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St. Ambrose Seal

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

By 1925, St. Ambrose College in Davenport was well on the road to respectability. Founded in 1882 as an academy with just over thirty students, Ambrose had worked hard to become a full-fledged Catholic liberal arts college, with an impressive faculty, new buildings, a baseball team, and a band. It lacked only one thing: an authentic college seal.<--break->For help, the college turned to a heraldry expert from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pierre de Chaignon la Rose, who soon discovered that a miracle would be necessary. Before he could compose a set of arms for the college seal, he had to compose a set for St. Ambrose, after whom the college was named. St. Ambrose had none of his own. He lived in the fifth century, while heraldry extended back only as far as the Crusades in the 12th century.

Fortunately, the expert discovered that people in the 12th century used to amuse themselves by inventing fake coats of arms for famous people who had lived earlier. St. Ambrose soon had his authentic fake crest, a beehive surrounded by eight bees, a reference to the legend which claimed that bees had been seen flying in and out of the infant Ambrose's mouth to mark him as a future orator.

St. Ambrose College was closer to having its seal, but not without some touching up. The college could not just use the saint's invented seal as is, since the saint was merely the patron of the college, not its founder.
That was easy to fix. The heraldry expert reduced the number of bees on the crest from eight to three, and he copied those three from the shield of the Barberini Family in Rome—the patrons, incidentally, of Galileo. A few other additions from here and there—three crosses from the ancient Davenport arms, and a Greek cross tossed in—and the authentic seal of St. Ambrose College was finished.

And now for the miracle. By dedication, faith, vision, and hard work, the faculty and students of St. Ambrose College turned their fake seal into a real one.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.