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Lo Scoppio del Carro

Easter with a Bang

Lo Scoppio del Carro

Celebrating Easter with a bang is the oldest living tradition in Florence.

Lo Scoppio del Carro (the 'explosion of the Cart') goes back to the thousand-year old custom at Easter of re-lighting all the city's lamps and hearths with holy fire, sparked by flints that were supposedly chipped off the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (and are now kept in the church of SS. Apostoli). The flints were struck to light the Easter Candle, which in turn would light a pot of embers and coals to be delivered by an ox-drawn cart (the brindellone) to all the households in Florence, starting with the Pazzi family, whose ancestor, according to legend, was awarded the sacred flints for his bravery in the First Crusade.

In 1494, the Florentines began to liven up the proceedings by loading pyrotechnics on the cart. The Medici Pope Leo X introduced a rocket in the shape of a dove (the colombina) symbolizing the Holy Ghost, which at a key moment in the Easter Mass descends on a wire from the Cathedral altar to ignite the firework-packed cart, which over the years became more and more elaborate until it reached its current 30-foot height in the 17th century.

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History and Sidelights

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by Monica Kelly