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Scoppio del Carro: Florence's explosive Easter tradition

Florence celebrates Easter with spectacular fireworks display.

Florence marks Easter Sunday morning with a centuries-old tradition called the Scoppio del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart, which attracts large crowds every year.

The ritual is believed to date back to the First Crusade in 1099 when, according to legend, the Florentine Pazzino de' Pazzi was the first man to scale the walls of Jerusalem.

His bravery was rewarded by Crusade leader Godfrey of Bouillon with three pieces of stone from the Holy Sepulchre which were duly taken home to Florence.

The stone relics were first housed in Palazzo Pazzi before being moved eventually to the church of SS Apostoli where they remain today.

In the 12th century the custom began of using the stones to spark the Paschal fire, on the eve of Easter Sunday, with the blessed flames brought around the city in a cart.

Scoppio del Carro. Photo credit: GIACOMO MORINI / Shutterstock.com

 

Over the centuries the wagon used to carry the flames was embellished with decorations and in the late 15th century the gun powder tradition began.

The tower-like "brindellone" chariot used today dates to the 17th century and was designed by the architect and pyrotechnic magician Bernardo Buontalenti.

The historic ceremony begins when a team of white oxen adorned with garlands of flowers pull the elaborate wagon from the church of SS Apostoli to the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore.

Escorted by soldiers, drummers and flag-throwers in mediaeval costumes, the cart is loaded with fireworks and the so-called "colombina" mechanical dove linked to the high altar inside the cathedral with a wire.

At the singing of Gloria in excelsis Deo during Easter Sunday Mass, the archbishop of Florence lights a fuse on the colombina which speeds through the church to ignite the cart outside, delighting the crowds with a spectacular, noisy pyrotechnic display as the bells ring out in Giotto's Campanile.

This year the spectacle is scheduled to take place at 11.00 on Easter Sunday, 31 March 2024.

Cover photo: Pecold / Shutterstock.com.

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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