Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean, is known for its landscapes between sea and mountains, its unique culture and its rich and eventful history.
At the heart of this island is a very important symbol: the Corsican flag. With its black Moorish head, this flag has a deep and symbolic meaning for the inhabitants of the island. You will see it everywhere during your trip, on boats, houses and souvenirs… impossible to miss!
That’s why, in this article, we explain the history, the meaning and the cultural importance of the Corsican flag. At least, what can be explained, because its history remains unclear.
A Bandera Corsa: Description of the Corsican flag
The Corsican flag is one of the most surprising in the world. It is very easy to recognize with its 3 main elements:
- white background
- the head of a black Moor in profile turned to the left (a Moor is an inhabitant of Western Sahara living mainly in Mauritania).
- the white band, today on the forehead of the character
For the uninitiated, the first reaction is often to describe it as the white flag with a pirate on it, because of the banner.
Meaning of the Corsican flag: Moor’s head (testa mora)
The origin of the Corsican flag is debated (see next section), but in any case, what is sure is that the Corsican flag represents freedom, the abolition of domination, the Corsican victory.
FOR QUALITY ADVICE
QUALITY Support us
Do you enjoy all the free content you find on our blog, without intrusive ads?
Our independence, the only guarantee of qualitytips, is partly based on your generosity!
We offer you to give us a coffee (or several) in the hope of sharing it with you one day in person!
History of the flag of Corsica: what we know for sure
The Moor’s head is found as a symbol of Corsica on coins minted by the king of Corsica in 1736 Theodore de Neuhoff.
This flag was chosen as the emblem of Corsica by Pascal Paoli.
It was officially adopted on November 24, 1762 in Corte by the young Corsican Republic, which makes it one of the oldest flags in Europe.
In 1794, Corsica knew a second period of independence but apparently, without this flag.
Each French administrative region is autonomous in the choice of the emblem that appears on its flag. It was not until 1980 that it was finally rehabilitated as a regional flag (according to Wikipedia, but we can’t find another source).
DREAM TRIP TO Corsica
- 7 maps that make planning easier
- 130+ pre-selected locations
- Practical advice
- + 220 photos to help you choose
Origin of the flag of Corsica
There are many hypotheses about the creation of the Corsican flag and the choice of the Moor’s head. Here are the most important ones:
Let’s start with the classic legend about a love story…
According to the legend in the Legends of the Corsican country, of J-A. Giustiniani, it would be the head of a Saracen called Mansour Ben Ismaïl.
The legend begins with the kidnapping of a young Corsican girl named Diana in the 13th century to be sold as a slave to the king of Granada. Her brave fiancé Pablo, goes to her rescue and succeeds in freeing her.
The king of Granada, furious, sends his lieutenant, the famous Mansour, to recover it. This triggered a battle between the Corsicans and the Moors, during which Pablo beheaded Mansur.
This hypothesis is a bit more down to earth.
Corsica has undergone many invasions and wars of domination.
The image of the Moor’s head, would come from the time of the invasion by the Saracens.
To discourage the opponents and win the battle, the Corsican soldiers would have decapitated some of them and impaled their heads on pikes.
This hypothesis is a favorite of historians.
The Moor’s head would come from the Aragonese period, a kingdom that dominated the Mediterranean islands including Sardinia and Corsica.
We find Moorish heads on the flag of Sardagine too.
In the 16th century, Corsica belonged to the Spanish King Philippe II. For its official emblem, the Italian geographer Mainaldi Galerati would have proposed to take over the coat of arms of Sardinia, with only a Moor’s head instead of four.
The most recent hypothesis dates from 2022, by Professor Michel Vergé-Franceschi.
The head is believed to be that of Saint Maurice d’Agaune, a black Egyptian, leader of the Theban legion, who adopted the Christian religion and was martyred for this reason in 303.
OUR TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN Corsica
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars – one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a car that is powerful enough (the roads are steep) but compact (some passages are narrow).
- Think of thecomplete insurance (some roads are tortuous and narrow).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
The origin of the flag is really very unclear.
Some stories even say that originally the Moor had the blindfold and that it was raised to signify one or another of the important historical passages of Corsica such as:
- In 1745, the general of the Corsican armies Ghjuvan Petru Gaffori would have raised it as a sign of freedom: Corsica would finally be able to open its eyes.
- or Pascal Paoli who would have put the headband back on the forehead
- or the king of the Corsicans Theodore de Neuhoff,
- or the general Ghjuvan Petru Gaffori,
- or Napoleon who would have raised him on the forehead of a servant who would have saved his life, thus freeing him from slavery.
But the fact is that there is no evidence of a Corsican flag where the Moor was blindfolded.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO Corsica
Frequently asked questions
Is the Corsican flag racist?
As you may have read, the history of the Corsican flag is rather based on the representation of the warlike and non-racist enemy.
The intent and meaning attributed to the symbol depends on who is using it.
Petitions and debates have been launched on the subject.
It is difficult to say that the Corsican flag is racist in itself. As with any symbol, its interpretation depends on the perception of each individual and the way it is used in a particular context.
Is the Corsican flag prohibited?
Several times there were polemics around the Corsican flag: on the sports grounds, in the street…
But there is no ban on the Corsican flag.
What is the link with the Sardinian flag?
Impossible not to make the link between the 2 flags.
The Sardinian flag is recognizable with the Quattro Mori that are positioned at each corner and the big red cross that divides it in four equal parts.
For Sardinia also, many explanations exist on its origin.
It is therefore difficult to confirm an official link.
Corsica ferries logo
The Corsica Ferries logo recalls the Moorish head on the flag. But she is facing right, with a yellow headband and an earring.
This company was founded in 1968 under the name of Corsica Line, to carry out connections Italy – Corsica then France – Corsica.
It became Corsica Ferries in 1973, recognizable with its yellow color.
HOW TO GET TO Corsica
Option 1: by ferry
Departure from France and Italy
- See all ferry options in our article
- Compare schedules, prices and availability directly
Advantage: you can take your car!
Option 2: by plane
Airports in Bastia, to visit the North, Figari to visit the South, or Ajaccio convenient for all Corsica.