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Easter and the "explosion of the cart"
According to tradition this festival dates back to the period of the first crusade, more preciously July 15th, 1099, year when the army crusade conquered Jerusalem.
It was Pazzino di Ranieri of the Pazzi family, who rose the Christian banner on the walls of the Holy City. For this, Pazzino received the reward of three chips of stone, by the 'commander-in-chief', Godfrey IV de Buillon, having said to be part of the Holy Sepulcher of Christ, brought to Florence on 1101.
At first, the chips were under custody of the Pazzi family, and later entrusted to the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Porta, later called San Biago, until they were moved to the nearby Saint Apostles church in 1785 where they are still found and guarded today.
These chips were used to kindle the first spark of the "new fire", symbol of the new life that begins with Easter. After the fire was blessed, the flames were distributed to other families to use in their homes. All fires were extinguished on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus and then relit again on Easter Sunday.
Thus, the custom believed to have been developed in Jerusalem during the crusades; the distribution of the Holy Fire to both lay and clergy, as a sign of Christ's resurrection, was adapted by the Florentines.
For centuries the holy fire, kindled by the chips, blessed, and carried to the Cathedral was used to light the wax of the clergy and people and the lamps of the church during Easter celebrations on Holy Saturday. On this accession, the fire was placed in a cart, which with time became always more splendid, and brought to the dwellings of the town's people, beginning with the residence of the Pazzi family.
In 1494 gunpowder was added to the fire and set off in front of the Baptistery, where still today the lighting takes place, and again on the street corner where the houses of the Pazzi families stood.
When Leo X , Giovanni of the Medici's, was pope (1513-1521) the 'colombina" little dove, a rocket shaped dove with an olive branch in its beak, was added to the celebration to symbolize the Holy Spirit and Easter peace. Since 1957, this ceremony has been moved to Easter Sunday, during Mass, a fuse attached to the dove is lit from the holy fire kindled by the stone chips, which shoots it down a wire extended from the Cathedral to the cart in front of the square. The cart, loaded with fireworks, explodes with the dove rocket igniting pyrotechnics of fabulous splendor for the entire piazza to see. Since its origin, the "scoppio del carro"festival has been elaborated with historical costumes and representatives bearing the heraldic insignia of the Pazzi family to celebrate this century old tradition.
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