Situated on the River Cam at the heart of Cambridgeshire, England, the University of Cambridge is one of the most prestigious learning institutions worldwide. Besides being home to some of the world’s brightest brains, the highly impactful University of Cambridge logo depicts its long-standing heritage and culture.

History of the University of Cambridge Logo

A logo is a representation of a family, business, or profession. However, centuries ago, a more traditional version was known as a coat of arms. It is a principal way of heraldic depiction to establish one’s identity, dating back to early medieval Europe.

A coat of arms consists of four integral parts: a shield, supporters, a crest, and a motto. Eventually, the design was adopted to demonstrate family descent, alliance, ownership, and even profession.

Like many other educational institutes, the University of Cambridge adopted this unique way of depicting its identity. In 1573, Robert Cooke, the Clarenceux King of Arms and a graduate of St. John’s College, granted the university its coat of arms. Chancellors, masters, fellows, and scholars could use it as a corporate body in official documents.

University of Cambridge logo
Image Source University of Cambridge

Elements of The University of Cambridge Logo

In the coat of arms of the University of Cambridge logo, there are certain symbols and meanings in the blazon. A blazon in heraldry is a formal description of a coat of arms, shield, or its background. Here, the coat of arms is a symbolic representation of achievements, often configured in its shield.

In an official representation, four parts comprise a coat of arms: a shield, supporters, a crest, and a motto.

The crest sits at the top of the helmet and usually represents ancestors’ achievements, whereas a shield is the primary part of a coat of arms. A motto is present above the crest or below the shield and signifies a person, class, or institute’s vision. A supporter is any object or figure present on either side of the shield.

Of these elements, the University of Cambridge logo entails a shield within its coat of arms, which signifies the most important part.

University of Cambridge logo elements

In the heraldic illustration, the shield is a focal element in the coat of arms. Moreover, its surface or escutcheon is divided into the top, bottom, sinister, and dexter parts.

With an intricate pattern, the shield exists as a central unit that has remained unchanged for 800 years. Graphically, it displays four gold lions with one foreleg raised. Moreover, as a general rule of thumb, these lions face the left-hand edge of a page.

The portraits of lions are blazoned on a background with a tincture of red, or Gules. Following this, the shield also depicts a cross with ermine, a type of tincture representing the winter coat of the stoat. In the middle of the cross is a horizontally lying Bible with clasps and decorations, with clasps facing downward.

What Each Element in The University of Cambridge Logo Means

Each element in the logo carries their own distinct terms: the lion represents royal patronage, courage, and strength. The fur of ermine on the white cross symbolises dignity, purity, and resourcefulness.

Gules or a red tincture indicates military strength and warrior. Beyond that, the Bible signifies knowledge and Christian faith.

The most common motto used by the university is “Hinc lucem et pocula sacra”, a Latin phrase that means, “From here, light and sacred draughts”. Further, it is not part of the original grant but can be used if required.

Additionally, the University of Cambridge logo must remain true to the blazon and cannot be altered without the Royal Authority.

The University of Cambridge: A Legacy to Be Preserved

As a well-established entity, the University of Cambridge yearns to preserve its heritage and history, including its logo. 

Despite the simplistic approach in modern logo designs, traditional logos, such as the Oxford University logo, signify an institute’s intellectual property, academic values, and years-long struggle. Hence, the University of Cambridge has retained its logo to convey a message of exclusivity, prestige, and excellence for generations to come.

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