Chim: David Seymour's Humanist Photography
National Gallery of Art, home page
Image: David Seymour (Chim), The Great Day of Gubbio, the Festa of the Ceri, c. 1951, gelatin silver print David Seymour (Chim)
The Great Day of Gubbio, the Festa of the Ceri, c. 1951
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ben Shneiderman
© David Seymour Estate/Magnum Photos

Italy

The Great Day of Gubbio, the Festa of the Ceri

On his own, Chim began a project to document Italy's great religious festivals. He was especially interested in those that had long histories, pageantry, and fervor. In the early 1950s he attended Gubbio's famed Corsa dei Ceri—the race of the candles—an annual civic and religious celebration that likely dates to the twelfth century.

On the morning of May 15, each of three colorfully attired teams parades through the city with a "candle," a half-ton wooden pillar topped with a statue of a saint. In the evening, the three teams race up a steep hillside to reach the church atop the city where the ceri reside the rest of the year.

Chim, his camera always at the ready, here captures an unusual event: one of the ceri has toppled, and its bearers, joined by spectators, are trying to right it. The caption on the reverse reads, "When a Ceri tips over it is considered a great shame for the confraternity carrying it, and for months after the talk goes on in the cafes of Gubbio about it."