Oct 31, 2014

Bolivia [naval ensign]

Bolivia is currently a landlocked country, losing its remaining sea cost in the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific (not to be confused with the WW2's Pacific theater). It's surely not the only landlocked country in the world with a navy, but having a distinct naval ensign is certainly curious, specially for its symbolism.

This is the reported naval ensign of Bolivia, created in 1966:

In the canton, you can see national flag of Bolivia; part of its symbolism was briefly addressed in another post. The blue color represents the sea, the nine stars represents the current nine departments of Bolivia. The tenth star, bigger and prominent, is the most dramatic part of the flag: it represents the lost Litoral department (that contained all Bolivian former sea coast) and, at the same time, the hope to once again have a sea access.

Although Bolivia doesn't have, currently, an oceanic fleet, the ensign is commonly saw in Lake Titicaca (the biggest South American lake) and many large rivers.

A variant flag found on photographs is the following:

The colorful checks is a representation of the Wiphala, a flag used by the native Aymara people and, since 2009, a national symbol of Bolivia. Its status is uncertain to me; any additional information is gladly received.

Comments are welcome!

Oct 18, 2014

Italy [jack]

A jack is a naval flag flown by warships and other vessels at the head of a ship. On today's post, we'll see the curious Italian jack.

That jack is very different from Italian flag:

This flag contains four quarters, each one representing, respectively, one of the main Italian "maritime republics" or thalassocracies (from Greek, "rule of the sea"): Venice, Genoa, Amalfi and Pisa.

  • Venice is represented by the Lion of St. Mark (symbolism from Revelation 4:7), because it's believed that the body of the evangelist rests in the cathedral of that city.
  • Genoa was the first of many Northern Italian cities to adopt the St. George's cross, but probably there isn't connections between that and the St. George, even though he's patron saint of Genoa.
  • The Amalfi's is very similar to Maltese cross (but with blue background instead of red), and it's possible that the former predates the latter: merchants from Amalfi founded the hospital where the Order of St. John (Knights Hospitaller) was based.
  • The cross of Pisa was granted by pope Benedict VIII to the fight against Saracens in Sardinia.

While the anverse of the flag shows St. Mark's lion's head, the reverse shows his tail...

Additionally, the merchant vessels politely flies a jack without the sword. The open book reads "Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus" ("May peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist"), what, following the tradition, an angel said to Mark when pointing his burial place at Venice.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.