The history of this Italian festival in honour of St Ubaldo has been held since the year 1242 and the tradition involved has not changed too much since then.
It is celebrated on the 15 May, St. Ubaldo's eve, and this has happened for centuries: the origins of the festival of the Candles date probably to the half of the 12th century, when the Commune, after an important victory in a war against some enemy cities, decided to celebrate the event and express gratitude to the then bishop of Gubbio Ubaldo by an annual festival.
The Candles consist of three huge wooden constructions, octagonal in shape, fixed to a hand-barrow, and up to 7 metres in height, each surmounted by the statue of a Saint: St. Ubaldo, protector of masons; St. Giorgio, protector of merchants; St. Anthony, protector of farm workers.
The Ceraioli who support the heavy Ceri wear brightly coloured costumes consisting of fez, red scarf and sash around the waist, white trousers and shirt ? yellow for St. Ubaldo, blue for St. Giorgio, black for St. Anthony.
The festival ceremonial is complex and has remained unaltered for centuries.
The Candles, housed in the Basilica of St. Ubaldo, are taken down into the town on the 1st Sunday of May; on the 15 May in the morning the drums awake the Captain, then the Ceraioli meet to draw the Two Captains of the Candles; after having received a small bunch of flowers the Ceraioli begin to parade through the city as far as the Piazza della Signoria.
At midday rings the big bell of the Palazzo dei Consoli, the Candles are raised and each Capodieci pours some water from a jug on a particular point of the Candle and then throws the container through the air: the jug, falling on the floor, breaks into many pieces, and people pick up them because they bring good luck.
At this point begins the procession through the streets of Gubbio, until the Candles are put down in a place.
At 6.00 pm the Candles are raised on the shoulders and, after being blessed, starts the extraordinary race along via Dante descent; after a stop in the Piazza della Signoria the Candles make three "birate" and they are carried up at great speed to the Basilica of St.Ubaldo, on the slope of Mount Ingino.
But the winner is not the first to arrive at the entrance of the church, indeed St. Ubaldo must always enter first, then the others.
The winner is established on the basis of the greater or lesser degree of skill shown by the bearers, and this will be determined by endless discussions among the townspeople of Gubbio.
Each year, thousands of spectators gather to watch the incredible feat of strength and rich tradition and to partake in the colorful celebration that accompanies the event.