Easter Sunday in Florence - March 23rd
Piazza del Duomo
“SCOPPIO DEL CARRO”
The Florentine tradition of the “Scoppio del Carro” (Explosion of the Cart) comes back from the times of the First Crusade in Holy Land. At present the ceremony takes place every Easter Sunday. That event is believed all over Europe to be one of the most remarkable ancient Easter ceremonies in Italy.
It is known that the main point of that Crusade was to rescue the Holy Sepulchre of Jesus Christ from the control of the unbelievers. Consequently, Pazzino di Ranieri de’Pazzi, member of one of the most powerful families of the Middle Ages in Florence, enrolled under his command two thousand five hundred men to join the First Crusade’s army conducted by Godfrey IV de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine.
After a five weeks siege, the crusaders entered in Jerusalem on the15th July 1099. According to the tradition, Pazzino di Ranieri de’ Pazzi was the crusader who crossed first the fortified walls of the Holy City, holding in his hands the Christian banner for all to see. Because of his heroic achievement Godfrey IV de Bouillon conceded him three of the stone relics from the Holy Sepulchre, which had been saved by the crusaders during the intense fights against the unbelievers. When Jerusalem was liberated, the crusaders distributed among the citizens, in the afternoon of Holy Saturday, torches with holy fire kindled from the pieces of stone rescued from the Holy Sepulchre as a sign of purification. Then Pazzino came back to Florence and he kept on with that sacred ceremony calling for all the young Florentine people to go in procession around the town with a small torch in their hands. At the end of the 14th century the torches were replaced by fireworks and in 1494 by the present cart, which has been perfectly restored along the past five centuries.
Nowadays, after the liturgical reform of the Easter Vigil in 1957, the ceremony starts on Easter Sunday at 9:00 am from Piazzale del Prato with a great parade of flag bearers, musicians and one hundred and fifty citizens dressed like the ancient crusaders. All of them escort the magnificent three-levels cart from the end of the15th century, which is pulled by a couple of white Chianina oxen ornamented with flowers, until it reaches Piazza del Duomo, where faces the monumental Baptistery and the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, projected by Filippo Brunelleschi. Once the cart stands in front of the Cathedral a metal wire is connected, through the open doors, from the High Altar in the Cathedral to the cart.
In the meantime, at 10:00 am a procession of clergy departs from the Church of the Santissimi Apostoli to the Baptistery where the Archbishop of Florence and the Cathedral clergy will receive the holy fire kindled from the small stone relics of the Holy Sepulchre, former granted to Pazzino Ranieri de’Pazzi and currently hosted in the above mentioned church.
At noon, when the “Gloria” of the Easter Mass is sung in the Cathedral, the Archbishop and the deacons, who solemnly concelebrate the Holy Mass, lift up the stone relics to light a fuse fasten to the “Colombina” (a rocket shaped like a dove, with an olive branch in its beak). The “Colombina”, which is connected to the wire, is released from the High Altar sliding along the wire so to light the pyrotechnic mechanisms of different kinds hidden in the interior of the cart, thus to produce an explosion of amazing and multicoloured fireworks. The exultant crowd covering Piazza del Duomo contemplates astonished the wonderful event, somewhat as it were a miraculous happening.
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