Muslims in Lucera

Muslims in Lucera : 800 years ago muslims were deported from Sicily to Lucera in Puglia and their influence is still visible in the town.

After some time in Italy you stop noticing the churches. There are simply too many, and they are all distinctive and yet tediously similar. Still, this church in Lucera made me look twice, because the corner turret looks distinctly like a minaret. Not surprisingly, as the cathedral was built in 1300 on the grounds of the last standing medieval mosque in Italy.

Muslims in Lucera

As soon as you enter Lucera you’ll see Saracen bakeries, Saracen auto mechanics and Saracen souvenirs. The present inhabitants are proud of their historic bonds to the Muslims, who were deported from Sicily by Frederick II (yes, he’s the builder who sprinkled castles all over Puglia), because they challenged his power. The Muslims were originally Persians, Berbers, Arabs and local people who had converted to Islam during the almost 350 years of Muslim domination and Norman rule in Sicily, and they fought the Holy Roman Emperor and the House of Hohenstaufen. In consequence, they were expelled and 20.000 resettled in Lucera.

The hill on the Foggia plain served as a controlled environment, where the Muslims could not challenge royal authority. Instead, they turned Lucera into the political and cultural capital of Islamic communities in Italy, and for 80 years they served the Emperor by paying taxes and doing military service. In 1300, the Angevin monarch Charles II of Naples took over and encouraged by the Roman Church he destroyed Lucera and expelled the Muslims. Their houses and land were expropriated and the people who did not convert to Christianity were exiled to Albania, butchered or sold as slaves.

250 years later Muslims took revenge through the massacre in Vieste, but the minaret in Lucera is still standing as an emblem of a time when Christians and Muslims lived together in some kind of harmony.

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16 replies
    • admin
      admin says:

      There’s some nice Moorish architecture in Palermo, but the remains in Puglia don’t compare to Alhambra and Granada in Spain – unfortunately.

  1. AdriBarr
    AdriBarr says:

    What a terrific post. I love learning new things about Italian history. Thanks for the “enlightenment.”

    By the way I stopped by after seeing your Tweet. Being connected is a good thing.

    • Rel
      Rel says:

      Christians have gone through great lengths to hide their African Islamic roots. It was Muslims from Africa who introduced pasta too Italy. Even today as Italy is known for its fashion. It was the Moors who also introduced fashion so to speak to Italy and Sicily. Along with a variety of fruits and vegetables that are still major exports in those countries today.
      Most of what is Spanish culture is derived from North and West African Muslims

  2. Sarah Irvine
    Sarah Irvine says:

    I’m glad to see that contemporary Lucerans are proud of their city’s heritage. In case anyone gets confused, Frederick II actually had tremendous respect for Muslims, to the point where many accused him of being “unchristian” … The politics of Sicily get complicated, and the resettlement was tragic, but I think we should recognize that not all Europeans considered Muslims as infidels. Frederick II actively promoted Islamic culture and learning, much to Europeans’ benefit!


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