On Easter morning, an ornate 500-year- old, 30-foot cart is paraded through the streets of Florence Italy by a team of white oxen covered with flowers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FmiZNeYbto&feature=fvwrel.
The oxen cart is escorted by men dressed as Roman soldiers, city officials, musicians and flag-throwers dressed in medieval costumes from the Porta al Prato to the magnificent Piazza del Duomo . This annual event is called Lo Scoppio del Carro. This “Explosion of the Cart” celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and a new beginning.
After the 11:00 Easter Mass in the Duomo, the “Explosion of the Cart” will occur in front of the Baptistery at noon. The cart is pre-loaded with fireworks. A wire that stretches from the altar inside the Duomo is rigged with a mechanical dove with an olive branch in her beak called the “Columbina” (little dove) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT5qr1xqbKo&feature=related.
The olive branch and the dove symbolize the Holy Spirit as well as Easter peace. After the parishoners sing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the Highest) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MuHQ2cxPr8&feature=fvst, the Cardinal of Florence will light a fuse that travels from the Church to ignite the cart in the Piazza. The fire is ignited by historic flints from Jerusalem. During this event, the Bells from Giotto’s Bell Tower will be joyously ringing.
The traditional annual event lasts for about twenty minutes. A successful explosion signifies a good harvest and good business in the coming year which translates into good news for the wine-makers of Tuscany.
Lo Scoppio del Carro festivities originated in the First Crusade when Europeans seiged the city of Jerusalem in an attempt to claim Palestine for Christianity. Bishop Ranieri took over Jerusalem during the First Crusade and on July 15, 1099, Pazzino di Ranieri de Pazzi‘s army defeated Jerusalem and hung a Christian banner on the walls of the Holy City. Pazzino de Pazzi, a wealthy Florentine, was the first man to scale the walls of Jerusalem. As a reward, his commander-in-chief, Godfrey IV de Buillon gave him three chips of stone from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ which he brought back to Florence in 1101.
These flints were held by the Pazzi family for many years and were used to spark the “New Fire” which symbolized new life. The fire was shared with other families to help ignite things around the house like candles and fireplaces. These lights were put out on Good Friday and then lit again on Easter Sunday.
The city of Florence assumed the responsibility and the tradition of passing the fire from Jerusalem. For many years, the stone chips were kept in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Porta, but in 1785, the Holy Sepulcher stones were moved to the Chiesa degli Santi Apostoli. Watch this slide presentation to see the event:
The Holy Fire has traditionally been struck from these ancient flints at Eastertide to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. In 1494, the Cart Explosion was lit in front of the Baptistery for the first time. They were also lit on the street corner of the Pazzi family. The lighting in front of the Pazzi family was discontinued in 1900. Over 500 years ago, the exciting tradition of lighting fireworks on Easter Sunday assumed its present form in Florence.
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Happy Easter!! Buona Pasqua