Walk into any ceramics store in Italy and you’ll find a strange but beloved symbol of Italy’s past. Nestled between the ceramic plates and cups lies the Chicken Pitcher. Also called the Rooster Pitcher, this ceramic bird’s story hatched during a 15th century attempted murder plot.
In 1478 the Medici’s ruled the Republic of Florence. This powerful family, led by Lorenzo the Magnificent, held immense wealth, power and land holdings. Lorenzo and his brother, Giuliano, often held festivals to reward peasants successfully working their land. Only one family challenged the Medici’s reign over Florence, the Pazzi’s. Knowing that Giuliano loved a good party, and his drink, the Pazzi family enlisted a conspirator to suggest a festival for the now vanished village of Gallina. Giuliano agreed and the murder plot was a go. Pazzi assassins waited until the festival ended and Giuliano slumbered in a wine induced sleep.
But the not so smart assassins made so much noise sneaking through the village they woke up the village roosters. Before the would-be killers could reach Giuliano and his guards, roosters started crowing and alerted everyone to their presence. All of the Pazzi’s hired hands were captured and executed. A grateful Giuliano hosted another festival the next night and ordered artisans to craft ceramic copies of roosters in the form of wine pitchers. He presented those pitchers to the peasants as a symbol of good luck in warding off evil.
Unfortunately for Giuliano the next Pazzi conspiracy succeeded. Fast-forward to today and you can find these ceramic chicken, or rooster pitchers in most Italian homes. They are often given as housewarming gifts to protect against trespassers and other dangers.