First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague Charles University in Prague

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The heraldic emblem of a pelican with its young is a frequently used allegory of medicine. Its symbolic meaning is derived from medieval fables about animals. According to these fables, pelicans are extremely selfless. To feed their young and save them from starvation, they use their beak to pierce the skin of their breast so as to feed the young with their own blood. Although this poetic image does not correspond to reality, its message is powerful.

The old sceptre of the medical faculty in Prague also features a statuette of a pelican with three young. Based on the style, we can assume that the statuette is Baroque and is a later addition to the Gothic sceptre. In modern times, the allegory of a pelican appears also on medals which the Minister of Health uses to honour outstanding physicians. The 1st Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University in recent decades returned to this ancient symbol and uses it at special occasions. Since 1975, it is used on some memorial documents and diplomas and it appears on decorations at special, festive gatherings.

In the emblem, we find a stylised pelican with three young. A circular inscription FACULTAS MEDICA PRIMA UNIVERSITATIS CAROLI appears in the Gothic majuscule. The font is related to the inscription on Charles University’s seal. Acanthus leaves and precious stones surrounding the inscription are also derived from the decoration of the old faculty sceptre. The iconography and graphic rendition of the sign serves as a reminder of the ancient and venerable tradition of a medical school in Prague.

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