|Palazzo del Consoli (photo:Elizabeth)|
When Bishop Ubaldo died on 16 May 1160 the towns-people were in agony. They began a continual pilgrimage to pay their respects to the Bishop. Legend says that for over a year there was a continual flow of people day and night, bringing lit candles (called ceri) to the Bishop. Ubaldo was already being venerated like a Saint, and in 1192 Pope Celestino II canonized him.
In 1194 his body was put on a cart, led by oxen and they went on their own will to the top of Mount Ingino. In the place where the animals stopped, chosen by divine provenance, a church was built in his honor. The current sanctuary and Basilica dates to the 16th century, although there have been many changes throughout the centuries. In the center of the main altar is Saint Ubaldo’s body, in a special shrine remodeled in the 19th century. In the beautiful stained glass windows throughout the Sanctuary we can see the life of the Saint.
|Ceri in the church (photo: Internet)|
Inside the church there are also three “ceri” made of wood. The ceri are each about four meters tall, consisting of two superimposed hollow octagonal prisms joined by a central mast that weigh about 200 chilos! These sacred and profane objects (and lets face it, they look a bit phallic) are brought down into the town on May 1st. Preparations begin for the big festivities on May 15, which is the vigil of Ubaldo's feast day. Processions abound throughout the town and eventually there is an incredible uphill foot race between the historic confraternities to carry these immense ceri back to the Basilica. Groups of ten men carry the ceri on their shoulders with wooden stretchers. The carriers switch off every ten minutes or so because the ceri are so heavy!
|The Ceri are moving into the vertical (photo: Internet)|
|The 3 saints depicted in ceramic (photo: Elizabeth)|
The three ceri are topped with Saint Ubaldo in yellow, Saint George in blue and Saint Anthony in black. The first ceri that gets through the doors of the sanctuary (which, by the way, is always Saint Ubaldo), wins. However Saint George and Saint Anthony have to try to ensure they are inside the Basilica before the doors are shut by the leaders.
The race probably has ancient Roman origins, however the festivities around the Festa del Ceri begans after the death of Ubaldo, the protector of the city, on 16 May 1160.
The Ceri are now incorporated into the symbol of the region of Umbria. Below is a you tube video to give you a better idea of this incredible race which is going to happen this week!