Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/219

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Collectanea. 183

and white paper, which crowned the top, ran down the four sides, and encircled the intersecting line. The same "Carro" apparently serves year after year.

This structure was mounted upon a wheeled base, hung with crimson cloth and drawn by two splendid white oxen, almost hidden under their crimson " housings," their horns gilded, and huge flat wreaths of flowers and evergreens rising high above their foreheads.

The ceremony of the " Scoppio " takes place on Easter Eve. Early on that day the " Carro " was drawn by the oxen to its appointed station on the Piazza del Duomo, midway between the Cathedral and the Baptistery. The great west doors of the Duomo were opened, and from the " Carro " to a pillar erected in front of the High Altar ran a wire at a height of about 6 feet from the ground. A passage was left down the centre of the nave, the spectators being ranged on either side, and crowding the vast interior from wall to wall.

A little after eleven the service began, but in the prevailing bustle and confusion it was quite impossible to ascertain either the details of the ritual or the words of the prayers. Shortly before 1 1.30 the clergy of the Cathedral, including the Archbishop, came in procession down the nave, chanting as they went, and issuing from the west door, crossed the square to the Baptistery. After a short absence (about 20 minutes) they returned, but now at the rear of the procession walked one of the priests, carefully carrying a lighted candle. This, I was told, was the " Sacred Fire " brought by one of the Pazzi family from Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, and never since extinguished. I imagine that what my informant really meant was that the candle had been lighted at the "Sacred Fire" which was preserved in the Baptistery.

On returning to the altar the celebrant, whether the Archbishop or not I could not see, began High Mass. Precisely at noon the " Gloria " was reached, and as the first words were sung the sacred fire was applied to the pillar, which, like the "Carro," was wreathed with fireworks. This was the supreme moment of the ceremony ; with a hissing sound, amid a shower of sparks, a dove, apparently of fire, flew from the pillar along the wire, — it should have reached the "Carro," and setting that alight, returned to the