1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gonfalon

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GONFALON (the late French and Italian form, also found in other Romanic languages, of gonfanon, which is derived from the O.H. Ger. gundfano, gund, war, and fano, flag, cf. Mod. Ger. Fahne, and English “vane”), a banner or standard of the middle ages. It took the form of a small pennon attached below the head of a knight’s lance, or when used in religious processions and ceremonies, or as the banner of a city or state or military order, it became a many-streamered rectangular ensign, frequently swinging from a cross-bar attached to a pole. This is the most frequent use of the word. The title of “gonfalonier,” the bearer of the gonfalon, was in the middle ages both military and civil. It was borne by the counts of Vexin, as leaders of the men of Saint Denis, and when the Vexin was incorporated in the kingdom of France the title of Gonfalonier de Sant Denis passed to the kings of France, who thus became the bearers of the “oriflamme,” as the banner of St Denis was called. “Gonfalonier” was the title of civic magistrates of various degrees of authority in many of the city republics of Italy, notably of Florence, Sienna and Lucca. At Florence the functions of the office varied. At first the gonfaloniers were the leaders of the various military divisions of the inhabitants. In 1293 was created the office of gonfalonier of justice, who carried out the orders of the signiory. By the end of the 14th century the gonfalonier was the chief of the signiory. At Lucca he was the chief magistrate of the republic. At Rome two gonfaloniers must be distinguished, that of the church and that of the Roman people; both offices were conferred by the pope. The first was usually granted to sovereigns, who were bound to defend the church and lead her armies. The second bore a standard with the letters S.P.Q.R. on any enterprise undertaken in the name of the church and the people of Rome, and also at ceremonies, processions, &c. This was granted by the pope to distinguished families. Thus the Cesarini held the office till the end of the 17th century. The Pamphili held it from 1686 till 1764.