Every year on May 15th takes place in Gubbio one of the most ancient celebrations still alive in Italy, the race named Corsa dei Ceri. Celebrated continuously since the year 1160 as an act of devotion towards the patron of Gubbio, Saint Ubaldo, the Ceri are nowadays the emblem of Umbria.
The word Ceri stands for “candles” and refers to three wooden structures composed of two octagonal prisms, one on top of the other, fixed to a hand-barrow. The weight of each Cero is over 300 kg and it is over 7 meters high. Each one is surmounted by the statue of saint protector of the main medieval guilds of Gubbio: Saint Ubaldo for the masons, Saint George for the merchants and Saint Anthony Abbot for the farm laborers.
During the year the three Ceri are kept in the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo located on the summit of Mount Ingino, while the statues of the saints are kept in the little church of Saint Francesco della Pace. Before the race starts, the three Ceri are brought down to the town. At midday on the 15th of May the Ceri, fixed into a special structure named "barella" (hand-barrow), are carried around the town raised on the shoulders of many Ceraioli who take turns in groups of ten under each Cero. The Ceraioli are divided and dressed in black, yellow and blue shirts according to each Saint, while all wear red sash and scarf with a small flower bunch and white trousers. At midday the Ceri are raised, and after the procession, at six in the evening the three structures are raced at amazing speed from the Piazza Grande up to the top of the mountain, in the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo.
In the following weeks, two other competitions are usually organized: the race of the Ceri Mezzani (usually between the second and the last Sunday of May) and the race of the Ceri Piccoli (2nd of June) involving teens and kids carrying smaller replica of the original Ceri.
The contest attracts every year thousands of spectators from all over the world and is shown on the national TV.
5.00 AM Drummers walk around the town to wake up the Captains and the Capodieci leaders of the festival
6.15 AM The sound of the Palazzo dei Consoli bell wakes up the rest of the town
6.30AM Ceremony in memory of the deceased Ceraioli in the town Cemetery
7.30 AM Mass in the Church of St. Francesco della Pace
8.30 AM Procession to bring the three saint statues into the Palazzo dei Consoli
9.30 AM Ceraioli gathering in Borgo Santa Lucia and small flower bouquet delivery
10.00 AM Ceraioli Parade to reach Piazza Grande
11.30 AM Alzata dei Ceri, the three wooden machines are raised and starts the display of the Ceri around the town
6.00 PM The Bishop of Gubbio blesses the Cerioli and the crazy race to reach the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo at the summit of the Mount Ingino begins, with a short stop right outside the city walls
8.00 PM The three Saint Statues are brought down to the town into the church of Saint Francesco della Pace.