Every year on Easter Sunday (this year on Sunday April, 4th), Florentine citizens gather in Piazza del Duomo to watch a dove-shaped rocket, called the “Colombina”, fly out of the famous Duomo. It then ignites a huge wooden cart structure in the square outside.

Lo Scoppio del Carro – Origins

The history of this event combines religious artifacts with pyrotechnic machinery. While the ultimate purpose of it, as a good “pagan” ritual, is to secure a good harvest, its pagan roots are less clear than in many other similar events all over Italy.  Tradition holds that the explosion of the Carro, called the Brindellone, goes way back to the semi-legendary exploits of Pazzino de’Pazzi, a Florentine warrior who was the first man to climb the walls of Jerusalem in July 1099, during the First Crusade. For this deed he received from his commander two shards of stone from the Holy Sepulchre, shards which were subsequently used to start an annual “holy fire” during Holy Week.  This ritual fire used to be transported through the city as a religious relic for all to see.

Lo Scoppio del Carro – The Middle Ages

By the Middle Ages this “holy flame” had come to be transported in a Carro, a simple carriage that transported a large candle through town on the 24 June, day of “San Giovanni”, patron saint of Florence.  By the 18th century, the simple Carro had metamorphosed into a tremendous tottering structure, 30 feet tall, divided vertically into four niches that held small boys, with a poor ragged fur-clad man on top, representing Saint John. The otherwise unemployed man was paid 10 lire to distribute candy, bits of food and other goodies.

Lo Scoppio del Carro – Today

Today the ceremony still bears a strong resemblance to the way in which it has been celebrated for centuries. On the morning of the day the Carro, pulled by two white oxen, leaves from Via del Prato for the Piazza del Duomo, accompanied by costumed revellers, city officials and clerical representatives.

Enjoy the experience of a special Easter in Florence! Picture thanks to beautiful Janelle and her family who rented an apartment through Firenze Lodging in 2010