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The Pelican

The Pelican as a Christian Symbol

The pelican was believed to pierce its own breast with its beak and feed its young with its blood.

Because of this it became a symbol of Christ sacrificing himself for man and was frequently represented in early Christian art.

The belief probably came about because of the pelican’s red-tipped beak and very white feathers, and because long-beaked birds such as the pelican are often to be found standing with their beaks resting on their breasts.

Gerald Manley Hopkins, the English poet and Jesuit priest translated the Eucharist hymn “Adoro te devote,” written by St. Thomas Aquinas into English. The sixth verse reads,

‘Like what tender tales tell of the Pelican
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what Thy Bosom ran
Blood that but one drop of has the powr to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

AMF/19th March 2018


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