Easter in Florence, the Scoppio del Carro
The origin of the Scoppio del Carro
The Scoppio del Carro (“Explosion of the Cart”) is an ancient Florentine tradition that is celebrated every year on Easter morning. The origin of the Scoppio del Carro dates back to the Middle Ages and in particular to the enterprise of Pazzino dei Pazzi who was the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem on the occasion of the first crusade in the year 1099. Following this great test of courage, Goffredo of Bouillon gave the Florentine three stone chips from the Holy Sepulcher; an important relic that is still preserved in the church of Santi Apostoli in Florence.
When Pazzino returned from the crusade, he introduced to Florence the tradition that the crusaders had to light a blessed fire on Holy Saturday. Every year, therefore, the stones brought back from Jerusalem were used to give life to this purifying fire that the Florentines used to light the domestic hearth.
The ceremony for the Scoppio del Carro
Over time, this custom turned into a spectacular event that has in a pyrotechnic cart, which the Florentines call “Brindellone“, its absolute protagonist. Every Easter morning the Brindellone is pulled by two pairs of oxen up to Piazza del Duomo, between the Baptistery and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The ceremony begins with the Corteo della Repubblica Fiorentina (Procession of the Florentine Republic) that parades along the streets of the center starting from the Palagio di Parte Guelfa in the direction of Palazzo Vecchio. From there, the procession continues to the Church of Santi Apostoli to escort the sacred fire to Piazza del Duomo.
At 10 am there is the draw for the Calcio Storico Fiorentino which establishes the tournament semi-finals, while the Scoppio del Carro is scheduled for 11.
How the Scoppio del Carro works today
Inside the cathedral there is the so called Colombina(a little rocket dove) which, once lit by a fuse, runs along the 150 meters of the nave along a metal wire to reach the Brindellone outside the church. Once the dove has reached the cart, it starts an intense fireworks display that lasts about twenty minutes in a series of bursts and lightning. When the wagon is reached, the dove must be able to go back to the starting point.
The Brindellone is a large tower shape decorated wagon about ten meters high. During the year it is stored in a warehouse, easily recognizable by its huge wooden door, in Via il Prato 48, from which it comes out only on the occasion of Easter. The main feature of the wagon is the impressive number of charges, ready to explode following the flight of the dove, which it carries with it. It is not known with certainty the date on which the cart was conceived: it is assumed that the first version dates from the late fourteenth century while the present chariot dates back to the 18th century.
Colombina and forecasts for the coming year
According to tradition, the success of the flight of the colombino indicates that for Florence it will be a lucky year; otherwise, if the dove does not succeed in completing the entire planned route, the year will not be positive and the harvest will not be rich as desired.
One of the last times that the flight of the dove was not successful was the year 1966; in November of the same year Florence was struck by a terrible flood that caused several victims and enormous damage to the city and its cultural heritage.
Also in 2018 the flight was not successful as the dove was unable to complete the return to the Duomo, we hope that this year will be better!
Program of ceremonies for the Scoppio del Carro 2019
Saturday 20 April
- 8.35 pm: Procession of the Florentine Republic (from the Palagio of Parte Guelfa to Piazza della Signoria)
- 8.45 pm: The Mayor with the Banner joins the Procession of the Republic, to reach the Church of the Holy Apostles
- 9.00 pm: The Procession enters the Church of the Holy Apostles for the blessing, then with the Porta Fuoco and the reliquary with the Stones of the Holy Sepulcher in Piazza del Duomo
- 9.30 pm: Deployment of the Procession on the sides of the Central Gate of the Cathedral where the procession joins the Sacristy from the Sacristy.
- 10.00 pm: Start of the vigil and ignition of the fire 22.30: The Procession and the Banner return to its seat
Sunday 21 April
- 6.15 am: Arrival of the oxen at the Cascine, viale dell’Aeronautica
- 7.15 am: Departure of the oxen from the Cascine towards via the Prato
- 7.30 am: The “Chariot of Fire”, accompanied by the Historical Procession of the Florentine Republic, starts from the deposit of via il Prato to reach piazza del Duomo
- 8.10 am: A representation of the Bandierai degli Uffizi reaches Piazza della Repubblica with subsequent reunification with the Procession from Via il Prato
- 8.20 am: A representation of the Historical Procession of the Florentine Republic leaves from Piazzetta di Parte Guelfa towards Piazza San Giovanni arriving at 9.40
- 9.30 am: Arrival in Piazza San Giovanni del Corteo with the Chariot of Fire
- 10.00 am: Draw for the match of the matches of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino
- 11.00 am: Scoppio del Carro
How to watch the Scoppio del Carro
The Scoppio del Carro has now become an event well known even to tourists who often wonder if it is necessary to buy tickets to attend. The answer is no, no tickets are needed; the show of the explosion of the wagon is a free event. Given that the square is always very crowded in this circumstance, I advise you to go there in advance to take up a position and enjoy a good view during the ceremony.
If you have no way of going to Piazza del Duomo, you can follow the ceremony in television on RTV38 (channel 15) or live streaming on the RTV38 website.