Florence celebrate Easter Sunday with a very special event called Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), which attracts thousands of spectators. Its origins date back to the 1400s although the roots of this tradition can be traced back to the First Crusade in the 11th century when a young noble Florentine called Pazzino de’Pazzi was the first one to climb the walls of Jerusalem to raise a Christian flag after a long siege. As a reward for his courage, Pazzino’s commander gave him three stones from Christ’s tomb, which the brought back to Florence.
|Scoppio del Carro|
The Pazzi family used the sacred stones for Easter celebrations to kindle a new holy fire that was distributed to local families as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. Nowadays, the flints are preserved in the Church of SS. Apostoli and are still used for the Scoppio del Carro event that over time has become the highlight of Easter celebrations in Florence.
On Easter Sunday, a priest lights the Easter candle using the Pazzino’s stones as flints at the Porta al Prato. They are also used to light coals that are placed in a beautifully decorated cart (“Brindellone”) equipped with fireworks. Pulled by white oxen through the city’s streets the cart delivers the Holy Fire to Il Duomo escorted by a marching band, flag throwers, city officials, clergy and a procession in historic costumes.
At 11am while the Gloria is sung in Il Duomo, a mechanical dove glides on a wire attached to the cart to ignite the fireworks for a splendid show. The pyrotechnic display lasts for about 15 minutes to the ecstatic crowd’s cheers.
Every year Florentines hope for a good explosion of the cart as it is believed that if the ancient ritual goes smoothly and the dove lights up the fireworks, there will be good harvest and good luck for the city in the year ahead.
Photos via Flickr by: Monica Kelly, Marco Marchetti.