Italians love anything dramatic. So what could possibly be more Italian OR dramatic than lighting a cart full of exploding firecrackers in front one of the world’s biggest and most heavily-visited churches?
Well, if the cart was lit on fire by some sort of crazy mechanical trapeze bird from inside the church, that would be pretty dramatic. OH, and also if the person lighting the whole thing on fire was a priest all decked out in medieval robes. THAT would definitely make it more dramatic. OOH, and let’s make sure that the cart is pulled by GIANT white oxen dressed in frilly flower garlands, for extra dramatic effect. Yeah, that’s good. That’s real dramatic and Italian.
But wait…isn’t that what actually happens at the Scoppio del Carro?
Why, yes. Yes it is. Good job you, for accurately predicting the sheer level of craziness that these lunatics back in the Middle Ages decided to go with when celebrating Easter.
Originally speaking, the Scoppio del Carro dates back to the First Crusades, around the same time that the Europeans laid siege to Jerusalem. Back in 1097, a guy called Pazzi (how appropriate… pazzo=crazy in Italian) was given 3 flints from his commander for being all brave and scaling walls and shit. Good ol’ Pazzi brought those flints back to his hometown of Florence where they decided to store them inside (what else?) a church called Santi Apostoli, or Holy Saints. And so it became tradition to light all Easter holy fires using the flint, which was then distributed throughout the city by groups of young men with torches.
Man, those Medieval people had it good. Imagine getting your very own FIRE delivered to your house on Easter?! Now if only they delivered pizza too…
Anyhoo, that’s pretty much how the Scoppio del Carro started. I’m not really sure how the whole “let’s set the cart on fire!” thing really fit into the equation, but I’m sure somewhere down the line an Italian decided to spice things up by adding some firecrackers and big-ass oxen into the mix, which was really a stroke of pure genius if you ask me.
The Scoppio del Carro starts at 8AM, with the traditional processional/parade leaving from near Porta al Prato and winding through the streets to end up in Piazza del Duomo. The dove-lighting takes place around 11 AM, after the priests have done their blessing things inside the Duomo during Easter Mass. The whole show takes about 20 minutes, from start to finish, so make sure to get there early if you want to be up front in the action!