Skip to Main Content


The History of Our Seal

The official seal of Canisius University, as shown below, was designed and instituted in 1961.  Prior to 1961, however, Canisius University utilized two different versions, which were eventually discontinued for the one now used today.

Photograph of a mosaic in the Old Main foyer representing the official Canisius University seal instituted in 1961.
A mosaic in the Old Main foyer representing the official Canisius University seal instituted in 1961.

Previous Seals

From the time of Canisius's establishment in 1870, the seal shown below was most commonly used to represent the college.  On the left of the seal are two wolves holding a cauldron while, on the right, are seven slanted bars.  These symbols link to the family of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.

Image of the most common seal used before 1961.
The most common seal used before 1961.

Several sources, including the 1911-12 Lest We Forget yearbook, relate the history of the seal to Ignatius Loyola's family, one of Spanish noble ancestry.  The seal is actually a combination of two family bearings brought together in the 1261 marriage of Lady Inez de Loyola to Don Lope de Onaz. 

The Loyola bearing, on the left of the heraldry, represents two gray wolves, their paws resting on the handles of a cauldron which is suspended by black pot-hooks.  The familial representations of the wolf (lobo) and cauldron (olla) developed into the name of Loyola (lobo y olla).  These symbols are supposed to represent the generosity of the Loyola family who, during feudal warfare, provided their soldiers with so much food that the wolves always found something to feed on after the men had been supplied.

The Onaz bearing, originally seven red bars on a field of gold, represented the seven heroic brothers of the Onaz family who distinguished themselves in battle.

The combination of the Loyola and Onaz family bearings became one of the unofficial seals used by Canisius University before 1961.  In addition to this seal, however, the college also used the seal below.

Image of the seal used for official documentation prior to 1961.
The seal used for official documentation prior to 1961.

It was made with seal presses in the president's office and the registrar's office.  The presses are currently housed in the Rev. J. Clayton Murray, S.J. Archives.

The Decision to Change the Seal

Rev. Joseph Clark, S.J., an administrator in the Canisius Office of Student Personnel Services, expressed interest in creating a more authentic design of the college seal.  In pursuit of this end, Fr. Clark consulted William F.J. Ryan, a member of the Academie Internationale D'Heraldique.  Their correspondence continued from May to June 1955, but the project was discontinued in the following month, mostly due to Fr. Clark's transfer from the Office of Student Personnel to a  teaching position.

After the renovation of Old Main in 1960, talk of a new seal was once again revived after a donator expressed interest in funding a mosaic of the Canisius University seal in the Old Main foyer.  This time, Donald W. Boyd Jr., director of Canisius publicity, contacted Ryan for his opinion on a new design.
Ryan presented the administration with several problems represented by the old seals.  For one thing, Ryan noted that the use of two different seals violated common codes.  Research revealed that there should be only one seal for all uses, with and without periphery.
In addition, there were several incorrect representations in the old seal.  For instance, the direction of the bars and chain over the cauldron in the Loyola-Onaz bearing were incorrect.  Ryan also pointed out that the Loyola-Onaz bearing centered on Ignatius Loyola, while a seal for Canisius University should more appropriately represent its namesake, Peter Canisius.  Below is a sketch which Ryan submitted for the College administration's consideration.  After some debate, this sketch was eventually accepted.

Image of a draft of the seal as presented by William Ryan.
A draft of the seal as presented by William Ryan.  It was eventually accepted.

The present seal contains more links to the Peter Canisius family than the Ignatius Loyola family as Ryan had suggested was more appropriate for the college.  Peter Canisius's father, Jakop Kanis, served nine terms as Burgemeester or Mayor of Nymegen, Holland, the birthplace of Peter Canisius.  Jakop also served as tutor for the sons of the Duke of Lorraine. For his service to his town  as well as to the Duke of Lorraine Jakop was enobled and awarded a coat of arms.

This coat of arms bears the running greyhound as well as the bell-shaped shield. Above the greyhound is an open book, a symbol of knowledge and learning.  It bears the insignia of the Society of Jesus, the Greek letters, I.H.S., which represent the first three letters of the Holy Name.  In addition is a small Latin cross as well as three nails signifying Jesus's crucifixion.  The lower half of the seal contains nine gules.  The college colors, of blue and gold, are also incorporated into the seal as well as the circular band which surrounds the shield and bear the words: The Canisius University of Buffalo, New York, 1870.

This representation continues to be used as the official seal of Canisius University.