21.6.09

Flying Sunday June 21, 2009.


On this day in 524 A.D., Godomar, King of the Burgundians (*) defeated (***) the Franks (**) at the Battle of Vézeronce. So today I will fly my Burgundy Cross.




*The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr (the Island of the Burgundians), and from there to mainland Europe.

** The Franks The Franks were a West Germanic tribal confederation first attested in the 3rd century as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. Under the Merovingian dynasty, they founded one of the Germanic monarchies which replaced the Western Roman Empire from the 5th century. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over large parts of western Europe by the end of the eighth century, developing into the Carolingian Empire and its successor states.

*** This may be wrong. It seems the Burgundians may have been defeated. It appears Sigismund, King of the Burgundians was captured, and put to death by the Frankish in revenge for the death in battle of Chlodomir, the leader of the Frankish army. Whatever the correct events, this is only about an excuse to fly a flag today !!

Burgundy as part of the Frankish Empire between 534 and 843


Spanish connection to the Burgundy Cross

The saltire was originally a Burgundian emblem, first introduced in Spain as the personal badge of Phillip the Handsome (Felipe el Hermoso), Duke of Burgundy and King Consort of Castile and Aragon, having married Joan of Castile and Aragon (daughter of the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Elizabeth). Joan and Phillip were the parents of Charles I of Spain, Charles V as German Emperor.

As such, the badge has been called in Spain "cross (or, more properly, saltire) of Burgundy" (cruz or aspa de Borgoña), even if the term "cross/saltire of St. Andrew" (cruz or aspa de San Andrés) has also been used — St. Andrew being the patron saint of the Duchy of Burgundy. The Burgundy Cross is nevertheless related to St. Andrew indeed, not through the patronage of a Spanish army branch, but through its Burgundian origin.

Saint Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion. It is said that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross) and commonly known as

"Saint Andrew's Cross"; this was performed at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ was crucified.

The Cross of Burgundy flag was used by Spain 1506-1701 as a naval ensign, and up to 1843 as the land battle flag, and still appears on regimental colours, badges, shoulder patches and company guidons. The year 1506 should be considered its theoretical earliest use in Spain (that is, it made appearance on the standards carried by Philip the Handsome's Burgundian life guards), although about 1525 might be perhaps a more likely estimate. The banner strictly speaking dates back to the early 15th century (allegedly 1408 at the earliest), when the Duke of Burgundy, claimant to the French throne, backed up the English in the Hundred Years' War..

It is one of the most important flags in the history of Spain. After the marriage of Joanna of Castile (Joanna the Mad), daughter of the Catholic monarchs, with Archduke of Austria and later Philip I of Castile (Philip the Handsome), it was introduced among the Spanish flags a piece that, although of foreign origin, would later become the Spanish symbol by antonomasia, whatever the color of cloth where it will be embroidered would be (mainly white and yellow). It is more properly called "Cruz de San Andrés" (Saint Andrew's Cross) or, "Vane of Burgundy". This was the symbol of the Archduke. Since Emperor Charles I of Spain, the different armies used the flag with the Cross of Burgundy over different fields, first incorporated to the uniforms of the Archers of Burgundy and later to the rest of the army, painted on the dresses to distinguish themselves in combat. It soon appeared also on the flags that, up to present-day, wear the regiments of Spain.

Both, the Cross of Burgundy and the blazon of the Catholic Monarchs were the first European symbols to arrive to the New World.

During the Spanish colonization of the Americas the Cross of Burgundy served as the flag of the Viceroyalties of the New World (Bandera de Ultramar). Nations that were once part of the Spanish Empire consider "las aspas de Borgoña" to be a historical flag, particularly appropriate for museum exhibits and the remains of the massive harbor-defense fortifications built in the 1600s-1700s. At both San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, and at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cross of Burgundy is daily flown over the historic forts, built by Spain to defend their lines of communication between the territories of their New World empire. The flying of this flag reminds people today of the impact Spain and its military had on world history for over 400 years.


Cross of Burgundy alongside Puerto Rico and U.S. flags at Fort San Cristóbal.