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Explosion of the cart in Florence
Photo ©Stefano Cannas

Easter in Florence and the Explosion of the Cart

The Explosion of the Cart is one of the most important traditional events in Florence, starring the so called brindellone, a 9 meters high cart covered in fireworks.

If you haven't decided yet what to do during the Easter holidays, hurry up!
In 2018, Easter is on April 1st!
On Easter day in Florence there's a special atmosphere in the air, not only because it's spring time and the whole city is in bloom but also because, especially for locals, Easter means the Explosion of the Cart.

What is the explosion of the cart exactly?
explosion of the cart
explosion of the cart - Credit: Kirsten Hills

The Explosion of the Cart is one of the most important traditional events in Florence, starring the so called brindellone, a 9 meters high cart covered in fireworks. Every year hundreds of people – Florentines and tourists – are part of this social event and follow a procession with traditional costumes, musicians and flag-wavers.

The departure of the procession is in Porta al Prato. After going through the streets of the center of Florence, the corteo arrives at Piazza Duomo in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. Then at 11 am, during the Easter Mass, the Archbishop of Florence ignites a dove shaped rocket that – following a wire – goes from the altar in the direction of the cart.

When the so called colombina reaches the brindellone the firework show begins. It lasts about 20 minutes and meanwhile the bells of Giotto’s Campanile ring out. But it’s not over yet: the dove shaped rocket is supposed to go back to the altar along the wire!

If it succeeds, it means a good year is coming.

Historical background

The event of the Scoppio del Carro has its origins in the First Crusade, when Europeans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem in a conflict to claim Palestine for Christianity. In 1097, Pazzino de Pazzi, a Florentine from a prominent family, was by tradition the first man to scale the walls of Jerusalem. As a reward for this act of bravery, his commander gave him three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which were then carried to Tuscany.

These stones have been kept in the Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli and, for several years, on Easter day, they had been used to light a “holy fire” which was then carried throughout the city as a symbol of purification.

As time went by, this tradition evolved into something similar to what we can see today: a cart bearing a large candle used to be carried through the city up to the cathedral, from where the holy fire would be distributed.

By the end of the 15th century, the Scoppio del Carro assumed its present form.

Video and photo credit: Kirsten Hills
She is a video journalist based in Florence. Prior to moving to Italy 6 years ago she worked for BBC. She now works for herself producing promotional videos and filming events.

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