Moor’s heads are traditional decorative elements in Sicily, represent an ancient legend dating back around 1100, when Sicily was under the rule of the Moors.
Moor’s heads are traditional decorative elements in Sicily. These hand-painted ceramic vases, depicting a head with Moorish features and decorated with a turban adorned with fruit and flowers, are usually displayed along with a woman’s head.
These decorations date back to a legend from around 1100, when Sicily was under the rule of the Moors. It is said that there was a beautiful, fair-skinned girl with eyes as blue as the sea who lived in the Kalsa district of Palermo. She spent her days at home, tending to the plants on her balcony until one day, a Moor happened to pass by and fell in love with her.
The man was determined to win the girl over, so he declared his love for her. She was so struck by him that she returned his love, but her happiness vanished when she learned that the man would soon leave to return to his native land where he had a wife and two children who awaited him. Wanting revenge, the girl killed the Moor while he slept and cut off his head. She then used the Moor’s head to plant basil, which flourished.
This legend led to the tradition of the Moor’s heads, which can be found in many places in Sicily, as well as to many short stories and even a detective novel, Il Basilico di Palazzo Galletti (The Basil of the Galletti Building) by Giuseppina Torregrossa.