On East Sunday morning people gather to watch two processions went their way through the city of Florence.
Scoppio del Carro
There is a procession with an 18th century chariot drawn by two white oxen with gilded hooves and flowers on their heads. The chariot is blue, burgundy and gold and contains flint-stones from the Holy Land. At the end of the procession it is placed in a central position between the Duomo (Cathedral) and the Baptistry and the oxen are led away.
At the time of the Resurrection a dove (a rocket), which is connected to the chariot by a wire from the cathedral, is released, slides along the wire and, when it reaches the chariot, sets off a deafening explosion. The chariot is full of fire crackers.
The Catherine Wheel on top lights up, starts spinning, ends with a loud bang and opens up, forming the petals of a lily. Four small gonfalons (banners) then apear, bearing the emblems of Florence, the Pazzi family, the Wool Merchants’ Guild and, as a sign of peace in the world, the United Nations.
This is called the Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart), the roots of which go back centuries. All the way to the First Crusade in 1099. Several Florentine knights, led by Pazzino de Pazzi, joined Georffrey of Bouillon on the Crusade to Jerusalem. It was, supposedly, Pazzino de Pazzi who hoisted the standard of the Cross on the battlements of Jerusalem. He was rewarded with some fragments of the stone from the Holy Sepulchre.
On his return to Florence his family received the privilege of carrying around the city, on Holy Saturday, the blessed fire, lit with these precious relics. A fire which was used to renew the flame of all the Florentine hearths.
This privilege was withdrawn in 1478 when the family was banished from Florence. (They were implicated in a conspiracy to murder Guiliano de Medici).
Since then the city fathers have taken charge of the ceremony. It soon became merely symbolic and very similar to the present one held on Easter Sunday.
Like all ancient pagan traditions, the Scoppio del Carro has good and bad omens. If the fireworks explode as soon as the rocket makes contact then there will be good harvests and prosperity for the city. Everyone cheers. If the explosion isn’t immediate the air is filled with groans.
During the rest of the year the chariot is kept in via del Prato and the flint-stones at the Church of ss. Apostoli.
Parade of the Church and Civic Dignitaries
This parade is a wonderful sight with people in colorful medieval costumes. Both processions meet at the Duomo where the entertainment includes the famous flat throwing.
Parade times: The Chariot starts from via il Prato at 9.00 a.m. The Procession of the Clergy begins from the Church of ss. Apostoli at 10.00 a.m.
When planning a trip to Florence to see this spectacle it is advisable to book early – both for hotel accommodation and seats at the Piazza del Duomo.