Monday, 3 May 2010

Gubbio - each 15th of May - Festival dei Ceri

It is not easy to "tell the story" of the Festival of the Ceri. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest Italian folklore display. The festival has always played a fundamental role in the heart of the Eugubina community. An in-depth study of the festival's origins and numerous meanings is something that we are happy to leave to scholars. Its origins are obscure, it is enough to know that there are two basic hypotheses: one religious and one pagan.

The first, which is well-documented and set, out sees the festival as a solemn act of devotion on the part of the Eugubini towards their Bishop Ubaldo Baldassini which started in 1160, the year of his death. Since then, every 15th May, the eve of the day of mourning, the devotional offering to the patron Saint is a fixed appointment for the people of Gubbio who are said to have taken part in a great mystical procession, carrying candles all around the town and up Mount Ingino (where since 11th September 1194 the body of Saint Ubaldo lies, in the church which bears his name). Certainly, the Eugubini dearly loved their important townsman, especially from 1154 onwards, when Gubbio conquered no less than 11 allied cities. The victory seemed miraculous, and was also thanks to the intervention of Bishop Baldassini.

The wax candles, offered by the Arts and Crafts corporations, probably became difficult to transport with the passing of time, and towards the end of the 16th century were substituted by three wooden structures, which were agile and modern. They have been replaced a number of times. They have kept their original form up until today and on the same date; they follow the same route to the same place.

The second theory, which is more suspect and hypothetical, sees the festival as being a continuation of a pagan festival in honour of Ceres, goddess of the harvest, reaching us after having come through the glory of communes, renaissance power, papal domination and the battles of the Risorgimento.

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