The event of the Scoppio del Carro has its origins in the First Crusade,1097, when Europeans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem in a conflict to claim Palestine for Christianity. It became the practice for a «holy fire» to be struck from these flints at Eastertide, which was then carried throughout the city by groups of young men bearing torches. By the end of the 15th century, the Scoppio del Carro assumed its present form. Additionally, farmers from the Florentine countryside still observe the Scoppio del Carro with interest for this traditional reason.
According to tradition, it was the Florentine Pazzino de 'Pazzi who was the first to climb the walls of the holy city where he placed the white and vermilion banner. For this deed of valor, Godfrey of Bouillon gave him three splinters of the Holy Sepulcher. Returning to Florence on July 16, 1101, the brave captain was very celebrated and welcomed with solemn honors. The three stones were initially preserved in the Palazzo dei Pazzi and then handed over to the Church of Santa Maria Sopra a Porta in Mercato Nuovo, then enlarged and renamed as the church of San Biagio until, in 1785, this was suppressed. From May 27 of that year the sacred relics were definitively transferred to the nearby Church of Santi Apostoli where they are still jealously preserved in a special crypt. Historians have handed down to us that after the liberation of Jerusalem, on Holy Saturday, the Crusaders gathered in the Church of the Resurrection and, in devout prayer, gave everyone the blessed fire as a symbol of purification. The Easter custom of distributing the holy fire to the Florentine people dates back to this ceremony. In fact, after Pazzino's return, every Holy Saturday, the young people of all families used to go to the cathedral where, at the blessed fire that burned, they lit a fecellina (small torch) respectively and then went, in procession singing lauds, to the city. to bring the purifying flame to every domestic hearth. The holy fire was lit with the sparks released by the rubbing of the three stone chips of the Holy Sepulcher.
With the passing of time the development of the feast became more and more articulated so the custom was introduced to transport the holy fire with a chariot where, on a tripod, the fiery coals burned. It is not known when, instead of the tripod, fireworks were used for the "explosion of the cart" but it is believed that this dates back to the end of the fourteenth century. The Pazzi family was entrusted with the organization of the wagon and the burden of the related expenses. The privilege of this ancient family ceased in 1478, due to a provision from the Republic which drove the Pazzi out of the city following the famous conspiracy hatched by them against the Medici. The conspirators were killed and the Signoria, to erase everything related to the disgraced family, ordered that the chariot no longer burst, keeping only, by tradition, the distribution to the people of the blessed fire, which was to take place among the Baptistery and the Cathedral. The Florentines, however, did not like the spectacular abolition of the "outbreak" and tried by all means to have the provision of the government of the Republic revoked, and this not so much out of respect for the Pazzi family but because they did not want the offer of the Easter fire would return to be carried out in the simple way used in ancient times, without the characteristic and thunderous ceremony that has now become a custom. Therefore the Signoria ordered the Consuls of the Major Art of Calimala, administrators of the Baptistery of San Giovanni, to provide for future celebrations as they used to do before the conspiracy. In 1494, shaken by the preaching of Christian morality by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, the city expelled the Medici and another government provision returned to the de 'Pazzi family its ancient rights and privileges, including that of organizing the Holy Saturday wagon. This chariot was initially much simpler than the current one, and due to the explosions and flashes it endured every year, after the ceremony, it had to be almost completely restored. It therefore seemed right to the Pazzi to set up a much more solid and impressive one that should last forever. The large three-tiered "triumphal" type chariot was therefore built, which for centuries, although restored several times (even after the tragic flood of the Arno in 1966), has enjoyed excellent health.
Meanwhile, a fire is struck using the historic flints from Jerusalem at Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli. It is then carried in procession to the cathedral square by members of the Pazzi family, clerics, and city officials. The cart is loaded with fireworks while a wire, stretching to the high altar inside the cathedral, is fitted with a mechanical dove . Shortly thereafter, at the singing of the Gloria in excelsis Deo during Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence lights a fuse in the colombina with the Easter fire.
If You want see this particularly event during Easter time let us know, because we could organize a private tour, or eventually after our free walking tour of Florence we can give some information how you can will participate at this event.