Scoppio del carro in Florence

Thu, 03/19/2009 - 07:12

Italy is famous for its spectacular celebrations surrounding Pasqua (Easter), and none is more explosive than the Scoppio del Carro in Florence on Easter morning.

"The Explosion of the Cart" is a tradition with roots in the First Crusades when, after the crusader army took over Jerusalem, Pazzino di Ranieri de' Pazzi declared it a Christian city by raising a banner on its walls. As a reward, he was given three chips of stone from the Holy Sepulchre of Christ by Godfrey IV de Bouillon; the stones were transported to Florence in 1101 and used to light the "new fire," which symbolized new life after Christ is risen at Easter.

Traditionally, this new fire was blessed and distributed to citizens of Florence, just as the ritual had been performed in Jerusalem. Over time, the holy fire became transported on a cart, first to the Pazzi family and then to the rest of the city's dwellers. Around the end of the late 1400s, the cart began to charged with explosive powder and, more recently, fireworks.

During the early 1500s, the "colombina," a dove-shaped rocket holding an olive branch in its beak, was introduced; it is ignited by the holy fire, setting off the entire cart in a series of explosions. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit as well as peace.

The Scoppio del Carro ceremony is conducted by clergy and city representatives in historical costumes bearing the insignia of the Pazzi family, and the exuberant crowd is sprinkled with holy water that had been blessed during the Easter vigil liturgy the night before.


Have you ever heard of or been to the Scoppio del Carro?