Every year on May 15, the town of Gubbio celebrates a medieval festival called “Festa dei Ceri”. This is an ancient festival which is as old as 8 centuries. It loosely translates as Festival of the Candles but what are present are huge long wooden sticks or “Ceri” that are part of a wooden base or “Barelle“. All the Ceri have a wax statue of a Saint on it and are then carried by different members of the team. The Festa dei Ceri is followed by a mass at the Church which is at the town’s main square called “Piazza Grande”. Let’s learn more about the medieval Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio.
Medieval Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio
Every year the Festa dei Ceri attracts more than 150,000 people. The festival is the town’s way of honoring it’s patron Saint Ubaldi who had miraculous abilities. Every man, woman and child takes part in this local festival for which the town is divided in different teams/groups that are distinguished by the colors of their clothing:
Saint Ubaldo group wears Yellow
Saint Antonio group wears Black
Saint Georgio group wears Blue
What happens in the Festa dei Ceri??
The 3 different teams in the Festa dei Ceri hold the octagonal Ceri which weighs more than 250kgs. These Ceri are nothing but huge wax statues of each saint and are lifted by the respective teams in the morning of May 15 at 11:30 am. After this, the teams undertake three laps in the Piazza and take the Ceri across town.
Usually when the Ceri is carried there is a lot of shouting and merriment by the onlookers. It is quite a sight as everyone follows the teams while the ceri bob and sway in different hands.
Consequently, the ceri are then rested on a base in Via Savelli della Porta while the teams go for lunch. At 6:00 p.m the Ceri return to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo situated on top of the hill of Gubbio, in Mount Ingino.
The festival shows the spirit of the community and the belief of the folklore! Some pictures of the festival from 2015:
Is it worth going to Festa dei Ceri??
YES YES YES!!
The Festa dei Ceri is totally worth visiting as everything is done as per the customs and rituals that were followed eons ago!! Festa dei Ceri is one medieval festival I’d love to see again and if you plan to visit Italy in May, should not be missed.
Gubbio’s festival is not only eccentric but also intriguing. I felt as if I had traveled back in time. The mayhem is addictive.
If not for anything but visit the festival to explore Gubbio -an ancient town with Gothic architecture and a Roman theatre at the entrance. There is something extremely charming about the narrow streets of the town that add to its charming ancient”ness”.
I planned my entire trip to Italy to see it and I’m proud to have been involved in something so medieval!! The next day’s paper had a shot of the festival from above and it was hard to believe that I really managed to stay intact among all that crowd and chaos!
Important Points to Remember:
- Book a hotel on time. Everything is full by the first week of March!
- Reach Piazza Grande a little before 10 a.m.
- As a tourist/spectator try not to do anything that upsets the locals.
- Make sure you get are either at the corner or in the centre of the the piazza as you may be pushed and shoved especially when the Ceri arrive
- If you’re not staying in Gubbio, check the bus schedule from Perugia as there is no train track to this town
- Grab a bite before you head to the piazza as you won’t get anything to eat for a long time.
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