Florence, Italy, is home to the captivating “Cart Explosion” (Scoppio del Carro) folk tradition. This event, held on Easter Sunday, features a cart brimming with fireworks, creating a magnificent display deeply ingrained in the city’s heritage.
The Scoppio del Carro has roots in the First Crusade when Pazzino de’ Pazzi, a valiant Florentine, climbed the walls of Jerusalem in 1097. As a reward, he received three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which now reside in the Church of Santi Apostoli.
The flints’ “holy fire” became an Easter ritual, as torch-bearing young men dispersed the flames throughout Florence. This custom evolved into the present-day practice of rolling a cart carrying a large candle to the cathedral to share the holy fire.
By the late 1400s, the Scoppio del Carro assumed its current form. Its origins might be rooted in pagan beliefs, with the spectacle of light and noise promising a bountiful harvest. Rural Florentine farmers still honor this custom for its traditional significance.
On Easter morning, a 30-foot-tall antique cart, used for over 500 years, journeys from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo. White oxen decorated with spring flora pull the cart, accompanied by 150 people dressed in 15th-century costumes, including musicians and soldiers.
A fire is ignited using the Jerusalem flints at Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli and is then transported to the cathedral square by a procession featuring the Pazzi family, clerics, and city officials. The cart, filled with fireworks, is connected to a mechanical dove (the “colombina”) in the cathedral via a wire.
During Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence lights the colombina’s fuse with the Easter fire as the Gloria in excelsis Deo is sung. The colombina then races through the church, setting the cart ablaze outside. The bells of Giotto’s campanile peal during these events, and the ensuing 20-minute fireworks show is believed to ensure a fruitful harvest, civic stability, and thriving businesses.