A banner is a type of flag or other piece of cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Banner-making is an ancient craft. The word banner is derived from a Latin name 'bandum', a cloth used to make flags. Banners differ from flags in that one side of a flag is tied with a pole or mast, and the rest of the cloth swirls in the air. The flag is horizontally positioned on a vertical flagpole. A banner on the other hand has a sleeve on the top of the vertical end. It is hanged vertically off a small pole.
Since the latter half of the 20th century, there have been other forms of banners. For example, web banners and protest banners. A web banner or banner ad is a mode of advertisement on the World Wide Web. This unique form of online advertisement entails embedding an ad into a web page. The motive of such banner ads is to attract more customers to the advertisers website. Protest banners, of various shapes, designs, and slogans are quite common at demonstrations, and are solely used to convey a message pertinent to the demonstration.
Banners are mentioned in the Old Testament where they were a rallying point in battle (Exodus 17:15). In the book of Numbers, Chapter 1, God instructed Moses in the desert to have each tribe set up camp under its own banner. Banners helped keep order among the people as they traveled to the Promised Land. A man who became separated from his tribe could find his way back by searching above the throngs of people for the banner that carried his tribe's symbol. In Siena, the annual Palio race involves the use of banners to distinguish between the individual contrade, and a silk banner is awarded to the overall winner.
Banners and standards have played an important role in military history. They were used in the Crusades and in many other wars and battles including the American Civil War. Their function is to embody the spirit of the regiment, to provide a focus of belonging and loyalty amongst the troops. They were (and are still) paraded before the troops regularly and with great ceremony to ensure that each man can readily recognise and bond with the colours of his regiment and therefore know whom to follow on the battlefield or where their home base is.
In the Christian world, banners are used to depict various aspects of spiritual life - healing, pastoring, fellowship, children's ministry, inspirational biblical verses, etc. Their role in the church is to inspire, remind and educate the people. Banners in churches have, in the past, been used mainly for processions, inside or outside of the church building. However, the emphasis has, in recent years, shifted markedly towards the permanent or transient display of banners on walls or pillars of churches and other places of worship. A famous example of large banners on display is Liverpool R.C. Cathedral where the banners are designed by a resident artist.
Trades Union banners are an integral part of the social history of British workers. Banners have been made since the 1840s, and at May Day parades, they could be counted in the hundreds. The iconography of these banners included mines, mills, factories, but also visions of the future, showing a land where children and adults were well-fed and living in tidy brick-built houses, where the old and sick were cared for, where the burden of work was lessened by new technology, and where leisure time was increasing.
These are often made commercially on a plastic background, but a number of British towns and cities have whole series of banners decorating their city centres, effectively advertising the town or its special features and attractions.