Messina: the legend of Colapesce and the Emperor

Legends of MessinaLegend tells that Colapesce was a beautiful fisherman who lived in the city of Messina. Near Cape Pelorus (a place already linked also to the legends of Orion and Scylla and Charybdis), to be precise.

And his exploits were famous throughout the area: he untie networks, informed of the arrival of a storm, carried messages from Messina to Reggio and vice versa.

His reputation was so spread that came to the ears of the Emperor Frederick II, who stayed in Messina in 1221. There are three different versions of the legend of Colapesce.


  • Frederick II wanted to challenge Colapesce’s skills. He proposed a test after which the fishermen could marry the emperor’s daughter. The woman dropped three times her ring in the Strait of Messina. Colapesce could recover it for two times. The third, due to the extreme depth, he couldn’t emerge any more.
  • According to another version, it was the very Frederick II to throw in the sea a cup of gold. Colapesce dived but, due to the increasing difficulties and to the depth, he emerged no more.
  • The most striking version of the legend is definitely the third. One day the emperor asked Colapesce to dive and discover on what Messina was founded. Colapesce discovered that Messina was founded on three pillars: an intact, a chipped and a broken one. To prevent the city of Messina from sinking into the sea, the fisherman himself replaced the broken column.


Image source:

Related articles