At Convocation this June, blue-and-white banners bobbed among the parading new graduates. These are gonfalons – an ancient tradition recently revived at U of T.
Gonfalon, an Old French word meaning “war flag,” originally referred to the pennant on a knight’s lance, but came to mean a long banner swinging from a pole. And the name for the banner-bearer, gonfalonier, became a distinguished municipal and royal office in medieval Europe.
Gonfalons have been popular at American universities for some time but were only introduced at U of T in November 2013, when student gonfaloniers carried banners representing the university’s faculties, colleges and campuses at President Meric Gertler’s installation. The following June, staff members did the honours at Convocation – a fitting tribute, since the gonfalons were designed by a former staff member. Staff carried the gonfalons again this June.