When maritime communications lacked the sophisticated technologies of today, seafarers had to conceive signals so that they could communicate with each other at sea. Flags were one aspect of the code language in use during early modern times all over the Mediterranean Sea. Flags were not only used to denote the nationality or religion of the owner of the vessel but also as signals, in particular when ships sailed in convoy or squadron formation. A successful encounter at sea depended on good coordination. For this reason, a particular flag was devised to be used in time of battle. It was known as the battle standard, and was raised to signal the beginning of combat. This article focuses on this particular flag and explores its use by both Christians and Muslims. Particular reference is made to the battle flags used by the Knights of Malta. The General of the Knights’ galley squadron adopted a personal battle standard and, more often than not, chose to have the iconography of the Immaculate Conception depicted on this flag in what might be interpreted as an invocation for protection and victory.
Keywords : Battle Standard, Immaculate Conception, Corsairing, Knights of Malta, Signals Flags