Flag throwing in Gubbio – Paradiso Ceramics Australia | Handmade in Italy


Flag throwing in Gubbio

Special occasions in Italy are often marked with street parades featuring flag throwers, drummers and colourful costumes. We have been fortunate to witness Italy's love of history and pageantry at several events, including in April this year in the ancient Umbrian town of Gubbio.

The Palazzo dei Consoli rises impressively above the town of Gubbio

Flag throwing originated from medieval battles. Bearing the flag was an honor and the flag bearer was the most important soldier on the battlefield. He carried the flag that represented his kingdom which was used as a means of communication in battle, and he was expected to defend it with his life. Losing the flag to the enemy would mean disruption in communication, confusion for the soldiers and finally defeat.

Flag throwers parade down the streets of Gubbio
The flag was considered a symbol of purity; it was not allowed to touch the ground and must never fall into enemy hands. In the event of being attacked, the flag bearer would throw the flag to a comrade. Strength and accuracy were critical skills as the flag had to be thrown long distances to ensure the saving of the flag and keeping it away from battle.
The flag bearers carried their flags and wore their colours with pride
Flag throwing is practiced in several countries in Europe, but it is in Italy that the tradition is strongest. Gubbio’s flag-throwers are just one of several groups in the country, and we were privileged to see them demonstrate their skill as part of Gubbio's celebrations of Italy's Liberation Day on April 25.
Drummers led the parade and drew the crowds to watch the event in Gubbio
Drawn by loud drumming, we tracked down a procession of musicians and flag bearers and followed the colourful parade to the piazza in front of the church of Saint John the Baptist.
Flag bearers march through the streets of Gubbio.

After solemn speeches and presentations, the musicians invited the flag bearers to begin their display. 

Musicians line up in front of St John the Baptist church in Gubbio

Flag throwing is part sport, part art, and the skill of these men was very impressive. Most were older and appeared to be veterans of their craft.

Flag throwers toss their flags high in the air in Gubbio

There were demonstrations by individual throwers juggling three flags - something we hadn't seen before. It looked incredibly difficult!

Flag thrower juggles three flags in Gubbio

It must be amazing to be able to celebrate a history and traditions that stretch back centuries. The pride of all who participated was evident, and the audience showed their appreciation of the spectacle with loud cheers and clapping. 

Musicians blow their trumpets for the Liberation Day event in Gubbio

It looks like flag throwing is a centuries-old tradition that will live on. This shy and very cute little boy looked keen to follow in his father's footsteps.

Another generation of flag throwers in training?

If you go to Italy, we recommend doing some research to find out if there are any medieval events nearby and go if you can!  

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