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Gubbio, Italy

Basilica of the Mummified Saint Ubaldo

The venerated body of a 12th century saint is celebrated each year with the 'Race of the Candles.' 

There are two ways to make the climb up Gubbio’s Mt. Ingino to visit the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo. You can hike for 40 nearly-vertical minutes, or you can ride in the Funivia, a kind of cable car where the “car” looks like a human-size birdcage.

However you make the trip, at the top the 16th-century basilica houses the mummified body of a 12th-century bishop named Ubaldo Baldassini. He is well-appointed in white robes and a high, pointy mitre, jewel-encrusted and laid out on a silk pillow. The body is encased in a crystal-walled sarcophagus placed on a tall altar, all backlit by an arched stained glass window.

Gubbio is a medieval hill town in the Umbria region of central Italy, with panoramic views and ancient architecture. Ubaldo was elected as bishop of Gubbio in the year 1126, and following his death in 1160 he was declared a saint. In addition to a good number of attributed miracles, he is known for his patience and heroic gentleness, celebrated in an annual procession on May 15th, the evening of his death.

On this day, the people of Gubbio make a pilgrimage up to the basilica with lit candles to honor Ubaldo’s memory, and following the procession is the Festa dei Ceri (also called the Corsa dei Ceri), the Race of the Candles, in which three teams carry 15-foot long (4.5 m) wooden staffs (they represent the candles) over a thousand feet (300 m) of vertical elevation from the center of town up to the basilica.

Know Before You Go

The Basilica of Saint Ubaldo is at the top of Mt. Ingino in Gubbio, Umbria, about 25 miles northeast of Perugia.

The church is open to visitors and has regular daily mass. It is accessible by a 40-minute hike, or an adrenaline-inducing ride on the cable car. A round trip is 6 euros, but the view is spectacular. The annual festival and Race of the Candles is May 15th of every year.

Contributed by
Laura Zazueta
Edited by