The Origins of Sardinia’s Dramatic Flag

The flag of Sardinia, called the flag of the Four Moors or simply the Four Moors (ItalianI quattro moriSardinianSos bator moros in Logudorese or Is cuatru morus in Campidanese), is the official flag of the autonomous region of SardiniaItaly, and the historical flag and coat of arms of the Kingdom of Sardinia.

There are separate Spanish and Sardinian traditions to explain the origin of the flag and there is no consensus among scholars as to which is correct. According to the Spanish tradition, it was a creation of King Peter I of Aragon, celebrating his victory at the Battle of Alcoraz in 1096. It was said that St. George miraculously appeared on the field of battle and that there were four severed heads of Saracen kings at the end; thus the red cross and white background of the St George’s Cross and the heads of four Moors.

 The Sardinian-Pisan tradition attributes the arms to a banner given by Pope Benedict VIII to the Pisans in aid of the Sardinians in a conflict with the Saracens of Musetto who were trying to conquer the Italian peninsula and Sardinia. This flag however has inverted colours and no heads on it.

According to some, the flag derives from Alcoraz victory of 1096, is linked to the Crown of Aragon, and represents the Spanish Reconquista against the Moors who occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. It is composed of the cross of St. George, also a symbol of the Crusaders fighting in the same time in the Holy Land, and the four severed heads, representing four major victories in Spain by the Aragonese: the reconquest of Zaragoza, Valencia, Murcia, and the Balearic Islands.

The four Moors became the symbol of the Kingdom of Sardinia at its foundation, with the single Moor’s head Corsican flag dating back to the same era. It became in time the flag of the island and its people. In any case, the meaning of the symbols, either two holy warriors or Moor heads cut off, makes it an emblem of warring Christianity, crusader in the broad sense of the term, originated in a historical period of bitter conflict between Islam and Christianity, in which Sardinia was fully involved.

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