The history of the Explosion of the Chariot of Florence
From the flight of the Columbine to the Brindellone, everything you need to know about the Florentine Easter tradition
It is a show between faith and tradition that every year attracts thousands of people from all over the world. An appointment with roots far back in history but always alive in the hearts of Florentines.
One of the most beloved and considered unmissable is undoubtedly the "Scoppio del carro" (Explosion of the cart) in Piazza del Duomo which is celebrated on Easter Day (click here to find out everything about the 2021 edition). This tradition of ancient origins has as its protagonist a relic, still used today during this recurrence, on which the whole event is centered.
Legend has it that during the first Crusade in 1099, the noble Florentine captain Pazzino De' Pazzi was the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem and the first to raise the crusader banner over the city. In recognition of his courage, he received as a gift some flints from the Holy Sepulchre, which he brought to Florence and which were kept by his family until it was expelled by the Medici.
The relics were then transferred to the Church of SS. Apostles where they are still kept. The stones are still used to light the sacred fire on Holy Saturday, which is then transported in procession to the Duomo under the escort of the Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, recognizable by the cross of Jerusalem that stands on the left shoulder of the white cloak.
On Sunday morning, however, the procession of the wagon affectionately called "brindellone", carried by white oxen, which crosses the city followed by the historical procession and flag-wavers along with the highest city authorities, to finally position itself between the Duomo and the Baptistery. The "Brindellone" is guarded with love by Giampiero Bernardini, guardian of the cart for 40 years, read here his unmissable interview.
Inside the cathedral, thanks to Pazzino's flints, the "sacred fire" has been burning since Saturday, used to light the fuse that will make a small rocket in the shape of a dove dart along a rope connected to the cart.
The dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, flickers outward amidst the sparks and will in turn generate a series of repetitive discharges of the cart's firecrackers, culminating in an explosion of fireworks and bangs.
The jamming of the colombina and the failure to complete its trajectory is considered a bad omen for the current year, which will therefore be ominous.
In fact, the Florentines remember that the last time the "colombina" failed in its mission was in 1966, the year of the last terrible flood that struck the city of Florence.
One last curiosity...the term "grullo" in Florence is really connected to this celebration. The "grulli" were the peasants who accompanied the oxen of the cart and their resigned, slow and sleepy appearance made them rather ridiculous compared to the pomp of the sophisticated audience.
All that remains is to wish you a Happy Easter and a wonderful flight of the colombina!