The gonfalon or gonfalone (from the early Italian confalone), is a long flag or banner, often pointed, swallow-tailed, or with several streamers, and suspended from a crossbar. It was first adopted by Italian medieval communes, and, later, by local Guilds, Corporations and Districts.
It can be designed with a badge or coat of arms, or ornamented with a fancy design. Today every Italian comune (municipality) has a gonfalone sporting its coat of arms.
The gonfalon has long been used for ecclesiastical ceremonies and processions. The papal "ombrellino", a symbol of the pope is often mistakenly called "gonfalone" by the Italians because the pope's ceremonial umbrella was often depicted on the banner.
Gonfaloni was originally the name given to local community, or neighbourhood, meetings in medieval Florence, each 'neighbourhood' had its own flag and coat of arms, and the word Gonfalone eventually became associated with the flag.
Gonfalons are also used in some university ceremonies, such as the ones at Rutgers University .
Gonfaloni (the Italian plural) had great significance as Christian religious objects in Europe during the Medieval period, especially in central Italy. These religious objects consisted of a cloth, usually of canvas but occasionally of silk, supported by a wooden frame with a T-shaped support on the back, and a long pole to hold up the banner during ceremonies and processions. The banners were painted with tempera or oil paints, sometimes on both sides. Images on the gonfaloni included the patron saints of cities, villages, confraternities or guilds, the Virgin and Child, Jesus Christ, God the Father, plague saints, and the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven, Mediatrix, Theotokos, or Madonna of Mercy (Schutzmantelmadonna in German or Madonna della Misericordia in Italian). Because these banners were often associated with a particular group, highly unusual and individual iconography could appear.
These gonfaloni were often commissioned and kept by confraternities, lay religious groups who gathered together for devotional purposes such as the singing of hymns (laudae), the performance of charitable works, or flagellation. The banners would be either displayed on the wall of the oratory or packed away until they were needed for their primary use, religious processions. During processions, the banner would be carried on its pole by members of the confraternity. This devotional act of carrying the banner in procession was believed to be a holy act of worship, and it was hoped that the act would gain divine favour from God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints portrayed on the banner. From the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, plague banners were produced and carried in processions as a way to plead for divine intercession to prevent or cure the plague.
- See also Khorugv, sometimes translated as Gonfalon
In Anglophone tradition it is a seldom-used word, kept alive by baseball historians due to its presence in a poem called Baseball's Sad Lexicon.
The poem was written by Franklin Pierce Adams, a New York Giants fan and sportswriter for the New York Evening Mail. The poem first appeared in the July 18, 1910, edition of the paper. It was about the 1908 pennant race in which the Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant, beating out the Giants in dramatic fashion after a "boneheaded" play by Fred Merkle. The poem contains this phrase...
- Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble
...which in plain English means that the Chicago Cubs of that year continually spoiled the Giants' chances (or "burst their bubble" as people say nowadays) for the pennant which is emblematic of the league championship.
gonfalon in German: Gonfanon
gonfalon in Spanish: Confalón
gonfalon in French: Gonfanon
gonfalon in Italian: Gonfalone
gonfalon in Lithuanian: Gonfalonė
gonfalon in Dutch: Gonfalone
gonfalon in Norwegian: Gonfalon
gonfalon in Polish: Gonfanon
gonfalon in Russian: Гонфалон