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Flags of saints

Last modified: 2018-09-09 by rob raeside
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Saints' flags

As far as I know, most older saints were granted fantasy coats of arms in the Middle Ages (even God and the Devil got them!), so at least banners of arms could have been created from them. I'm not learned on the subject but I know at least that main personas of the Christian "pantheon" have regularly used colors; blue and silver for the Virgin Mary (or is it gold?) and red and green for Saint John -- these last ones being the remote cause for the current Portuguese flag colors.

These medieval coats of arms also influenced at least some later heraldic devices of Military Orders in saint's names. Today I'm sending putative banners of arms of some of them.
António Martins, 19 February 1998

In the early, less regulated days of heraldry, the designers rather took the bit between their teeth and galloped off in all directions at once. Important people in their own time all had coats of arms, therefore it was only common sense that the even more important people in the past also had them. St Wilfred's arms are seen in York Minster and St Wilfred's Church, three gold suns on blue. St Wilfred lived five hundred years before heraldry was invented! The early heralds even assigned arms to Christ and to Adam, although I doubt if even they went as far as to assign them to God and Satan. 
Michael Faul, 5 October 2001

In Christian symbolism several saints are associated with specific crosses, either of a specific colour and/or of a specific shape.

Saints associated with a cross of a specific shape:

Saints represented by crosses of fixed colours and shape: Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 17 June 2000, 14 January 2001, 17 June 2001
Santiago Dotor, 15 January 2001
Marc Pasquin, 14 January 2001
António Martins-Tuvalkin, 27 June 2001
Ivan Sache, 2 April 2003

The use of specific colours for specific saints originated from the British Isles to mirror the case of Saint George (as used by England). As a result, it's only in traditions originating there that "A Cross of Saint Andrew" is enough to indicate both shape and colour (and colour of the background). Elsewhere this would have to be "A white Cross of Saint Andrew (on a blue field)".
Though the Cross of Saint George has always been a Red Cross throughout on White, in the British Isles, under the influence of the Union Jack, it has become limited to symmetrical crosses, and this same limit applies for the other similarly shaped crosses. The result of this development is that any symmetrical cross is now sometimes defined as "A Saint George cross of such on such colours".
All those coloured crosses of the British Isles are crosses of Martyrs, with one exception. This is caused by the fact that the original Cross of Saint Patrick was a cross with a specific shape instead. The modern Cross of Saint Patrick was created to fit in with the Cross of Saint George and the Cross of Saint Andrew to allow adding it to the Union Jack. Patrick was not a Martyr.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 17 June 2001

Cross of Saint Michael

[Portuguese templars] image by Michael Wilson

[Portuguese templars] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 7 March 2017

Is this flag truly fixed? Someone on the Francovex list recently talked about the French-used white cross on blue as being the St-Michel cross so I'm wondering if either one is mistaken or the both combinations can be accepted (such as the Scottish and Russian saltire both being referred to as St-Andrew).
Marc Pasquin
, 11 July 2004

The blue cross on white is referred to as the Cross of St. Michael at
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 18 May 2016

[Portuguese templars] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 18 May 2016

On the Renouveau français website a flag with a white cross on blue is seen and identified as being derived from the banner of St Michael.
Tomislav Todorovic, 18 May 2016

The above source was from a Masonic site, which suggests a limited use of this design for the banner, i.e. within the Freemasonry. It shall be noted that many of higher Masonic degrees are modelled after the chivalric orders and other armigerous bodies, which extends to the symbols used, but those are always modified by the Freemasons - use of unchanged symbols would certainly be illegal. Consequently, it is quite possible that the banner of St Michael with blue cross on white field is one of such modifications, created for the use by Freemasons only.
Tomislav Todorovic, 7 March 2017

Some other sources for the white cross on blue field: - p. 6 and onwards
Tomislav Todorovic, 19 May 2016

Evidence that a white cross on blue field was indeed used as the symbol of St Michael is the Tapestry of the Winged Harts (French: Tapisserie des Cerfs ailés). This tapestry, which is nowadays kept at the Departmental Museum of Antiquities, Rouen, France, was created in the 15th century, to commemorate either the eventual French victory in the Hundred Years' War [1] or the founding of the Order of St Michael [2]. The first of these events would put the creation date [1] between the Battle of Castillon (1453) and death of Charles VII (1461), while the latter [2, 3] would put it between 1469 (the Order's founding year) and death of Louis XI (1483). The tapestry depicts three winged harts, the animals which served as the badge of French kings [1]; two of them bear collars in form of the crown with pendants in form of the royal shield of arms (azure three fleurs-de-lys Or) and are entering an enclosure, where the third of them is guarding a long swallow-tailed flag edged with gold fringes, which is described as that of the Order of St Michael [2] and could be blazoned as: gules semy of estoiles Or, over all St Michael charging at the dragon, both proper. Depicted as a knight, St Michael is given a proper heraldic shield - azure a cross argent. Two winged harts entering the enclosure are thought to symbolize Normandy and Guyenne, brought back to French rule after the battles of Formigny (1450) and Castillon (1453) [1], while the one which is already there would symbolize France herself, St Michael being her patron; this veneration [1] owed much to the fact that the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel had never been conquered by the English during the Hundred Years' War, which is why it was eventually chosen as the founding site and official seat of the Order of St Michael [1, 3]. To complete the allegory, there are two lions outside the enclosure, obviously unable to enter, symbolizing the defeated English [1].

This tapestry reveals a blue cross on white field as the (banner of) arms of St Michael, but also the origin of white cross as a much used symbol in the flags of Ancient Regime.

[1] Tapestry of the Winged Harts at Wikipedia (in French):
[2] Piskel, Djina: Opšta istorija umetnosti, vol. 2 Belgrade: Vuk Karadžic', 1969. Original title: Gina Pischel, "Storia Universale dell' Arte", vol. 2 (c) 1966 Arnoldo Mondadori - CEAM, Milano
[3] Order of St Michael at Wikipedia (in French):

Tomislav Todorovic, 7 March 2017