The story of la Festa dei Ceri begins with the birth Ubaldo Baldassini in 1084. Orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle, the bishop of Gubbio, Ubaldo was no stranger to the Church and spent his youth studying for the priesthood. After dedicating his life to Christ, Ubaldo was appointed Bishop of Gubbio in 1128. He served as Bishop for many years and proved to be a true father to his people. He was known for his kindness, gentleness and generous spirit of forgiveness. As bishop, he performed a number of miracles - giving sight to a blind man and saving the town from a civil war. His most notable miracle, as passed from generation, was saving the town of Gubbio from the invasion of German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.
In 1155, Barbarossa began his invasion of Umbria. The German army sacked and pillaged many of Gubbio’s neighboring hilltowns. As smoke from the German invasion of Spoleto rose over the mountains, the townspeople of Gubbio took to the city walls for safety. Aged and in poor health, Ubaldo slipped out of the city gates and began the long and treacherous hike up the mountainside to meet the conquering army with the hopes of saving Gubbio from a similar fate.
After several days, the townspeople of Gubbio began to fear the worst of their beloved bishop’s fate. Panicked and afraid, the people began praying for safety from the barbarian’s imminent attack. Out of nowhere, a small group of townspeople spotted Ubaldo coming down from the mountain side. The townspeople placed Ubaldo on an H-shaped platform and raced him through the streets of Gubbio to reassure the town that he was physically unharmed and Gubbio would be safe from the German invasion. A celebration of thanks ensued, thus began the tradition of la Festa dei Ceri.
Years later, San Giorgio and Sant'Antonio were added to the festival to represent the social classes of Gubbio - Sant'Ubaldo (the stonemasons), San Giorgio (the merchants) and Sant'Antonio (the farmers).