Mora of Caltagirone Ceramics
Size: 33cm x 25cm x 25cm
Walking through the Sicilian streets it is easy to be enchanted in front of the majestic Moro heads, also known in Sicilian as “Graste”, which for centuries have enriched and colored the balconies of this magnificent land. Daughters of a millenary tradition, these prestigious works of art with refined craftsmanship are not born from a deliberate artistic imagination, they all find a common origin in an ancient legend: protagonists of this poignant story are a young Moor and a beautiful Sicilian girl.
According to the legend, around the year 1000, in the height of the domination of the Moors in Sicily, in the Arab quarter of Palermo “Al Hàlisah” (which means the pure or the elect), now called Kalsa, a beautiful girl lived her days in a sweet as well as solitary quiet, dedicating her attention to the loving care of the plants on her balcony.
From the top of her flowered balcony, she was one day noticed by a young man, a Moor. Overwhelmed by a violent passion for her, the young Moro did not hesitate for a moment to declare his love for her. The young woman, struck by the promise of love received, welcomed and returned with passion the sentiment of the daring suitor.
Yet the young man, who had had no qualms about abandoning himself to the sweetest profusions of love, hid a heavy secret in his heart:
In fact, his wife and children were waiting for him in the East, in that land to which he now had to return
The girl destroyed in learning such news and embittered by that betrayed love that was now preparing to abandon her, was seized by a fatal rage that inexorably pushed her to take the path of revenge. She thought about seizing the moment of greatest vulnerability of man to repay the merciless disloyalty previously suffered.
So in the night, while he fell into a deep sleep and was resting unaware of his fate, she seized the right moment and struck him mortally. The dark-haired man who had loved her and who was about to leave now would never have abandoned her. She also decided that the face of that young man, yet dear to her, should remain by her side forever, so without any hesitation she cut off the young man’s head, creating with it an object similar to a vase, and placed a sprout inside. of basil.
The choice to plant basil was sanctioned by the fact that, as she well knew, this fragrant plant (from the Greek “Basileus – Re”), has always been accompanied by an aura of sacredness, representing in fact the herb of the sovereigns; in this way, despite the terrible act performed, she pursued the foolish loving purpose of continuing to take care of her beloved.
Finally he laid his head on her balcony, dedicating every day to the care of the basil that grew in it. Every day the young woman’s tears bathed the royal plant, which grew and became more and more flourishing and luxuriant. The neighbors, pervaded by the scent of basil and looking with envy at the plant that matured in that particular vase in the shape of a Moor’s Head, had terracotta vases made that reproduced the same features of the one lovingly guarded by the girl.
Today every Testa di Moro that is produced bears a crown, an ever-present element aimed at re-proposing the royal plant that originally embellished the head of the young Moro protagonist of the sad story.
The Moors of Caltagirone
In particular, the Moro Heads of Caltagirone are renowned, the main place for the production of very high quality ceramics. A production that has become the pride of the city over the centuries, also due to its rich past of Greek, Byzantine, Arab, Genoese and Norman dominations, which led (in particular during the Greek and Arab presence) to the development of the precious art of Sicilian potters.