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Dictionary of Vexillology: S (S Pennant - Saint Patrick's Cross)

Last modified: 2024-06-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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In US naval usage, a triangular pennant that is flown (from the port or starboard yardarm when in port) to indicate that the vessel has won an annual safety award competition (see also ‘award flag’).

[safety pennant]
Safety Afloat Pennant, USN (seaflags)

The heraldic term for black – see ‘tinctures’ (also ‘rule of tincture’).

[colour example]

Please note that this term has a wider use than is detailed above, and the Editors recommend that a heraldic dictionary be consulted if further details are required.

In UK and US tradition and some others, a sword with a full handguard, and a curved single-edged blade (originally) designed for use by mounted troops – but see note below.

[saber example] [saber example] [saber example]
Flag and Arms of Cyców, Poland (fotw); Flag of Kowala, Poland (fotw)

Please note that in some Central and East European usage the term is used to describe a sword with a curved single-edged blade but with a straightforward cross guard as illustrated below – but see ‘scimitar’.

[saber example]  [saber example]
Flag of Illinetsi District, Ukraine (fotw); Arms of Nalyvaikivka, Ukraine (fotw)

1) A special flag of internationally recognized design – such as that of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and others – which (by international agreement) protects personnel engaged in medical succour, ambulances, civil and field hospitals and hospital ships against military action – a Geneva Convention flag, or flag of protection (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).
2) The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and other recognized flag designs (together with arm brassards or painted symbols) are also used to indicate the facilities and personnel of these organisations rendering aid to the survivors and casualties of natural or human disasters (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).

IRCRC flags IRCRC flags IRCRC flags
Flags of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal (fotw)

Please note that on 8 December 2005 the International Committee of the Red Cross adopted a Protocol (Protocol III) authorizing a red crystal (diamond shape) as an additional non-religious and politically neutral symbol, however, please also note that the flags of the Red Cross and of its associated organizations are at the same time international flags, safe conduct, flags of protection and Geneva Convention flags.

1) In Japanese usage one of several green and white flags symbolizing safe conditions in various situations (see also ‘weather flag 2)’.
2) See ‘beach flag’ and ‘storm warning flag’ (also ‘airfield safety flag’ and ‘red flag 1)’).

safety flag safety flag safety flag
Safety Flag for General Use, Japan (fotw); Health Flag; Japan (fotw); Health and Safety Flag, Japan (fotw)

1) In traditional English heraldry see ‘ancient ship’.
2) In vexillology and in modern heraldry the terms for a wind-powered, sea-going vessel regardless of type – but see the notes below (also ‘galleon’).

sailing ship sailing ship sailing ship
Flag of Wittmund, Germany (fotw); Flag of Kostrena, Croatia (fotw); Flag of Dumyat (Governorate), Egypt (fotw)

a) The term “sailing vessel” (as given in the alternative heading above) can include those which are designed for inshore/leisure activities such as sailing dinghies or yachts, however;
2) to individually list the many types these or other sailing vessels is (properly speaking) beyond the remit of this dictionary, nonetheless, please see ‘caravel’ with its following note, ‘cog’ and ‘nef’.

sailing ship
The Arms of Velas, Portugal showing a caravel (fotw)

In largely German usage, a flag pole or mast (most often) erected ashore for the multiple display of barge or inland waterway related flags for decorative purposes, and equipped with a long gaff and yard – a display mast or bargemen’s association display mast (see also ‘dress ship’, ‘gaff’, ‘stayed mast’ and ‘yard’).

Please note that this term is a translation of the German schiffermast, and that use of such masts seems to be restricted to associations of bargemen or similar.

1) See ‘saltire’.
2) A white saltire on a blue field – the national flag of Scotland or the Scottish saltire (see also, ‘St. George's Cross 2)’, ‘St. Patrick's Cross’ and ‘union jack 1)’).
3) A blue saltire on a white field – the naval ensign of the Russian Federation (and formerly of the Russian Empire) - a St. Andrew's ensign, Andreevskiĭ, Andreevsky or Ahndreeyeeskeey.

Georgia coast guard Russian naval ensign Scotland
Battle Ensign of the Coast Guard, Georgia (fotw); Naval Ensign of Russia (fotw); National Flag of Scotland (fotw)

Please note that whilst the term St George's Cross generally refers only to a red cross on a white field, the Cross of St Andrew, due to a tradition that the saint was crucified on a diagonal cross, has come to be regarded by many as a saltire of any colour or metal on a field of any colour or metal. Although this is considered inaccurate in English heraldic or vexillological usage, it is common in countries and languages where a term equivalent to “saltire” does not exist.

See ‘St Andrew’s cross 3)’ above.

[Russian naval ensign]
Naval Ensign of Russia (fotw)

In heraldry see ‘cross tau’ (also ‘acorn cross’).

[St. Anthony's cross] [St. Anthony's cross]
Flag and Arms of Sint Anthonis, The Netherlands (fotw)

A representation of the torture wheel upon which, according to Christian tradition, St Catherine is reputed to have been executed – a wheel of St Catherine, a torture or bladed wheel (see also ‘waterwheel’).

[St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel]
Flag of Ryglice, Poland (fotw); Flag of Peredo, Portugal (fotw); Flag of St Catherine’s College Cambridge, UK (fotw)

A cross pattée rounded having a detailed centre, and representing the pectoral cross of St Cuthbert (see also ‘cross pattée’ and ‘rounded cross’)

[St. Cuthbert's cross] [St. Cuthbert's cross] [St. Cuthbert's cross]
Flag of Durham County, UK (fotw); Arms of Newcastle University, UK (official website); Flag of Kirkcudbrightshire, UK (fotw)

Please note that a “pectoral cross” is one of the badges of office worn by a bishop.

See ‘cross 1)’ (also ‘St George’s Cross 3)’).

[Blanes Spain]
Flag of Blanes, Spain (fotw)

See ‘canton of St. George’.

[Russian naval ensign]
Flag of the Honourable East India Company c1650, England (fotw)

1) Generically, see ‘cross 1)’.
2) Specifically, the Cross (as above) of St George - the national flag of England and the flag of the ancient Republic of Genoa - a Cross of St George. (see also ‘canton of St. George’, ‘St. Andrew's Cross’ and ‘St George’s ensign’, ‘St. Patrick's Cross’ and ‘union jack 1)’).
3) Any red cross on a white field - but see note b) below.

[England] [Genoa, Italy] [Sutherland Shire, Australia]
National Flag of England (fotw); Flag of Genoa, Italy (fotw); Flag of Sutherland Shire, Australia (fotw)

a) Any cross of St George whose arms are of equal length is also a Greek cross (see also 'Greek cross').
b) In Balkan and Central European usage a white cross on red is also sometimes referred to as the Cross of St George.

[Donji Miholjac, Croatia]
Flag of Donji Miholjac, Croatia (fotw)

In English later British RN usage now obsolete, the term to describe a white ensign charged with a Cross of St George overall (as per the present pattern), and formerly used in order to differentiate it from one having a plain fly as illustrated below (see also ‘canton of St. George’ and ‘St George’s Cross 2)’ and ‘white ensign 1)’).

[British White Ensign] [British White Ensign] [British White Ensign]
White Ensign, England 1702 – 1707 (fotw); White Ensign for use in home waters 1707 – c1740; White Ensign, UK 1707 – 1801 (fotw)

a) White ensigns bearing a Cross of St George overall were introduced in 1702 to avoid any possible confusion between the those of the white division of the English fleet, and the plain white ensigns of the French.
b) They were at first at restricted to use outside home waters, however, the version with a plain fly had disappeared by 1744.

See ‘cross of Santiago’.

[Order of St. James]
Cross of the Order of Santiago (fotw)

A cross, both of whose horizontal arms point downwards and considered symbolic of the Georgian Orthodox Church – a grapevine cross – but see note below (also ‘cross 2)’ and ‘orthodox cross’).

St. Nino's Cross St. Nino's Cross
Flag of Sighnaghi, Georgia (fotw); Flag of Kaspi, Georgia (fotw)

Please note that the flag of the Georgian Orthodox Church may (occasionally) be charged with a cross of this type, however, when it is hoisted from a conventional flagpole the downward sloping arms will point towards the fly.

St. Nino's Cross
Flag of the Georgian Orthodox Church (fotw)

A red saltire on a white field (see also 'saltire', and 'St Andrew's Cross 2)', ‘St. George's Cross 2)’) and ‘union jack 1)’).

Please note that this saltire has no known links to the saint, but when adopted for the British Union Flag was a symbol of the knightly Order of St Patrick (see also ‘union jack’).

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