Discover Corsican culture
The place of culture and traditions in Corsica
To understand the Corsican identity, notably its origin and structure, it is important to look not only at its history but also its geography, in particular its insularity. The activities practiced there, mainly agricultural and pastoral, also shape this identity. They reflect a culture linked to the land but also to the family, to the ancestors and more widely to a whole community (clan, village...).
The Catholic religion holds an important place in Corsica. The island lives to the rhythm of different events that always arouse a passion that is rarely found in other French regions – processions, brotherhoods, pilgrimages and festivals. It should be noted that the hymn of the "Corsican nation", the Diu via Salvi Regina, is a religious song dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Essentially oral, the Corsican culture is especially expressed through song and language.
The Corsican language, in particular, reveals a lot about the history and the identity of the inhabitants of the Isle of Beauty. It has essentially Latin roots but evolves over time with Tuscan and Genoese influences. In modern times, French influences contribute to the evolution of this language.
If the Corsican language is characterised by a certain coherence on the whole island territory, one observes phonetic or lexical variations particular to the various micro-regions composing the island. This is the case, for example, for names relating to fauna, flora or pastoral life.
The language constitutes the base on which Corsican culture rests. It has always favored transmission of oral traditions from generation to generation. From the beginning to the end of human life, among these traditions one finds tales, lullabies and nursery rhymes but also voceru and lamentu funeral rites and vigils, improvised sung verbal jousts ("chjama è risponde") and many others.
If it was once the language of everyday life, Corsican has gradually faded away in favor of French, the administrative language. Yet, it has not disappeared. On the contrary, in the 1970´s the language experienced a revival. There is little chance that it will disappear since it is taught in all schools. In 2013, the Corsican Assembly voted for co-official status of Corsican and French.
The polyphonic songs, sacred or profane, are emblematic of the Corsican identity. Living folklore, they facilitate perpetuating the insular memory and accompany the various events of the present. The Paghjelle are archaic songs sung by the shepherds whose poetic texts evoke the events of their life. Composed of three voices (the Seconda, the Bassu and the Terza), they still underline Corsican social or religious celebrations.
Traditional sacred polyphonic songs are essential to Corsican religious practices. They are sung during religious festivals, processions and masses; the most representative of them being Diu vi Salvi Regina. Corsican secular and liturgical paghjella singing has been inscribed since 2009 on the UNESCO List of Intangible Heritage.