Travel Tips for Gubbio
Sant’Ubaldo, eternally in Eugubini hearts
Sant’Ubaldo is Gubbio’s patron saint and protector of the city. In the biological sense he died 850 years ago (1160), but he is still alive. During my second visit in October 2009 I could already sense and see this several times. But during the four weeks I stayed in town in May 2010 I could feel the overwhelming presence of Sant’Ubaldo everywhere. He is part of the daily life, he is protector, patron saint and bishop of the town, he is being loved from the bottom of the heart and he is alive. At the end of Corso Garibaldi he stands in form of a big statue and watches over his people. Many who pass bow and make the sign of the cross. Many pause and talk to him. He is honoured in so many ways, with little or bigger statues, pictures and paintings in homes, in street names, restaurants and hotels. Ubaldo is the most prominent baptismal name given to newborn boys. Sant’Ubaldo had a very strong impact on the city during all his life.
Born approx. 1085, as a son of a wealthy family, Ubaldo Baldassini became orphan at a very young age and grew up in a monastery. His bonds to his hometown were very strong. When he was priest he refused to go to Perugia as bishop but went to Rome to convince the pope that he could stay in Gubbio. Only shortly later, when Gubbio’s bishop died, he became his successor. But in contrast to the usual life of the clergy he chose to live a poor life. During the time when guelphs and ghibellines were fighting against each other to gain power, Gubbio was seen as a “problem” by the aristocrats and eleven neighbour cites, among them Perugia and Assisi, formed an alliance to defeat Gubbio. Sant’Ubaldo managed to prepare his people and Gubbio could defeat the intruding alliance. Only a bit later, Ubaldo was already ill, Frederik I Barbarossa, heir of the duchy of Spoleto, was fighting against local cities who didn’t accept his role. He destroyed Spoleto and on his way back to Ravenna wanted to subordinate Gubbio as well. But then he met the ill old bishop, so the contemporary witnesses wrote, and he was overwhelmed by Ubaldo’s peaceful attitude so that he gave Gubbio the rights of a free commune instead of destroying the city. His body rests in Basilica Sant’Ubaldo now, on top of Monte Ingino. The glass casket is not sealed, and there is no scientific explanation why his body is still preserved.
Gubbio’s most important festa, Festa dei Ceri race is held every May 15th to his honour at the day or date before he (biologically) died in 1160. The whole Ceri day is impressive, as is the race itself; I’ll describe more in a separate category. But during the evening procession, when the three saints are being brought back to town, the origin of this festa becomes most obvious in my humble opinion. During the procession, the people sing Sant’Ubaldo’s song O lume della fede; a very solemn atmosphere is in the air. As soon as the procession arrives in town, where the streets and house windows are packed with people, almost everyone applauds as soon as the saints come in sight. The people shine in joy from the inside. Sant’Ubaldo is their saint, their protector, their bishop.
I could go on with descriptions and explanations for ages, but many of the moments where I felt or feel his presence are private moments, both Eugubini(‘s) and mine. I only will mention that he brought back faith for me.
Associazione Eugubini nel mondo, Gubbio’s special and devoted website for all Eugubini and friends worldwide, honour him as well with a long description about his life and deeds. Or, on the website of Basilica Sant'Ubaldo (in Italian only).
For those who have been in Roma (Rome): statues of Sant'Ubaldo, together with San Giorgio and Sant'Antonio are among the 144 statues on the colonnades of Bernini at Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter'S Square): Sant'Ubaldo is no. 107, San Giorgio is no. 48 and Sant'Antonio is no. 128. Sant'Ubaldo's song:
O lume della fede, della chiesa splendore
sostegno d'ogni cuore: Ubaldo Santo
Voi che aborriste tanto ogni terreno affetto
riempite il nostro petto d'amor superno
Fratello, Padre e Guida, Maestro nelle fede,
mostrate a chi non crede la vera vita.
Terrore dell'inferno freno dei mali affetti
le insidie e i rei diletti da noi fugate.
Sia gloria al Padre e al Figlio ed al divino Amore
e noi col Protettore il Ciel coroni.
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts), update October 2010.
Quartiere Sant'Andrea is the eastern part of Gubbio’s old town, it stretches along the hill up to the basilica and its border with southern San Pietro is Corso Garibaldi. Sant'Andrea’s symbol are three plumes and its main church is San Marziale. Similar as for San Martino’s church, San Marziale was once devoted to Sant’Andrea, it was a monastery one and said to have been built on the remains of a temple for Mars (thus the name – Marziale). This church is the oldest in Gubbio, dates back to 1000. I also haven’t been inside but must see it next time. From the city map I saw that Sant'Andrea has the highest amount of churches, such as the important San Francesco della Pace (where the statues of the saints for Ceri are being kept), S. Maria Nuova, chiesa della SS Trinità, S. Maria dei Servi and I think also the cattedrale belongs to Sant'Andrea.
© Ingrid D., December 2009 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Fascinating flag wavers’ skills
When I was in Gubbio for the first time in April 2008, I was extremely lucky to see one of the flag throwers’ performances. I was on my way uphill to the cathedral when I suddenly heard some drums. Very much curious I almost raced downhill to find out that there was a huge crowd on Piazza Grande (which was deserted one hour ago, during my visit in Palazzo dei Consoli’s museum). In the middle of the piazza, a very much colourful group of men in ancient dresses were throwing flags. But not only throwing them into the air, but they were doing all kinds of artistic movements like throwing them to their partners, jumping with the flags and juggling with them. Even the kids have their appearance! And they are fantastic with it!
The tradition of flag throwing is quite old. Already in 1435, Gubbio had people whose profession it was to throw or wave flags during religious or local events. This group, which is performing this artistic skill today, is existing since 1969. Their goal is not only to practise this skill, but also to demonstrate their strong bond to the land and their city. If you look close, you can see that many of the flags have Umbrian letters embroided (the ones which have been carved into the Iguvine Tables) – a clear devotion and manifestation to their hometown and their very old origin.
If you are in Gubbio, ask at the tourist office if the Sbandieratori (flag throwers) have an appearance during your visit and make sure to go and watch it! Describing this is one thing, but watching the accuracy of their skills and the fun these guys have, together with the drums is something special.That’s why I ask you to have a look at the three videos in youtube, which Giampaolo Pauselli has put together. They are all made in this fascinating slow motion with many close ups and the perfect music.
Sbandieratori video, 4 minutes, with “1492” by Vangelis,
The vioce of peace, 3 minutes, which maybe is the best one to show what the flags stand for: peace and brotherliness, which the flag throwers stand for,
father and son, dressing up and performing, 5 minutes with music by Ennio Morricone; the boy is Matteo Menichetti and one of the boys who perform during the sbandieratori manifestations.
(Unfortunately, the latter one cannot be watched from German accounts due to terrorism by German greedy GEMA and their inability to come to peace with Youtube).
Update, after my second visit in Oct/Nov 2009:
Thanks to my dear Italian teacher Edvige I had the chance to meet Andrea B. of Gubbio’s Sbandieratori. He showed me their sanctum, the place where the flags are being kept in between the performances and explained us a lot about the meanings of the flags’ designs. Of course there are the ones for the four quartiere, the actual ones are white with red rim and red quartiere symbol in the middle (in the videos they are sometimes the other way around, that’s the older version). Then there are sixteen flags with Iguvine letters (designed by Oscar Piatelli), of course one with the Campanone, four ones in modern design with the three colours of Ceri festival, yellow, blue and black, one flag with the symbol of peace, one for Gubbio (with cinque colli symbol), one for Gubbio as a city in Europe (all in blue with the yellow stars and Palazzo dei Consoli), the flag of Umbria, one for Olympia, one with the symbol of the Medieval rondell headress and one with the letters DUX FE for Federico da Montefeltro. They all are made of silk or silk like material, very soft and very light but the handle is rather heavy, so an additional thanks to Andrea for having held the four up so patiently until I made my photo! Andrea Baffoni is the one who often carries the standard (flag), also in April when I saw them performing for my first time. And his cute little son Stefano is very proud following his father’s tradition and is one of the kids who performs.
Grazie mille Andrea for your time, especially since it was almost lunch time!!
To see more of these artists, please visit their website Sbandieratori, flag throwers or read more on Gubbio’s special website.
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
THE meeting point in Gubbio
There was a time way in the past when not everyone had a clock (let alone computers and internet, haha). Bells to tell the time was one thing for everyone but another is one or more huge clocks at town centres or in town wall gatetowers, like the one in Speyer, Germany. This way any visitor who approached the town could see what time it was already from the distance. Gubbio has also such a clock, albeit not that big as the one in Speyer or in Venezia La Serenissima. But it is located in the centre of the lower town, at Piazza Quaranti Martiri where Via della Repubblica leads uphill to Palazzo dei Consoli. It is simply referred to as “L’Orologio” (the clock) and it is the meeting point for locals. So if you plan to meet up with a local and he or she tells you let’s meet at l’orologio, this is exactly where you are supposed to go to.
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Porta Romana: fascinating coats of arms
Porta Romana is one of Gubbio’s remaining six gate towers. It is located in the east, near the funivia, which brings people up to Monte Ingino, and next to chiesa San Agostino which is outside of the walls. Porta Romana is privately owned and I have read that the owners have set up a small but excellent museum, Museo Maiolica a Lustro (for an overview with opening ours and prices, but the museum itself has no website), with a big collection of Maestro Giorgio’s maiolica art. Mastro Giorgio, Giorgio di Pietro Andreoli, is the famous local maiolica artist. His artwork is exhibited in Palazzo dei Consoli and also in British Museum and Kensington Museum, London, Louvre, Paris and Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. He was also famous for altarpieces of terracotta and to my utmost delight I learned that one of his masterpieces is exhibited in Städel Museum, Frankfurt, which is just around the corner for me but which I have never visited so far. Oh ignorant me… I was also not yet in the museum, even though I have visited the city so many times. The entrance is easy to find, it is inside the city walls, on the right hand side of the gate tower.
I also like the gate tower itself. At the inner city wall side it shows three coats of arms: the one of Gubbio with inscription Agobio, the Medieval name of Gubbio and Cinque Colli, then the one of Gubbio’s quartiere Sant’Andrea, which ends here at Porta Romana and finally one with inscription Beccherie, which means butchers’ shop. I have asked several inhabitants of Sant’Andrea but no one really knows why there is this reference to the butchers. On the other hand, I am sure that butchers lived here. Many Santantoniari, which belong to the family of Sant’Antonio, live in quartiere Sant’Andrea, and Sant’Antonio is the saint of countrymen and landowners. It might be that butchers also belong to this group. And during May, when the whole city is over and over decorated with flags of the three ceri families, flags with exactly this sign hang on the windows of the houses in Via Dante. These houses resemble the ones in this beccherie coat of arms.
Oh, I should mention two other interesting reliefs I found on the tower. One, a bit difficult to see because it blends into the stones, is of a little monk or priest (see photo), which might be a spolia, and the other one is on the outer walls: the cinque colli again.
Update, February 10, 2010:
Since I wanted to visit the museum in Frankfurt where Wikipedia mentioned an altapiece of Mastro Giorgio would be exhibited, I called the curator and asked. But then I learned that the altarpiece is not in Städel (Museum) but in the Liebieghaus next door. And its curator told me then that the altar is most probably from someone else, but once stood in San Domenico in Gubbio. I will check this and try and find out more about the altar next time I am in Gubbio. Another mystery to solve :-)
Porta Romana on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., Feb 2009, text revamp December 2010 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).