Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Giornale Adriatco-Mediterraneo IV: Gubbio
photograph by Hallie Cohen
Every May 15th, the Italian town of Gubbio goes nuts. Remember
the samba schools that parade in Rio’s annual carnival? They're the cultural expression of the
Dionysiac impulse for abandon. A ritual of a contrastingly sacred nature takes place in this town in Umbria. Ubaldo is the
patron saint of Gubbio and the festival takes the form of a manic race, La Corsa dei Ceri, in which
teams representing Ubaldo, who was, in particular, the patron of stone masons, St. Georgio, the patron of merchants, and St. Antonio, the patron of students and
farmers, all carry huge wooden candles, really wood structures that weigh almost a 1000 poundsthrough the streets to a hilltop
church. The race course is 1.8 kilometers up a hill with a grade of up to 12% and the teams of 10-15 men change every 15 seconds, but the miracle is that it’s accomplished in approximately 8 minutes. Hermann Hesse said this about the road running up Mount Ingino and the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo (the spot where the desiccated body lies in state) where the candles are displayed for the remainder of the year: “The magnificent, almost reckless daring of the architecture creates an absolutely astonishing effect and has something incredible and disquieting about it. One seems to be dreaming and looking at the set of a theatrical performance and one has to constantly remind oneself that it really is all there.” La Corsa dei Ceri is really a fixed race in which team Ubaldo always wins, but it’s the kind of ritual whose roots go back to the pagan Umbrian civilization which preceded both Christianity and Rome. Today there's a large population of Italians from Gubbio who have immigrated to Jessup, Pennsylvania and every May 15th they send a contingent of 50 revelers to the festival. While what goes on in Gubbio is a religious festival, the three candles
which can be see in a video called,La Festa dei Ceri may be seen to resemble enormous
phalluses. No matter, man is a social animal and as you look at the frenzied
crowds surrounding the event you realize two things about homo sapiens: 1) they
like to congregate and face life passages in crowds and 2) they’ll do anything for a good time.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.