Umbria pottery: the Brocche dei Ceri and the Good Luck Shards from Gubbio

Umbria Gubbio (Umbria) - Italyis one of Italy’s smallest regions, whose secretive beauty is made of rolling hills dotted with castles and monasteries and whose charming hill town have been producing world renowned handmade ceramics since the Renaissance.

It’s really hard to resist the charm of Deruta ceramics, or Gubbio ceramics
Born as merely functional to human life, Umbrian ceramics have evolved into a form of Art, without ever ceasing to be part of people’s life.

A symbol of the strong tie between Umbria pottery and the lively regional traditions are the Brocche dei Ceri, large ceramic pitchers which play a relevant role in the most famous “Corsa dei Ceri” or Race of the Saints.

St Ubaldo, the Patron Saint of the GubbioThis spectacular event is held in Gubbio each May 15th to honor St Ubaldo, the Patron Saint of the town.

Three teams (the Ceraioli) devoted to St Ubaldo, St Giorgio and St Antonio and clad respectively in yellow, blue and black shirts, run along the streets of Gubbio and up much of the mountain to the Church of St Ubaldo.

Each team carries a statue of their saint mounted on a wooden octagonal prism 7 meters tall and weighing about 280 kilograms, the so called Ceri (candles). Throngs of cheering supporters follow the runners. Altogether an unforgettable event!

Just imagine…

It’s around 11.30, the sun is shining and the bells are ringing in the magnificent Renaissance square in the centre of Medieval Gubbio. Thousands of people hold their breath, waiting for the three Ceri.

The Alzata - Festa dei Ceri (Gubbio)The Captain, wearing a historical costume, unsheathes his swords and calls the Ceraioli, who run out of the Palazzo Ducale holding the Ceri. The crowd cheers.

Other Ceraioli are waiting for them, ready to assemble the Ceri with their H shaped platforms.

They start assembling the Ceri, a very important and delicate task. Some water is needed to help the wooden “candles” stick to their support. Specific vases are brought and beautiful ones, indeed: the Brocche dei Ceri.

The Ceri are ready for the Alzata (the raising). The Ceraioli team captains, the Capodieci, climb atop the cross-members holding the Brocche. People are still and silent, closely watching their movements. They swing the Brocche, then throw them in the middle of the crowd. As soon as the Brocche smash, people rush over to pick up a ceramic shard, as it is good luck for the entire year!

The bells start ringing again. Time to raise the three Ceri and start running along the narrow streets of Gubbio and uphill to St Ubaldo Church!

Not one person in Gubbio is immune froThe raise - Festa dei Ceri (Gubbio)m the charm and the excitement of this beautiful tradition. Generation after generation, for 800 years people have been running behind the Ceri, united by a strong sense of belonging. To what? To a place, a culture, a common history and a common faith…

This heritage is so strong that even the Eugubini who migrated to other countries do keep celebrating St Ubaldo. In Jessup, Pennsylvania, where a large number of people from Gubbio migrated at the end of the 19th century, the Corsa dai Ceri has been run every year since 1909 on St Ubaldo Day which, differently from Gubbio, is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The rules of the events are very much similar to the Corsa dei Ceri and the Brocche are always sent from Gubbio.

It’s not known whether the Brocche dei Ceri have Gubbio ceramics - Brocche dei Ceri by Ceramiche Rampinibeen part of the traditional run from the very beginning, approximately around the 12th century. It is however certain that they have always been a much cared for part of the celebration.

Each year the Universities, i.e. the three associations in charge of the celebration, one for each Saint, commission the Brocche to one ceramicist in Gubbio. Their choice is usually made among the five or six artisans who best embody the traditional art of pottery making.

One of the ceramicists who Gubbio ceramics - Giampietro Rampini painting the broccahave been paid the honor to make the Brocche is Ceramiche Rampini. Giampietro, his wife Rossana and his son Francesco are the proud representatives of the most authentic way of making pottery. Respectful of the ancient techniques, they have revived a beautiful Renaissance relief pattern, masterfully declined in decorative ceramics, dinnerware and kitchenware.

The brocche are large pitchers,Gubbio ceramics - The brocca: shape and decoration about 20 inches high. Their shape has evolved over time and so has their decoration. Since 1930 the potter is allowed to use colored glazes. The miter, the fire and the helmet, which are the bearings of the three Saints, stand out over an intricate pattern of gothic leaves.

The Brocche are deservedly popular symbols of Umbria pottery from Gubbio and of the timeless relationship between ceramic art and the culture and tradition of the region.

To celebrate this relationship, the Cultural Association “Maggio Eugubino” organizes every May an exhibition in the Civic Museum of the Palazzo dei Consoli: “Brocche d’Autore”.

Every year three ceramic artists, one of them from Gubbio, are invited to reinterpret the Brocche, following their inspiration and their personal elaboration of the values behind the Corsa dei Ceri.

Since the very the first edition in 2002, the quality of the ceramic works had been outstanding. Definitely worth mentioning are the Brocche by Edgardo Abbozzo, Nello Bocci, Alan Peascod, Lucia Angeloni, Oscar Piattella, Toni Bellucci, Giulio Busti, Eduardo Alamaro, Alexis Pérez, Nello Teodori, Mario Boldrini and Emidio Galassi.
Hopefully the Association will soon be able to find a permanent exhibition home for this unique collection!

This year the ceramic artists are: Antonella Cimatti from Faenza, Eraldo Chiucchiù from Deruta Gubbio - Brocche di autore Exhibition 2008 - Brocche by Antonella Cimatti (Faenza) - The brocche have been created by the artist in the Ceramiche Rampini's workshoped Elio Cerbella from Gubbio.
Antonella Cimatti was a very much welcomed guest of Giampietro Rampini’s studio, where she found the cooperation she needed to create her original Brocche.

No doubt some of the best traditions of Italian pottery art will meet in Gubbio this year!

It’s not the first time that Gubbio takes center stage position in an Italian pottery related event.
It’s a fact that Gubbio pottery has always had a special place among Umbria ceramics and has enjoyed worldwide fame since the 16th century, thanks to the masterpieces of Mastro Giorgio Andreoli, considered to be the most important potter of the Italian Renaissance.

He became a citizen of Gubbio in 1498 and in 1518 invented his remarkable lustre, the chief characteristics of which are its beautiful gold and carmine colors.

Since then the art of pottery making has been one of the key activities in Gubbio.


Do you wish to purchase the Brocche dei Ceri?

We’ll be happy to have your Saint’s Brocca hand made for you by Ceramiche Rampini.
For information about sizes and prices contact us.

Our Free Personalization service also applies to the Brocche, as well as our Special Order policy.

3 thoughts on “Umbria pottery: the Brocche dei Ceri and the Good Luck Shards from Gubbio

  1. Thank you very much for your kind words, Jonathan.
    We’ll share them with Giampetro’s family as we are sure they’ll warm their hearts. Giampietro was a very special person and a dear friend. He’ll be sorely missed.

  2. perché non tradurre il testo in italiano? non tutti capiscono la lingua inglese!

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