The Race of the “Ceri”

This takes place every year on the eve of the feast of the patron Saint Ubaldo. The “Ceri” are three tall, heavy wooden structures on top of which are placed the statues, respectively, of Sant’ Ubaldo (St. Ubald, protector of masons), San Giorgio (St. George, protector of merchants) and Sant’Antonio Abate (Abbot St. Antony, protector of muleteers and peasants).

These structures are fixed on to frames (“barelle”), which the Ceri bearers (“ceraioli”) carry on their shoulders while running through the streets of the town and up to the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, near the top of Monte Ingino. An evocative ritual takes place before the race. At midday on Piazza Grande one can witness the spectacular raising (“alzata”) of the Ceri; immediately after wards the Ceri complete three laps of the square at high speed, and then parade separately round the streets of the city. Then all three of them pause in Via Savelli, where they remain until the race starts. In the afternoon a procession bearing the statue of Sant’Ubaldo comes out of the Cathedral, and goes to the top of Via Dante, where the Bishop blesses the Ceri; that is the signal for the beginning of the frantic race. After having run through the main streets of the town, they go back to Piazza Grande and do three more laps (“birate”), before reaching the Porta dell’Angelo (known also as Porta di Sant’Ubaldo), where they start climbing up Monte Ingino.

The Ceri are placed inside the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, whereas the small statues of the three Saints are brought back into town in torchlit procession, accompanied by chanting. It is possible that this festival has its roots in ancient pagan rites, but its Christian character and its celebration of Sant’Ubaldo are historically proven and documented.