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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
in church and processions were adopted from Constantine's use of the labarum-the cross-banner which was carried in the van of his army. They were used to commemorate the Easter victory of our Lord. The sacred banner of the Maccabees had the initial letters of the Hebrew words forming the text Exodus 15:11. The emperor Heraclius in 621 took a picture of the cross to battle in his war with Persia, and carried the cross on his shoulders up Calvary as an act of thanksgiving, which was the origin of the festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The earliest instances of banners in England are those of two guthfana, war-vanes or standards, which were given by bishop Leofric to Exeter Cathedral. But St. Augustine before this had entered the gates of Canterbury with a banner of the cross carried before his procession, singing a litany. The banner of St. Cuthbert was of white velvet with a red cross of the same material, and contained in the centre St. Cuthbert's corporax cloth.
It was fringed with red silk and gold, and had three silver bells attached to it. It was of great weight, and five men assisted the bearer when it was carried in procession. Pope Gregory III sent a banner which he had blessed to the king of France. Leo III gave one to Charlemagne; and Alexander II sent another to William of Normandy for his invasion of England. Philip II of France also received a papal banner. King Henry V carried a cross-banner in his expedition against the Lollards; and in the rising of the North in 1570 the rebels carried a banner embroidered with the five wounds, a chalice, and a cross, with the legend In hoc signo vinces ("thou shalt conquer by this sign"). The banners of St. John of Beverley, St. Peter of York, and St. Wilfrid of Ripon were carried on a sacred car, crowned with a cross, by archbishop Thurstan in 1138; at the battle of the Standard, or Northallerton, an imitation of the caroccio invented by Eribert, archbishop of Milan, in 1035; and beneath the banner of St. John, carried by a priest, Edward I fought against the Scots. Henry II carried the banner of St. Edmund of Bury to the battle of Fornham, Oct. 16, 1673.
Round the shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham the banners of the king of Scotland, lord Neville, and other noblemen were placed as ornaments and acts of homage. The earl of Surrey borrowed St. Cuthbert's banner (which was carried at Flodden), and, as Skelton says, that of St. William of York in his Scottish campaign. Ferdinand and Isabella chased the Moors out of Granada, led by the crossbanner. The English Henrys and Edwards fought beneath the banners of St. Edmund the Confessor and St. George. In later days captured flags were suspended round the dome of St. Paul's, and the banners of the Bath and St. George at Westminster and Windsor. Henry VII offered the banner of St. George at St. Paul's after his victory at Bosworth. The oriflamme, or banner of St. Denis, was always carried before the kings of France in battle, as by Philip le Bel and Louis le Gros; and regimental colors invariably receive benediction by a priest before their presentation. Pope. Pius V in 1-568 "baptized" the duke of Alva's babel, or standard, by the name of Margaret. After the Reformation in England, Cartwright mentions "bells and banners in rogations, the priest in his surplice saying gospels and making crosses." In parish processions banners are still carried in front of choirs at Peterborough, Southwell, and other places. At Salisbury, before the Reformation, three large banners were carried on Ascension-day-two in the midst, of the cross, and one in advance, representing the Lion of Judah; while in the rear was his trophy, the image of a dragon. At Canterbury they included the arms of noble benefactors. In some places till recently a lingering relic of banners might be seen in the garlands suspended upon the poles which were carried at the perambulation of parishes.
Casalius says the procesion resembles a celestial host rejoicing in the triumph of Christ, and displaying the sign of the cross and banners to the discomfiture of the powers of the air. And Cranmer said, "We follow His banner as Christ's soldiers, servants, and men of war, fotr the remembrance of him, declaring our proneness and readiness in all things to follow and serve him" — a thought which beautifully harmonizes with the admonition at holy baptism, that we should serve under Christ's banner, and fight manfully against his enemies, continuing his faithful soldiers and servants unto our lives' end (Psalms 20:5). Banners were used at weddings and funerals; the lesser guilds borrowed those of the parish church.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Banners'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/banners.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Second Week of Advent