Messina: the legend of Ruggero and Morgana


So the legend goes in Messina that Ruggero the Norman, one day in the year 1060, was walking alone on a beach  in Calabria. He was looking at the Peloritian coast calculating the most efficient way to conquest Sicily, then occupied by the Arabs who had turned it into a rich and prosperous Muslim land.

It so happened that some time before, some courageous cavaliers from Messina were able to get past the Arabs and reach Ruggero at Mileto of Calabria. They expressed the will of the Sicilian people to have Ruggero as their liberator and ruler. this was not only for the Arabs behavior as usurpers and Tyrants.

On the other hand they had done much for the modernization of Sicily making it prosperous and independent; But mostly due their “Caids” who here in such conflict among themselves that they began to destroy and plunder the land and create conflict even among the local population.

And as always, those who bore the burden were most Sicilians, rich and poor alike. Ruggero had already been to Sicily with Giorgio Maniace, an important Bizantine General from 1038 to 1040. They had been sent there by Michael  IV , emperor of Costantinople in order to rid the island of Arabs an to return it once again under the emperor’s rule.

The attempt was unsuccessful due to the Norman troops disassociation from the task, not content about how the loot was being divided. They returned to southern Italy, to Calabria to conquest rich terrains.

Now Ruggero was begged by the people of Messina and was seriously considering another attempt at the conquest of the island.

He would even be supported by the caid of  Catania, who was in conflict with the other Arab Caids of  Sicily. Ruggero thought to rid the island of Muslims, who were in possession of it for two hundred years and re-cristianize the island, in the Latin sense.

But the Arabs very well prepared in matters of  war, therefore this endeavor of Ruggero’s was difficult and risky even with the help that was promised him by brother, Roberto duke of Calabria and Puglia, he only had a small nucleus of Cavaliers and  few troops of soldiers.

He was therefore so taken by his state of mediation and by the intense aroma of the Citrus Flowers (Zagara) in bloom, when suddenly coming from the Sicilian coast he thought he could hear martial war music, alternated with cries and laments of slaves and of pagan imprecations. Hi stopped curious.

An old hermit lived nearby, who had a reputation for his wisdom. Ruggero decided to pay him a visit after having greeted him politely, asked about this mysterious and rare encounter.

The hermit extended his arm and with one finger pointed to Sicilian coast. There, the oranges are in bloom…he said. there music but also crying can be heard…there the Saracens dance and the Christians cry in slavery! I am told you are powerful and also Christian…. why do you not fight and die for your faith?

Ruggero remained silent, he continued walking thinking about Sicily, the Sea began to seethe before him. From a circle of foam on the surface appeared the head of a beautiful fairy, the fata Morgana, carnal sister of King author of England.

She has beautiful kingdoms around the world but in the strait of Messina she possesses the oldest and most beautiful building, and half of all the fairies and Good witches of the the Mediterranean.

She , slowly, emerged with her body and then Ruggero saw her climb up a white and blue carriage that had appeared and when she made a pulling gesture, seven white horses with blue manes took there place, waiting impatiently to cast off in an absurd race over the sea.

The fairy was ready to head south, when on the coast nearby she noticed the worried Ruggero walking slowly. What is it that you are pondering? Shouted Morgana heading in his direction. If it is what I Imagine climb up my carriage and I will take you to Sicily right away, together with a powerful army… Ruggero smiled and greeted Morgana respectfully.

Then gently but firmly , responded: I thank you oh Morgana, but if the Madonna who i Love , and the Saints who protect me will give me their blessing, I will then go to war on my horse and I will transport my army with my ships and I will win by own merit and not for enchantments of a fairy. the Morgana raised her wand three times in the air and threw three white stones into the sea. Look at the power I have, oh Ruggero!… and in that very spot houses, buildings  villas appeared and the Sicilian coast seemed so close that it could be reached by a small leap. There you are , Sicily! Leap on the her, reach Messina and I will make certain that you find the strongest and largest army that you have ever had in war… Ruggero nevertheless impressed by such an enchantment, smiling still refused the offer.

Oh Morgana! you are a great fairy, worthy of the lineage from which you descend. But it will not  be by enchantment that I liberate Sicily from paganism. It will be given to me by Christ, our lord and by his mother, the Virgin Mary whom I have already chosen and adopted as my divine Mother. But thank you, for the offer. Morgana no longer waited. She was a good fairy and therefore respected all convictions, even religious ones, although she herself obviously did not believe in the Madonna or in Saints. she again shook her magic wand in the air and the castles, the streets and villas suddenly disappeared. Away, horses! she yelled laughing from Joy in the sun that flooded the two sides of the strait with light. And her carriage took off at a high speed pulled by beautiful horses towards the southern part  of the island, towards the southern of the island, towards the beaches of Etna. Ruggero, as we know, landed on the shores of Messina in the springtime of 1061 and in a little more than ten years of war, often fought ferociously, and without  having been hit hard, was able to liberate Sicily from the Arab domination. His descendants formed a Kingdom and turned it into one of the most rich and advanced lands of that time.

Where to stay in Messina

There are hotels, B&Bs, condo hotels and apartments available, check them out and make a reservation here.