Gubbio

Gubbio

Traces of prehistoric settlements in the Gubbio area are documented as far back as the middle Palaeolithic period. Recent archaelogical digs have led to the identification of sites dating back to the Bronze era, very close to the town.

Gubbio was an important centre for the Umbrians, as is demonstrated by the Eugubine Tablets (3rd - 1st century B.C.), the most remarkable epigraphic heirloom of pre-Roman Italy. They consist of seven bronze tablets which offer ritual directions for particular ceremonies, and also give indications as to the organization of the Eugubine city-state. Gubbio was an ally of Rome as far back as the 3rd century B.C. As a municipality under the authority of the Crustumina tribe, the town flourished in the early centuries of the Empire, as one can still see today from the many archaelogical remains, among which those of the Roman Theatre. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Iguvium was destroyed during the Gothic war. Subsequently it came under the domination of Byzantium, from which, after various vicissitudes, it freed itself in the 8th c., during which time it was several times occupied by the Lombard kings. During the 11th c. Gubbio passed from the pre-eminent authority of the bishop to a state of self-government. Both Barbarossa (in 1163) and Henry VIth (1191) garanted to the Gubbio consuls wide-ranging jurisdiction and privileges which caused strong hostility from neighbouring Perugia, which in 1217 defeated Eugubium, thus obliging it to renounce its ambitions of expansion.1262 marks the ascendancy of the Guelphs, and initiates a long period of peace and prosperity, with the exception of the attempt by the Ghibelines to take over the city in 1300. The population of Gubbio grew, art and craft developed (especially wool craft), new walls were built as well as the imposing city halls.
Development came to a halt in 1350, when Giovanni Gabrielli became lord of the city. In 1354 Cardinal Albornoz defeated the tyrant, and Gubbio came under the dominion of the church, but with relative autonomy. In 1376 the town rebelled against this state of affairs; soon afterwards Bishop Gabriele Gabrielli took power.

There ensued a period of internal fighting which ended with the subjection of Gubbio to the Montefeltro family (1384). The domination of the Counts and Dukes of Urbino (Montefeltro until 1508, Della Rovere until 1631) gave rise to a period of relative civic prosperity when the arts flourished, especially under the dominion of Guidantonio and Federico di Montefeltro.
Federico began the construction in Renaissance style of the Ducal Palace. The people of Gubbio remained faithful to the lords of Urbino even during the brief hegemony of Valentino (1502) and of Lorenzo dei Medici (1516-1519).

The period during which Gubbio was a direct appendage of the Papal States was characterized by gradual economic and political decline. At the time of Napoleon the town was made part of the Cisalpine Republic (1798), then of the Roman Republic (1798-1799), and finally, from 1808 to 1814, of the Italic Kingdom. In 1860, shortly after its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, Gubbio was included in Umbria.

The Race of the “Ceri” (May 15th)
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.

Ceri

Procession of the Dead Christ (Good Friday)
This is organized by the Confraternity of Santa Croce della Foce. It is a symbolic representation of Christ’s Passion, which has been repeated every year for centuries, following a tradition that has never been interrupted. The procession starts with lay brothers dressed in sackcloth and playing instruments called “battistrangole” that produce a rattling noise, and others carrying the objects characteristic of the Passion and the skull that symbolizes Golgotha. Then come the effigies of the Dead Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows, valuable wooden sculptures produced by local craftsmen. Behind the statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary the singers of the Miserere intone their chants, passed down through the centuries by oral tradition. The procession goes through the main streets of the town, starting at nightfall from the Church of Santa Croce. Big bonfires are lit in various places along the route.

The Crossbow Festival (“Palio della Balestra”) (last Sunday in May)
This a traditional contest using the ancient crossbow resting on a support. The Gubbio and Sansepolcro arbalesters, dressed in typical period costumes, meet every year in the striking setting of Piazza Grande. The object is to hit a target placed at a distance of 36 metres. The arbalester who manages to hit the target in the middle receives as a prize a valuable banner (the “Palio”). During the event one can enjoy the extremely skilful and spectacular performance of the local “Sbandieratori” (ceremonial flag-wavers). At the end of the contest proper a historical pageant involving all the competitors proceeds through the streets of the town. The “Palio” of the Crossbow is repeated on the first Sunday of September in Sansepolcro.

The biggest Christmas Tree in the World
Set out on the slopes of Monte Ingino, it consists of 800 lights and 8 km of electric cable. It is lit from December 7th until January 10th.