Sunday, December 23, 2007

Giglio or Giaggliolo – Florence Stemma


The gonfalon (banner – gonfalone in Italian) that represents Florence has the characteristic red flower-like-thing (coat of arms or stemma) on a white background. What is it exactly? When I asked someone what this was they mentioned a word in Italian that I didn’t recognize and promptly forgot. Today we went to visit the museum in Dante’s house in the heart of Florence and this started bugging me again.

After a little research here’s what I can tell. The banner does in fact represent a flower, a type of iris. In Italian it is called the giaggiolo, or a type of iris called Iris florentina. However, in many spots the term giglio is used as a shortcut. However, the translation of this is lily which is different type of flower. Here is an example: on this page which talks about the game of “historical Florentine soccer” (you can count me out) there is background about the banner symbol and they mention giaggiolo but then say “or” giglio. To my eye, an iris seems like it more accurately represents the basic shape and using “giglio” is just a shortcut but is not accurate. Or could it be either flower? Anyone have other information?

[addition 12/30/07] The book Americans in Florence indicates that this symbol is an iris (p. 127). The book is put out by the Florence Tourist Office.

[addition 04/18/08] The difference between the Florentine lily between the fleur-de-lis typically associated with the French monarchy is that with the Florentine lily stamens are depicted.


  1. From: Chamers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionay of Universal Knowledge

    "... Their [the Medici] well-known arms, representing six balls (from whence their war-cry of 'Palle'), were popularly but without reason believed to represent pills, as their name to show that they had been originally apothecaries.

    In 1465 Louis XI. of France honoured the Medici by conferring on them the right to wear the French fleur-de-lis on one of the balls. ..."

  2. Thanks. A couple of Medici ended up as queens of France as well.


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