LGonfalons (from the early Italian confalone) is a heraldic banner or flag, first adopted by Italian medieval communes, and later by local guilds, corporations and districts. They had great significance as Christian religious objects in Europe during the medieval period. They usually consisted of a cloth supported by a wooden frame with a T-shaped support on the back, and a long pole to hold up the banner during ceremonies and processions. The banners were painted with oil paints, with images of patron saints of cities, guilds, the Virgin and Child, Jesus Christ, God the Father and other iconography. Later they would have been embroidered. The carrying of the banner during a procession was seen as an act of worship.
Colourful pageant wagons, built by local guilds, would have been pulled through the streets during such processions when there was to be a mystery play presented. Very little is known about the specifics of the construction of the wagons, but it is speculated that the wagons had two spaces, a higher one for performing on, and one underneath for the performers to change into costume.
A Norwich inventory from 1565 describes one such wagon as a house of wainscot painted and built on a cart with four wheels. A square top set over the house.
The Norwich Medieval Mystery Plays will take inspiration from gonfalons and the colourful pageant wagons that would have been used for the performances of these biblical plays. Work has begun by our seamstress to create backdrops and banners.