The Gonfalonier of the Church or Papal Gonfalonier (Italian: Gonfaloniere della Chiesa, "standard-bearer"; Latin: Vexillifer Ecclesiæ) was a military and political office of the Papal States. Originating from the use of the Papal banner during combat, the office later became largely ceremonial and political. At his nomination, the gonfalonier was given two banners, one with the arms of the Church (vexillum cum armis Ecclesiæ) and another with the arms of the reigning pope (cum armis suis). The gonfalonier was entitled to include ecclesiastical emblems (the Keys of St. Peter and the ombrellino) upon his own arms, usually only during his term of office but on occasion permanently. Pope Innocent XII ended the rank, along with the captaincy general, and replaced them both with the position of flag-bearer of the Holy Roman Church (Italian: Vessilifero di Santa Romana Chiesa), which later became hereditary in the Naro Patrizi.[1]

List of gonfaloniers of the Church

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2010)
The Gonzaga family arms, displaying the papal insignia acquired by Federico II as Papal Gonfalonier
The Montefeltro family arms, displaying the papal insignia acquired by Federico III as Papal Gonfalonier
Term of office Portrait Gonfalonier Appointing Pope Notes
Robert Guiscard Nicholas II
1063–1075 Saint Erlembald Alexander II
c. 1118 Stephen the Norman[3] With Pier Leoni, rescued Pope Gelasius II from Cencio II Frangipane.
c. 1296 James II of Aragon Boniface VIII
King of Aragon and Valencia; Gonfalonier, admiral, and Captain General of the Church; appointed to encourage him to wage war against his brother Frederick III (c.f. Sicilian Vespers)[4]
1372–? Galeotto I Malatesta Gregory XI
Commander of the Papal Army against Bernabò Visconti, whom he defeated at Montechiaro.
1377–1384 Ridolfo II da Varano di Camerino Gregory XI
Appointed by Gregory XI and served as Commander of the Papal Army during the final years of the Avignon Papacy.
1384–1385 Charles III of Naples Urban VI
King of Naples. Excommunicated and removed from office, his forces besieged the pope at Nocera, while the pope later attempted to usurp Naples for his nephew.[5]
Carlo I Malatesta Urban VI
A condottiero.
c. 1399 Martin of Aragon Antipope
Benedict XIII
King of Aragon and Sicily. Gonfalonier of the Western antipope, but refused to wage war against France during the siege of Avignon[6]
1403–? Niccolò III d'Este Boniface IX
A condottiero; also Lord of Ferrara. Appointed in opposition to Milan. Possibly reappointed by Pope Martin V.
1406–? Ladislaus of Naples Innocent VII
King of Naples; appointed for his assistance in helping Innocent VII against the Roman mob.[7] Routed at Roccasecca in 1411, he abandoned Pope Gregory XII in favor of the antipope John XXIII, who appointed him his gonfalonier.[8]
1409–1411 Louis II of Naples Antipope
Alexander V
Opposed to Ladislaus for the Kingdom of Naples, was appointed gonfalonier by the Pisan faction's antipope Alexander V. Despite winning a major victory at Roccasecca, though, abandoned the field and returned to France.[9]
1412–? Gianfrancisco I Gonzaga Gregory XII
A condottiero; also Lord of Mantua.
1431–? Niccolò Fortebraccio Eugene IV
A condottiero; despite his failure to recapture Città di Castello, was hired as Gonfalonier to oppose Sigismund of Hungary in Tuscany and the Prefetti di Vico in Lazio, but fired for using his position to advance his own interests. Thereafter went to war against the Papal States for Milan.
1433–1434 Giovanni Vitelleschi Eugene IV
Commander of the Papal Armies for a short time under Pope Eugene IV.
1434–1442 Francesco I Sforza Eugene IV
A condottiero; while working for Milan, received the position of Gonfalonier along with Ancona as part of the terms of a peace with Eugene, then led the campaign against former Gonfalonier and his former ally Niccolò Fortebraccio.[10] Lost his position after Milan allied with the Papacy against him.[11]
1442–? Niccolò Piccinino Eugene IV
A condottiero. Originally helped Fortebraccio and Sforza against the Papacy, appointed Gonfalonier to recover Sforza's holdings in the Marche.
1444–? Louis, Dauphin of France Eugene IV
Appointed for his actions in Switzerland against the Council of Basel and the antipope Felix V.
c. 1455 Francesco I Sforza Second term.[12] Now uninvested duke of Milan.
1456–1458[13] Pedro Luis Borgia Callixtus III
Also Captain General. Rodrigo Borgia's older brother.
1462[14]–1468 Federico da Montefeltro Pius II
A condottiero; also Conte di Urbino. Appointed against Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini. Originally reappointed by Pope Paul II to oppose Venice, but challenged in his acquisition of Rimini following the victory at Molinella, switched sides.[15]
1474–1482 Federico da Montefeltro Sixtus IV
Second term. Now styled Duke of Urbino; married his daughter to Pope Sixtus's favorite nephew, who inherited the duchy following the death of Federico's own son.
1484[16]–1489 Giovanni della Rovere Pope Innocent VIII
Also Captain General.
1489[17]–1496 Niccolo Orsini Pope Innocent VIII
Also Captain General.
1496[18]–1497 Giovanni Borgia Alexander VI
Son; Duke of Gandia and also Captain General; assassinated by unknown agents.
29 March 1500[19]–1503 Cesare Borgia Alexander VI
Son; former cardinal, Duke of Valentinois and also Captain General.
1504–1508? Guidobaldo da Montefeltro Julius II
A condottiero; also Duke of Urbino. Son of Federico da Montefeltro; adopted Francesco Maria I della Rovere, his nephew and the pope's.[15][20]
19 April 1509 – 1510[21] Alfonso I d'Este Julius II
Also Duke of Ferrara and Captain General.[22] Commanded forces against Venice during the second phase of the War of the League of Cambrai. Removed from his post and excommunicated with all his family in order to return Ferrara to direct Papal administration.[23]
1510[24]–? Francesco Gonzaga Julius II
Also Duke of Mantua and Captain General.
1513–1516 Giuliano de'Medici Leo X
Also Captain General and Duke of Nemours.[25]
1516–? Lorenzo II de'Medici[15] Leo X
Also Captain General: commanded the papal army in the War of Urbino (1517), before being wounded at the siege of Mondolfo
1519–? Federico II Gonzaga Julius II
Also Duke of Mantua and Captain General of the Church, as well as Captain General of the Republic of Venice.[26] Was not required to oppose the Holy Roman Empire and so failed to intervene in the Sack of Rome[22][27]
1 February 1537 – 1547 Pier Luigi Farnese Paul III
Son of Paul III; also Duke of Parma, Piacenza, and Castro.[22]
1547–1551 Ottavio Farnese Paul III
Son of Pier Luigi Farnese; also Duke of Parma, Piacenza, and Castro[28]
c. 1565 Jacques Annibal de Hohenembs (or Count Hannibal of Altemps.)[1]
1566–? Ottavio Farnese Pius V
Second term.[29]
1572–1585 Giacomo Boncompagni Gregory XIII
Son; also Captain General of Spanish Milan, purchased the Duchies of Sora and Arce, Aquino and Arpino. Removed as Gonfalonier upon the election of Pope Sixtus V.
c.1621–? Odoardo Farnese Gregory XV
Also Duke of Parma and Piacenza. Excommunicated and prohibited from use of Gonfalonier emblems by Pope Urban VIII.[1]
?–1630 Carlo Barberini Urban VIII
Brother of Pope Urban VIII and Antonio Marcello Barberini. Father of Taddeo Barberini.
1630–1636(?) Torquato Conti Urban VIII
Duke of Guadagnolo and Field Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire
1639–1644 Taddeo Barberini Urban VIII
Nephew of Pope Urban VIII and Prince of Palestrina. Appointed Commander of the Papal Army during the Wars of Castro. Went into exile after the 1644 election of Pope Innocent X and died, without returning to Rome, in 1647. Dates are approximate.
1649–? Maffeo Barberini Innocent X
Son of Taddeo Barberini who was appointed to his father's previous titles after the reconciliation of the Pamphili and Barberini families.
?–1689 Livio Odescalchi Innocent XI (1676–1689) Nephew of Innocent XI; also Captain General[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Levillain, Philippe. The Papacy: An Encyclopedia. "Heraldry." Accessed 5 June 2010.
  2. ^ Alighieri, Dante. Trans. Musa, Mark. Divine Comedy: Inferno. Accessed 5 June 2010.[full citation needed]
  3. ^ Montalembert, Charles F. The Monks of the West from St. Benedict to St. Bernard, Vol. 6. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  4. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Boniface VIII" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. ^ Baddeley, Welbore. Charles III of Naples and Urban VI. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  6. ^ Chaytor, H.J. A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  7. ^ Muratori, Lodovico Antonio. Annali d'Italia ed altre opere varie: Dall'anno 1358 all'anno 1687, Vol. IV. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  8. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia. "Antipope John XXIII." Accessed 5 June 2010.
  9. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911. "Alexander V." Accessed 5 June 2010.
  10. ^ Machiavelli, Niccolò. History of Florence. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  11. ^ Ady, Cecilia M. A History Of Milan Under The Sforza. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  12. ^ Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, Vol. III. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  13. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. pp. 56, 77.
  14. ^ Mourby, Adrian. The Independent. "In search of: Federico in Urbino." 13 November 2001. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Sloan, John. "Dukes of Urbino." Archived 9 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 5 June 2005.
  16. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. p. 141.
  17. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. p. 149.
  18. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. p. 213.
  19. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. pp. 257, 259.
  20. ^ Passavant, J.D. Rafael of Urbino and his Father, Giovanni Santi. Op. cit. The National Quarterly Review. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  21. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. pp. 341, 342.
  22. ^ a b c Bascapè, Giacomo & al. Insegne e Simboli, Araldica Pubblica e Privata Medievale e Moderna. Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Roma: 1983. Op. cit. "Heraldry in Pre-Unification Italy." Accessed 5 June 2010.
  23. ^ Roscoe, William. The life and pontificate of Leo the Tenth, Vol. II. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  24. ^ Hollingsworth, Mary (2011): The Borgias. History's Most Notorious Dynasty. Quercus. ISBN 978-0857389169. pp. 342.
  25. ^ Symonds, John A. Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  26. ^ Setton, Kenneth M. The Papacy and the Levant (1204–1574). Vol. III. The Sixteenth Century to the Reign of Julius III.
  27. ^ Hare, Christopher & al. Courts & Camps of the Italian Renaissance. 1908.
  28. ^ Muratori, Lodovico Antonio. Annali d'Italia dal principio dell'era volgare sino all'anno MDCCXLIX, Vol. XIV. Accessed 5 June 2010.
  29. ^ Ed. Crosby, Allan J. Calendar of State Papers, Foreign: Elizabeth. Vol. 8 (1566–1568). "Elizabeth: February 1566." Accessed 5 June 2010.
  30. ^ "In honor of Livio Odescalchi, Gonfaloniere (Standard-Bearer) of the Holy Roman Church". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 25 November 2023.