The art of flag throwing dates back to medieval guilds and armies (principally in Italy). A guild's or army's banner or flag was considered a symbol of purity and municipal pride, and as such it was not allowed to touch the ground or be touched by anyone who wasn't a soldier.
Sbandieratori were born in the 14th century as army signallers during battles and wars. They were used to communicate orders to troops, usings various techniques, such as throwing the flag in the air or moving the flag in a specific way. The flag itself was the true symbol of the army, and it was given in custody only to a valorous and specialized infantryman, which had to defend the flag with it's life. The Sbandieratore was an honorable, brave and strong warrior, which had to defend the flag and also himself from enemy attacks. Letting the flag fall into enemy's grasp was a great dishonor and it meant the defeat of an army.
In military academies the art of flag throwing was taught to every soldier, to let them become better soldiers and to teach them the values linked to the flag they defended. In 16th century flag throwing became a true"sport", particularly practiced during truces or times of peace, to entertain the nobles and Lords of the City.
Today the military aspect of the Sbandieratori has faded away, but to the sound of drums and clarions the spectacular and acrobatic art of flag throwing lives on in every exhibition! There are two distinct federations in Italy, the Fisb (Federazione Italiana Sbandieratori) and the Lis (Lega Italiana Sbandieratori), and every year they organize their own national championship, promoting the ancient art of flag throwing.
The art of flag throwing