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The Explosion of The Cart of St. John, Easter Sunday in Florence


If you want to witness one of the more interesting and exciting rituals of Easter in Florence, than the "Explosion of The Cart" or "Scoppio del Carro" (the cart itself is also known as "il Brindellone" or the "Cart of St. John") is a must see event on Easter Sunday in Piazza del Duomo.

Here is an excellent video of the entire procession, with drummers, flag throwers, the arrival of the church leaders, and the cart (if you want to see just the cart, fast forward to the 1 hour mark!):

History and Origins

The origins of the Scoppio del Carro are tied to the First Crusade in the 11th century. The story goes that a young Florentine named Pazzino de' Pazzi (a rival family of the Medici) was among the first to scale the walls of Jerusalem, and for his bravery, he was given three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which were brought back to Florence. These flints are used to start the Easter Vigil fire each year, symbolizing the light of Christ resurrecting and spreading across the world.

The Ceremony


The cart of St. John after it has been lit, with various fireworks going off

The event takes place on Easter Sunday in Florence's historic center. The main feature is a large, antique cart (called the "Brindellone"), which is an ornately decorated two to three-story wooden structure. It's pulled by a pair of oxen decorated with garlands of flowers, from Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo, the square in front of the Florence Cathedral.

The high point of the celebration occurs when a mechanical dove (the "Colombina," symbolizing the Holy Spirit) is sent flying down a wire from the high altar of the Cathedral to ignite the cart outside. The cart is wired with various fireworks, and when the Colombina ignites it, the ensuing "explosion" is a spectacular display of fireworks that lasts for about 20 minutes (and is quite loud - if you are sensitive to noise this event may not be for you - and/or bring ear protection, especially for small children).

Symbolism and Beliefs

The Scoppio del Carro carries significant symbolism. It is said to ensure a good harvest, and the success of the explosion is taken as a sign of good fortune for the city and its people for the year to come. The connection of the event with the Holy Fire also ties it to themes of rebirth, resurrection, and new beginnings that are central to the Easter celebration.

Modern Celebrations

Today, the Scoppio del Carro is a major religious and cultural event for both Florentines and tourists, featuring a procession in historical costume, including soldiers, musicians, and people dressed in medieval and renaissance attire, adding to the pageantry and festivity of the occasion. The event is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of Florence and continues to be an important part of the city's Easter traditions, drawing crowds from around the world to witness the spectacular display.

The event starts around 10 a.m, with the The "Explosion of The Cart" happening around 11 - make sure you get there early for a good viewing spot! You can also enter the church for the mass, or follow the cart's procession before or after the ceremony.

Here is a poster of the event from 2012:


A poster for the Scoppio del Carro from 2012

The event takes place in Piazza Duomo, directly in front of the Duomo and the Baptistery:

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