Castel dell'Ovo in Naples, fortress & former royal residence

Gubbio celebrates medieval festival since 1160
La Corsa dei Ceri – The Race of the Candles

Gubbio, Umbria/Italy – When drum rolls wake you up in the early morning and shortly after thousands of men and women, young and old, dressed in white pants and yellow, blue or black shirts, march through the narrow alleys of the town, even ignoring heavy rain, you know it's May 15th and you are in Gubbio, the oldest medieval town in Italians region Umbria. Every year on this day, the people of Gubbio celebrate their beloved Saint, Bishop Ubaldo Baldassini, with the oldest folklore feast in Italy, "The Race of the Candles" or how the locals call it, "La Corsa dei Ceri". The whole city is on its feet on that day, everybody has a part in this. I can't imagine another religious celebration more colorful, more cheerful and done with more pride. It's an all-day spectacle, a very special one, historically dating back to the 12th century. But it's not only a religious event, for the people of Gubbio it's also a celebration of the family.

The main attraction of the festival is the Race of the Candles. Men race in groups three "candles" – each is a 300 kg (660 pounds) heavy and about 5 meters (16.4 foot) tall wooden structure – on their shoulders from the city to the Saint Ubaldo Basilica on top of Mount Ingino. Even though the candles are raced, not the fastest group is the winner. The order who arrives first, second and third is settled for centuries and never changes. The race is an amazing event, carried out with lots of pride, strength, teamwork, incredible effort, great belief and passion for tradition and culture. As unique this religious festival is, there is one more city celebrating Saint Ubaldo the exact same way as Gubbio does: Emigrated Italians from Gubbio and Perugia have adopted this tradition in 1909 and celebrate ever since in their new hometown Jessup, almost 7.000 kilometers (4350 miles) away from Gubbio, in Pennsylvania in the United States of America, "Saint Ubaldo Day". They created their own American copy of the festival and the Race of the Candles, and just like in Gubbio, the Race of the Candles in Jessup has become an inherent part in the life of the people. 
One candle for each saint – Saint Ubaldo, Saint Giorgio and Saint Antonio
Ubaldo Baldassini was the bishop of Gubbio. When he died in the year 1160, the city celebrated the beloved churchman with a procession through the streets of their town and up to the church on top of the mountain, Mount Ingino, where the bishop was laid to his final rest. As a sign of devotion, the people of Gubbio brought in the following on the day of Ubaldo's death sticks of wax to the resting place of the bishop, today's Basilica of Saint Ubaldo. This tradition was never even put on hold, but over the centuries adapted. The procession once a year was subsequently dedicated not only to the former bishop but also to other saints. While Saint Ubaldo was representing the bricklayers, Gubbio wanted also to honor saints from other guilds, so they added Saint Giorgio for merchants and Saint Antonio for the farmers. The wax sticks were replaced by three huge wooden structures, each consists of two octagonal prisms. The lower end of each artifact is fastened on another wooden structure, shaped like an "H", built for the transport on the shoulder of some strong men. On top of each "candle" is a little saint statue plugged. Each of the three saints has its own candle, known as "Ceri".
The families in Gubbio take great pride to belong to one of the three saint groups, which are running the heavy candles through the alleys in town and then up to the top of the mountain. They show their support for the saints also with the colors of their shirts. Who wears yellow belongs to the team St. Ubaldo, St. Giorgio's team wears blue and St. Antonio's black. This is not only to make the event colorful but also to show support for each team. The colors are worn very proudly and are given from the fathers to the sons.

Capitani, Capodieci and Ceraioli – Thousands of people want to see the Ceri every year
The event starts in the morning with the drum rolls. The first ones can be heard at around 5 am. They kind of tell the Capitani", those responsible for the organization of the celebration, the three "Capodieci", in charge of the 10 bearers of the "Ceri" and all the bearers that it is time for the mass at the Church of San Francesco della Pace from which also the little statues of the saints have to be picked up. Later, during the ceremony at the town square, they will be attached to the top of the wooden candles. When the church is over the streets and alleys of Gubbio are packed with people and the Capitani, Capodieci and the bearer, the "Ceraioli", have a hard time to even get to the square at the Palazzo dei Consoli, where the event officially starts with the preparation of the candles. The raising of the heavy wooden candles is the special moment for all the people at the square. Everyone is waiting for the moment which of the candles goes up on the men's shoulders first. Once the three groups have their candles up, they march them through the town accompanied by drum rolls and band music. It's an amazing sight: thousands of people, most of them dressed in yellow, blue and black, musicians with their bands in red, black and white everywhere, all the houses and buildings are decorated, almost every window shows one of the group's saints, flags or symbols.
Watching the "Ceraioli" carry the heavy candles it becomes immediately clear, that this is not an easy task. The men have to walk or run pretty much synchronic. The candles are very tall and not to forget brutally heavy, and they tend to tilt from one side to the other. The many people in the alleys don't really make it easy to pass with the heavy load. The "Ceraioli" are all very strong men but they have to change with time, which explains that each group has about 30 to 40 bearer. The candles are kept moving through town until all the important spots are visited with the saints. Then they will be put down for a while, which gives the bearer time to rest, eat and drink in one of the many taverns until the race to the basilica on top of the mountain starts in the early evening. The "Ceraioli" race their saints up the mountain but the order in which they have to reach the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo is set since centuries. St. Ubaldo is first in church, then St. Giorgio and after that St. Antonio. Once all 3 candles are in the basilica, they remain there until the next year when the men once again come up the mountain to get the candles down for another celebration.
By the way: the three "Ceri" is the focal point of Umbria's flag, the official symbol of the region. 


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