Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), Florence, Italy
ENHANCED BY A HOLY FIRE
Scoppio del Carro, FlorenceFlorence takes you back to the ancient Crusade of 1099, the celebration of which culminated in the Easter festival of the Scoppi del Carro or the Explosion of the Cart. The history of one of the most fascinating festivals of Florence leads to the story of its origins. Pazzino de Pazzi, a Florentine nobleman scaled the walls of Jerusalem with the flag of the Crusaders that signified the winning of the Holy Sepulchre from the infidels. After the victory over the infidels on Holy Saturday, Jerusalem celebrated by giving
everyone the holy fire to purify themselves and their homes. Pazzi’s courage was acknowledged by Goffredo di Buglione, the commander and the leader of the Crusade, with stone splinters from the Holy Sepulchre.
Pazzi shared his triumph with the citizens of Florence by giving them the splinters. As a revered and popular festival, the Scoppi del Carro or the Explosion of the Cart, was honored by striking a flame with the holy splinters. The youth of the city and the families carried torches lit by the splinters from the cathedral and took it on a long procession around the city. This was held on June 24th changed over time to March 27th, on the feast of Saint John with fireworks replacing the torch. The cart that carried the holy fire eventually evolved to that of
the Cart of Saint John built like a tower. The Florentines nicknamed the cart as the ‘Brindellone’ structured to catch fire in the square between the Baptistery and the Cathedral. The three-level cart was structured 10 meters high, 4 meters wide with a 3 meter base. The cart was built with four tiers that would hold children with a man dressed in skins to resemble a saint who stood at the top of tower. The Guild of Merchants chose a poor man for this occasion and paid him 10 lire. Standing at the top, the man would eat, drink and distribute sweetmeats and coins that would bring the crowd around the Cart to grab whatever was thrown down.
Explosion of the Cart, ItalyBedecked in an elaborate fashion with colorful fireworks, the Brindellone pulled by two white oxen with golden horns starts as a celebration for Easter from the church of the SS Apostoli to the Piazza del Duomo. As soon as the cart reaches the square, the oxen are freed from it. A wire is attached to the cart which ranges all the way to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. From the Cathedral there is a wire which is attached to a mechanical white dove which is rigged like a fire rocket. The fire rocket is actually
the dove or the colombina which is the symbol of peace. After a tranquil Midday Easter Mass, the Archbishop lights the dove-shaped rocket from the Holy Fire from the Holy Sepulchre at the High Altar. The dove-like fuse once lit takes off with accurate speed to the Cart which in turn lights up the fire crackers. The Cart burns to the ground in a colorful melee of sound, sight and shades. But the Tuscans firmly believe that if the cart burns with brilliance to the last firework, then all’s well with their world and that their harvest will be plentiful.
With the firm belief that if the Cart burns right down then their lives will be enriched and their harvest would be plentiful. Lighting up their lives with the sacred fire, the Florentines have kept their tradition and their rituals alive to this day.