The Pelican in Her Piety

One of the many beautiful things I saw recently in Portugal: this carving of a “pelican in her piety” or “pious pelican”, a Christian symbol of the Eucharist, on the tomb of one of the 15th century kings of Portugal.

Pelican of mercy, Jesus, Lord and God,
Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:
Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured
Might from all transgression have the world restored.
– from the hymn Adoro te devote

An excerpt from a good article about this symbol:

The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.

Read more here.

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