Thursday Seminar: “Florence as New Jerusalem. The Rite of Lo Scoppio del Carro and the Regular Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem”


Thursday, December 6, 2018, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Gould Hall, I Tatti
Image of the event in Florence of the "scoppio del carro"

Speaker: Alexei Lidov (I Tatti / Moscow State University)The Renaissance city of Florence, known throughout the world as a capital of artistic production,was conceived as an image of New Jerusalem and thus as a powerful sacred space.The rite of Lo Scoppio del Carro played a crucial role in maintaining this image for centuries, and it persists even today as a Pascal folk and religious tradition, taking place every Great Saturday in the square of S. Maria del Fiore in front of the cathedral. A petard in the form of the dove of the Holy Ghost, mounted on a wire and shot from the high altar, kindles the carro, or cart, made in the form of the Holy Sepulchre’s aedicula. The powder in the petard itself is kindled by 'holy fire' ignited by flint taken from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and brought to Florence by the crusader Pazzino de’ Pazzi around 1100. The conception of the rite is clear: it had to create a spatial image of Florence as New Jerusalem. This paper presents a new interpretation of this Florentine rite in the context of much bigger phenomenon: that of the regular Miracle of Holy Fire at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, well documented since the ninth century. This, the greatest miracle of the Christian world, had a significant impact on Medieval liturgy, architecture, arts, and above all, on the creation of sacred spaces in both the Byzantine East and Latin West.

Alexei Lidov is an art historian and Byzantinist, a specialist in Byzantine iconography, Christian sacred images and theory of art. He is the founder and director of the Research Centre for Eastern Christian Culture in Moscow (since 1991), the head of the Department at the Institute for World Culture of Lomonosov Moscow State University, a Full Member (academician) of the Russian Academy of Arts, and a Member and Fellow of St Catherine’s College of Oxford University (elected in 2016). Prof. Lidov coined the term 'hierotopy' and established a new field of studies in the creation of sacred spaces. He is the author of more than 120 research publications in many languages, among them 30 monographs, catalogues and collections of articles, including Hierotopy. Spatial Icons and Image Paradigms in Byzantine Culture (2009), The Icons. The World of the Holy Images in Byzantium and Russia (2014), and in conjunction with his present paper, a fundamental collection of articles New Jerusalems. Hierotopy and Iconograhy of Sacred Spaces (2009).