Pasqua e lo Scoppio del Carro – Explosion of the Cart, Florence, Italy

Easter celebrations and ceremonies take on different formats around the Christian world and some more traditional villages or towns have their own special ceremonies. One such special festival has been taking place in Florence since the times of the first Crusade in 1099. For centuries, the city of Florence has been celebrating the Easter holiday with the traditional Scoppio del Carro or Explosion of the Cart.

On Easter Saturday morning, at approximately 9 a.m., a parade of musicians, flag-throwers and dignitaries in colourful Renaissance costume escort a tall wooden cart along the streets of Florence to the Piazza del Duomo – cathedral square – and place it between the main door and the Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni), where the Explosion of the Cart festival is held.

Nicknamed Brindellone – meaning tall and wobbly in Florentine dialect – the cart is laden with fireworks and pulled by four stately huge white oxen of the local Chianina breed, which are kept on municipal farms for this specific purpose. Meanwhile, another procession moves from the ancient church of Santi Apostoli by the Arno, carrying a fire kindled with the flints from the Holy Sepulchre which have been kept here since 1785.

Around 11 a.m., during the celebration of Easter mass in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, all the bells peal in unison and the bishop uses the holy fire to ignite a dove-shaped rocket, which shoots along a steel wire from the high altar through the central nave of the cathedral and to the Brindellone outside, starting a whirlpool of fireworks, bangers and colourful Catherine-wheels. This sounds pretty spectacular.

Traditional belief is that if the explosion goes smoothly and the dove makes it safely back to the altar, the year’s harvest will be good and plentiful. The poor bishop must feel the heat to shoot the rocket well to ensure good fortune for the people.


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