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 Moor Head  

The Moor's Head ... A Symbol

"[...]" In its original purity, the Moor's head is "right hand", "of sand", "lively", "twisted", without any necklace or pendants, and cut round the neck.[...]" As for the "tortil", it is either on the forehead, or on the eyes. And it can even miss, although its presence is considered, by most of the treatises on Heraldry, as an essential element of the figure."

From the kings of Aragon to the Revolution...

[...]" The Moor's head appeared for the first time only in 1281, on a seal of the king Pierre III known as Le Grand. It was quadruple and surrounded a cross. The successors of Pierre III kept on using this emblem during a good century and it was only in 1387 that the King Jean the lst went back to the seal with four pales of his ancestors, that he used alone and that was conserved by his successors as long as the kingdom of Aragon lasted."

[...]" As for Corsica, one should remember that the emblem was not born in our island, that it has been imported there by the kings of Aragon and that it was not attested neither at the end of the 13th nor at the beginning of the 14th century. "

[...]" If in one hand, it is not entirely impossible that certain Corsican chiefs might have taken the Moor's head as a sign for their flags and their etandards,it is , on the other hand certain that the flag with the Moor's head has not been, in that same period [13th to 17th century], the official flag of Corsica."

[...]"On the 12th of March 1736, a German baron who illegitimately assumed titles so prestigious as sham; disembarked in Aleria "[...]" Theodore de Neuhoff was accompanied everywhere, in his triumphant march through Corsica, by a portrait where he appeared in his ceremonial dress. At the bottom of this portrait, appeared a blazon which was made in this way: at the center, a square shield surmounted by a royal crown, itself surmounted by a globe. In the shield, a Moor's head turned towards the right of the one who looks at it, wearing a blindfold on the eyes, tied behind the head."

[...]" So, it is to this "sham king", to this adventurer who reigned during only six months that we owe the presence of the Moor's head on the official flag of Corsica. Thus, the popularity of Theodore was immense in Europe..."[...]"From now on,the Moor's head is known in the whole Europe as the official symbol of the armies of Corsica."

[...]" It was with Pascal Paoli that the flag with the Moor's head has become the official emblem of the Corsican nation."

[...]" At the beginning of his career of General, Paoli did not think about innovate in this subject. He kept the emblem which was chosen, in January 1735, by the insurgent chiefs, including his father, in the "Consulta" of Corte. The standard beared the picture of the Virgin Mary."

[...]" But in 1760 Paoli imagined a change."
[...]" We see that he introduced an important innovation to the flag of the "Consulte" of 1735, for he gave up the picture of the Virgin Mary."
[...]" he put back the Moor's head as it was represented on the maps of the time and [...] on the arms of Theodore. But as regards to Theodore, he introduced a new difference: the removal of the chain."

dpmaur01.jpg (18199 octets)

Musée Ethographique de Bastia

[...]"On the 24th of May 1761, it was decided to strike currencies "bearing the arms of the Kingdom". Those currencies[...] bore the arms of Corsica in their definitive version. A cartouche enclosing a Moor's head turned towards the left with a blindfold on the forehead, tied behind the nape of the neck and a necklace with two or three beads."

[...]" Paoli decided to raise the blindfold which was as we have seen, on the eyes in the arms of Theodore. A word of him, cited by one of his biographers give us the reason of this comment: "The Corsicans want to see things in a clear way. Freedom must walk by the torch of philosophy. Could we say that we seem to fear the light? "

[...]" These words are corroborated by Arbrogio Rossi: "The general was in the habit of saying by laughing: "From now on, the royal "blindfold" is well placed as it has to be and properly to our dignity and not for our shame, as our ennemies wanted. "

[...]" The story of the Moor's head did not end at that time." [...]" The French kept it and added to it fleur-de-lis but by totally removing the blindfold. At first, the Revolution gave to the new department of Corsica, arms where the Moor's head was side by side with the fleur-de-lis and with a motto: The Law, the King. But from 1792, this motto disappeared although the Moor's head and the fleur-de-lis still remained. When Paoli formed the anglo-corsican kingdom, the Moor's head which was associated to the arms of the king of England, became again, from 1794 to 1796, the official emblem of Corsica."

[...]" Appeared at the end of the 13th century on the seals of the king of Aragon, maybe borne by a few Corsican chiefs of the party of Aragon on the 14th and l5th centuries, reappeared on an Italian atlas of the 16th century, widespread by it through the Europe of the cartographers, brought back to Corsica by Theodore de Neuhoff in 1736, has become with Paoli the official emblem of the independent Corsica, such is the extraordinary historical parable of the Moor's head."

[Extracts from the book : Trois Etudes sur Paoli by Pierre Antonetti  - La Marge édition]

History Headings :
A brief Chronology / The Figures of History
The Sites and Monuments / Vendetta and Bandits d'Honneur

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