In verses 3093-5 of the "Chanson de Roland" (eleventh century) the
oriflamme is mentioned as a royal banner, called at first
"Romaine" afterwards "Montjoie". According to the legend it was
given to Charlemagne by the pope, but no historical text affords
us any information with regard to this oriflamme, which is perhaps
fabulous. As Eudes, who became king in 888, was Abbot of St.
Martin, the banner of the church of St. Martin of Tours was the
earliest military standard of the Frankish monarchy. It was a
plain blue, a colour then assigned in the liturgy to saints who
were, like St. Martin confessors and pontiffs. The azure ground
strewn with gold fleur-de-lis remained the symbol of royalty until
the fourteenth century, when the white standard of Jeanne d'Arc
wrought marvels, and by degrees the custom was introduced of
depicting the fleur-de-lis on white ground. But from the time of
Louis VI (1108-37) the banner of St. Martin was replaced as ensign
of war by the oriflamme of the Abbey of St. Denis, which floated
about the tomb of St. Denis and was said to have been given to the
abbey by Dagobert. It is supposed without any certainty that this
was a piece of fiery red silk of sendal the field of which was
covered with flames and stars of gold. The standard-bearer carried
it either at the end of a staff or suspended from his neck. Until
the twelfth century the standard-bearer was the Comte de Vexin,
who, as "vowed" to St. Denis, was the temporal defender of the
abbey. Louis VI the Fat, having acquired Vexin, became standard-
bearer; as soon as war began, Louis VI received Communion at St.
Denis and took the standard from the tomb of the saint to carry it
to the combat. "Montjoie Saint Denis", cried the men-at-arms, even
as in England they cried "Montjoie Notre Dame", or "Montjoie Saint
George". The word Montjoie (from Mons gaudii or Mons Jovis)
designates the heaps of stones along the roadside which served as
mile-stones or as sign-posts, and which sometimes became the
meeting-places for warriors; it was applied to the oriflamme the
sight of which was to guide the soldiers into the mêlee. The
descriptions of the oriflamme which have reached us in Guillaume
le Breton (thirteenth century), in the "Chronicle of Flanders"
(fourteenth century), in the "Registra Delphinalia" (1456), and in
the inventory of the treasury of St. Denis (1536), show that to
the primitive oriflamme there succeeded in the course of centuries
newer oriflammes which little resembled one another. At the battle
of Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) the oriflamme fell into
the hands of the English; it would seem that after the Hundred
Years' War it was no longer borne on the battlefield.
Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen
Laus Deo Semper
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc.
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
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