when a race was held to thank Saint Ubaldo, the then bishop of Gubbio, for his part in the town's victory over a neighbouring city state (in the past Italy was divided into a myriad of city states all engaged in continual power struggles -ed.).

Each year the celebrations attract a huge crowd and are essentially unchanged from when they were first held. The Ceri (candles) are three massive wooden pillars, four hundred kilos each and four metres high, which are paraded through the town on the morning of the 15th, finishing up in Piazza della Signoria. Each 'candle' represents a saint - Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Anthony - respectively the patron saints of bricklayers, sales people and farmers. On the stroke of midday the candles are raised, water is poured on them from a jug and the jug then broken. There is always a rush to find bits of the jug as they supposedly bring good luck.

At this stage the preliminaries begin, reaching a climax at six when the candles are blessed and the race proper starts. The Ceraioli (candle bearers), dressed in different colours - yellow for Saint Ubaldo, blue for Saint George and black for Saint Anthony, charge off up the steep hill behind Gubbio towards the Basilica di S.Ubaldo. There is no actual winner (The first one past the church door - Saint Ubaldo's yellow team is always the first one).

The race, however, is more than a one-day wonder. The Ceri - which are stored in the Basilica during the rest of the year - are carried through the streets of the town on May 1st, as those of you who were lucky enough to spend their May Day holiday in Gubbio will undoubtedly know.

So don't miss your chance to take part in one of Italy's liveliest festivals - a spectacular mix of the sacred and profane where human nature is the true winner, year after year.

Corsa dei Ceri - The famuous race
Saint Ubaldo Day - Patron of Gubbio
Saint George - Patron of merchants
Saint Anthony - Patron of farmers

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