Monday, April 1, 2013


Finally, after two years of disappointment I was able to see the Scoppia del Carro, the traditional blowing up of the cart in front of the church here in Florence. I realize now that while I've talked around this topic a couple of times, I've never actually described it here. It definitely needs a little explaining.

It's a tradition that dates back (so they say) to the first crusade, when an Italian brought back three flints from Jerusalem as reward for service. A fire is started with these flints in the church where they are kept and then this fire is carried to the Duomo in the center of town in the cart (which seems a little dangerous to me as the cart is loaded to the scuppers with fireworks.) This tradition, in much the same form as today has been happening  for over 500 years.

White oxen decorated with the first flowers of the spring pull the cart from the westernmost city gate to the Duomo in the center of town accompanied by a hundred and fifty people in medieval dress. There's a band and flags and guards and of course the Ecclesiastical party that escorts the holy fire used to light the fuse.

Once the cart is parked in front of the church the more modern activity takes place, which would be using a boom truck to finish putting the fireworks onto the top of the cart. They piped music into the piazza from inside the church to make the process seem a little more almost worked.

There was one break in the drama. Someone missed their cue or the timing was off because there was almost a whole minute of silence between the final "Amen" and the ringing of the bells in Giotto's bell tower but as the first bells started echoing off the walls a fuse in the shape of a dove shot out of the church doors and into the cart, igniting the fireworks and then returned on the guide wire to the high alter in the church. 15 minutes of non-stop action followed. If all the fireworks go off and the dove returns to the alter Florence will prosper that year with good harvests and a stable community. If it doesn't....well, in 1966 it didn't and the city was devastated by flooding. Let's just say whether they believe it or not everyone does their part to ensure that the pageant goes off without a hitch.

The cart has been used for centuries.

Modern equipment make
it possible to add
even more fireworks.
Using what I assume to be the "ancient and
traditional ladder" to place even
more fireworks.

People dressed as medieval farmers
handed out flowers and eggs.

My dad thinks five miles is close enough to fireworks so I've always seen them from very far away. Today I was about 20 meters away from the fireworks. There was plenty of smoke, lots of ash and it was very loud what with the sound bouncing off all the stone walls and cobblestones. It's an interesting combination of ancient traditions tied to the earth and fertility held in front of and with the consent of the church. Completely worth standing in the rain crushed together with strangers to see a ceremony that has been performed for centuries.

Probably more smoke than they intended.

It's quite an impressive display of power
in front of the largest church in town.
As a little side note: I wonder just how many photos my hand and camera appear in? Ha!

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