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La Trinacria: The Symbolic Emblem on the Sicilian Flag

May 5, 2023 2023-06-20 11:45

La Trinacria: The Symbolic Emblem on the Sicilian Flag

La Trinacria: The Symbolic Emblem on the Sicilian Flag

A figure of Myth, History and Legend

The Sicilian Triskelion, known in Sicily as La Trinacria, is a very ancient symbol that is widespread throughout the world and is strongly linked with superstition. Sicilians used to decorate vases, everyday objects and their homes with the Trinacria in order to ward off evils. So entrenched was this belief that there used to be a custom in Sicily of placing a Trinacria behind the door of the house in order to protect the household. Today it can be found everywhere, from flags to postcards, and from ceramics to textiles.

The reason why this particular figure has become the symbol of the region is simple: the three legs represent the three vertices of the island, namely the capes of Capo Boeo to the north-west near Trapani, Capo Peloro to the north-east near Messina and Capo Passero to the south, near Syracuse. Even in the Odyssey, Sicily makes an appearance in the words of Homer, who names it the ‘Trinacria’, literally the land of three points.

Legend has it that, in ancient times, three wandering nymphs travelled about collecting the most beautiful things that nature provided them, such as stones, trees or fruit. When they arrived in the place that is now Sicily, they found it so beautiful that they decided to stop, scattering everything they had collected into the sea at three different points. At these three points the waters of the sea opened up, and thus three mountains sprang up; the space between them rose out of the water, and Sicily, with its peculiar triangular shape, was born.

The Composition of La Trinacria

As curious and extravagant as the effigy of the Trinacria may be, it is nonetheless shrouded in mystery, and its connection to the Sicilian land is rooted in mythology. The symbol of the Trinacria is composed of three key elements. The head, which forms the central body of the Trinacria, is actually that of a Gorgon, more specifically Medusa, who, as the myth goes, turned anyone who looked at her to stone. For this reason, Medusa’s head symbolises the removal of evil.

Medusa, the Gorgon whose face appears on La Trinacria
A carving of Medusa

The three legs, bent at the knee and sprouting from Medusa’s head, recall the changes of life and seasons. According to some, they represent the victory of the sun over darkness, and of good over evil, but they may also indicate the cycle of life: the past, the present and the future.

The woman’s hair is made of snakes, an animal symbol of many cultures and religions, which by changing its skin represents renewal and rebirth. The eagle wings have the meaning of a force of life, as spirit overcoming matter. Finally, some versions of the Sicilian Trinacria include wheat, symbolising wealth and fertility. According to some historians, ears of wheat were added to the Trinacria by the Romans, as they considered Sicily to be their granary.

On the flag, yellow, the colour of gold, could indicate the wheat of Sicily or the sunlight shining on the island. The red symbolises the blood shed by the Sicilians in the Vespers wars.

by Raffaella Lo Iacono and Will Scott

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Sicilian Culture: Our Roots on the Island - Manima World

[…] culture is unique. The island, dubbed La Trinacria, often referred to as a melting pot of cultures and a crossroad of civilisations, holds a […]

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