Francigena Culture: Gubbio’s race of the candles

The fascinating ‘Corsa dei Ceri’, which takes place every year on 15th May, is dedicated to St Ubaldo, patron saint of the city. Every year, the charming town of Gubbio comes alive for this quirky festival that has become a treasured tradition in Italy.

Corsa dei Ceri, Race of the candles in Gubbio – May

Where: Gubbio, Italy – Section 2 of the Saint Francis Way.Gubbio-piazza-St-Francis-Way-via-francigena

On 15th May, the gorgeous walled town of Gubbio on the Saint Francis Way hosts its annual ‘candle race’, where giant candles are carried along the streets of the town by groups of local men. This impressive traditional race in honour of Saint Ubaldo, the city’s patron saint, has been taking place since the 12th century.

The groups of local men are divided into teams and identified by a colour; St. Ubaldo is yellow, St.George is Blue and St.Anthony is black.

The unique festival consists of teams of men carrying three ‘Ceri’, enormous wooden biers each weighing nearly half a ton and topped with the statue of a different Saint, through the streets of Gubbio and up Mount Ingino. The team that exhibits the most skill throughout the race is deemed the winner, not the first team to finish.

Every May thousands of spectators, both local and tourists, gather to watch the demonstration of strength and the rituals surrounding the event for the day.

gubbio-flowers-saint-francis-way-via-francigenaThe day begins with the beating of the drums at 5.00am, an early start. All of the bearers of the Ceri head to the Church of San Francesco della Pace to hear mass and to take up the statues of the 3 saints.

At 11.00am a parade of all the participants works its way to the Piazza della Signoria and the Ceri work their way around the town meeting and greeting the crowds.

At 6.00pm the race begins. Streets are packed full on spectators as the Bishop blesses the Ceri and the runners begin their race.

If you are walking section two of the Saint Francis Way then it is the perfect opportunity to see and participate in this spectacular festival. Note that the streets and piazza can get very crowded so be sure to wear comfortable clothing and bring along some bottled water for the day.

To add to your experience, Gubbio is home to a wide selection of restaurants with dishes full of Italian flavour for you to enjoy.

For more information on the Saint Francis Way or any of our walking tours contact our travel specialists.

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