Easter in Florence: rocketing doves and exploding carts

Easter and the exploding cart Photo: Flickr CC / lars 20070

The origin of the bizarre Easter celebration in Florence dates back to the time of the First Crusade, when the Florentine captain Pazzino dei Pazzi, returning from Jerusalem in 1101, brought with him three pieces of stone (allegedly) from Christ’s tomb. From then until today, the three stones are used to make a spark to light the Easter candle, a symbol of Resurrection, victory of life over death.

This holy fire was originally distributed to the people throughout the city in a simple cart that stopped in the streets and squares. The one used today, which in Florence is called the Brindellone, was made by the Pazzi family in 1494 and is a very elaborate construction, hardly recognisable as a cart.

On Easter morning, escorted by a procession, the Brindellone begins its journey from Via Il Prato, where it is kept for the rest of the year. Pulled by two pairs of white oxen, it crosses the city streets and arrives in Piazza del Duomo, in front of the cathedral.

Explosions and flying doves

At 11am, to the singing of the ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’, the fuse of a rocket powered mechanical dove is lit, which, from the high altar, flies on a zip wire to the Brindellone and sets fire to the fireworks arranged inside the structure starting an explosion, which symbolises the distribution of the blessed fire to the whole city.

The dove, after the explosion, makes its way back to its starting point inside the cathedral. If its journey is interrupted it is said to be an unlucky sign for Florence: in 1966, the year of the citiy’s catastrophic flood, the dove stopped halfway.

The full schedule is here

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.