The Festival of the Ceri and the
Crossbow Competition in Gubbio, Umbria
The city of Gubbio in May is a hub of Italian folklore marked by two events of particular historical and cultural significance dating back to the 12th century—the Festival of the Ceri (Festa dei Ceri) and the Crossbow Competition (Palio della Balestra).
The ceri are three 20-foot, 880-pound "candles" fabricated of wood and carried by chosen Eugubini called ceraiole in a formal reenactment of a mystical candle-bearing procession honoring Gubbio's patron, Bishop Ubaldo Baldassini, who died in 1160. On the one hand it is a solemn act of devotion, while on the other it is colorful and festive, with literally thousands of Gubbio residents leading the parade of ceri through the town’s streets before what amounts to a race up the steep slopes of Monte Ingino to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo. The date of the event, May 15, commemorates the eve of the day of mourning for the beloved father figure Sant’Ubaldo. All of Gubbio turns out to engage in the procession, waving emblematic banners while charging through town.
On the last Sunday in May, the Piazza Grande in Gubbio comes alive with a medieval crossbow competition between Eugubian balestrieri, or crossbow competitors, and their counterparts from the town of Sansepolcro in Tuscany. Antique period dress adorns participants, judges and spectators alike as the city transforms itself into an authentic relic of the Middle Ages. Like the Festa dei Ceri, the Palio della Balestra has developed a profound attachment to the soul of Gubbio.
Both events are open to spectators. For information call 075 9220693. On the Internet visit www.bellaumbria.net or www.gubbio.com.