The Symbols of St. Bonaventure University

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The St. Bonaventure University Seal

By clicking on certain parts of the picture above the user can navigate to different descriptions of the seal. Since the style of the class ring uses the school seal many of the descriptions are the same.

The seal of St. Bonaventure University is essentially a Franciscan seal for it epitomizes the very life of St. Francis of Assisi. This seal is rooted in an historical event in the life of St. Francis. In the year 1224, two years before his death, the Saint of Assisi knelt in prayer on a lonely mountain top, the rocky slope of Mount Alverna. 

His prayer to Christ was simple and fervent: "O Lord Jesus Christ, two favors I beg of you before I die. The first is that I may, as far as it is possible, feel in my soul and in my body the suffering in which you, O gentle Jesus, sustained in your bitter passion. And the second favor is that I, as far as it is possible, may receive in my heart that excessive charity by which you, the Son of God, were inflamed, and which actuated you willingly to suffer so much for us sinners."

Our Lord answered his prayer by appearing to him in the form of a seraph, a six-winged angel of love. As he knelt in the ecstasy, Christ imprinted the wounds of His person in the flesh of St. Francis. At once, in his hands and feet marks like nails began to appear; and, in his left side the image of a lance-thrust appeared, red and bleeding. St. Francis had been marked with the love of Christ- the Stigmata.

After bearing these wounds of Christ for two years, St. Francis died in the year 1226. He left the Church and the world a great legacy--the Franciscan Order. For more than seven hundred years, through the grace of God, this Order has produced many outstanding Saints. Among them is St. Bonaventure, who is the namesake of this University. he was both a philosopher and theologian, and because of his learned writings, he was given the title "Doctor of the Church." However, because he was also a Franciscan he received the title "The Seraphic Doctor." 

Other Franciscan symbolism is described on the University Chapel site.

We find first of all the face of a little angel, surrounded with six wings, symbolic of Seraphim, one of the nine choirs of angels. Their special office is to love God. The Seraphim are usually considered the highest order of angelic beings, immediately above the Cherubim. Seraph wings and seraphs are symbolic of the Franciscan Order, which is often referred to as the Seraphic Order. At times, Franciscan and Seraphic are synonymous.

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Prominently although minutely displayed above the coat of arms of St. Bonaventure College is the crest of the Franciscan Order. This consists of two crossed arms, surmounted by a cross. This escutcheon is full of meaning and romance. According to some, one of the crossed arms is that of Christ; the other, showing the sleeve of the habit, is that of St. Francis of Assisi. Both hands show the imprint of the nail, or Stigmata. The first of that Our Lord on the Cross, the other is that of His closest follower and most perfect copy, the Poverello of Assisi.

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Some consider the two crossed arms as symbolic of St. Francis. The one arm covered with the sleeve of the Franciscan habit standing for Prayer or Ora (in Latin); the other arm with sleeve rolled up, signifying Labora or Work. Thus these two words may very well serve the St. Bona graduate as a motto during life: Work and Pray. Work as if all depended on you, and pray as if all depended on God. Do your level best, and God will do the rest

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Oak leaves and acorns, shown on each side of the seraph are symbolic of strength and victory. In military decorations, a cluster of oak leaves with acorns signify a second and subsequent award of the basic decoration.

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The Cross Surmounting the crossed arms reminds us that the instrument of Christ's Crucifixion is our sign of salvation. The University contains the very core of Franciscan Spirituality: complete conformity with Christ, and acceptance of the Cross, with all it implies concluding with the Franciscan Motto: "My God and My All."

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Surrounding the seal is the legend in Latin "Sig Universitatis S. Bonaventurae, D.Seraph. Allegan, Neo-Ebor." This translated into the the vernacular is "College of St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor (Doctor Seraphicus), Allegany N.Y."  Back to Top

Other Franciscan symbolism is described on the University Chapel site.
The President's Mace and Seal and Academic clothing are described here.

Page created by David Patt; St. Bonaventure University, for History 419 (Computer and Archival Skills for Historians),

Legend definition added 1/29/04 by D. Frank
Last updated:  10/06/04
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