Celebrate the Seal of The Society of Saint Edmund
This Seal of The Society of Saint Edmund is the work of the "Enders Island Woodcarvers" who have been coming to the Island every Tuesday for more than 20 years and have carved a wide variety of pieces including a Nativity set from the trees cut down to build the Chapel, the mahogany statues of Saint Edmund and Our Lady of Pontigny. -Father Thomas Hoar, SSE
Seal of the Edmundite Fathers and Brothers
By Father Joseph McLaughlin, SSE
A great deal of thought went into the design of our original Seal, and the craftsmanship itself is quite fine. Though only a seal, it certainly conveys a great deal of meaning about our religious life and our heritage. The following is an explanation of some of the details in the Seal. The letters refer to items so indicated in the illustration of the Seal at the bottom of this page.
A – The Blessed Virgin Mary, who is standing and reaching out to receive the kneeling figure. Our Lady, under the title of her Immaculate Heart, is one of the patrons of the Society. She is also the one to whom the Abbey Church at Pontigny is dedicated, under the title of her Assumption.
B – St. Edmund, who is standing and presenting the kneeling man to Our Lady. He is vested as bishop, in chasuble with mitre, and carrying his staff in his left hand. With his right arm he is presenting the kneeling religious to Our Lady, and in this way he is depicted as action as our patron.
C – A man kneeling, with his hands extended in an offering posture and his eyes raised to heaven. I believe this man symbolizes all Edmundites making profession of evangelical vows to God and being aided in their act of consecration by the intercession of Our Lady and St. Edmund. In the nineteenth century, we were called “Oblates”, and the notion of offering oneself to God is clearly depicted here.
D – An arched bridge. This represents the Pontigny bridge that crosses the Serein River just a short distance from the Abbey. To this ancient bridge, Pontigny owes its name. In fact, the Seal of Pontigny, which can be found sculptured in one of the corbels against the exterior north wall of the Abbey church, depicts a similar arched bridge with a tree growing in the middle and a bird’s nest atop the tree.
E – Water, flowing beneath the bridge. This represents the Serein River (a tributary of the famous Seine River that flows through Paris), which passes beneath the Pontigny bridge and flows alongside the Abbey.
F – A triple-niched canopy, each niche containing its own figure. A similar canopy, but without the details of this one, can also be found on the original episcopal seal of St. Edmund himself.
G – An angel with wings above his head holding out the encircled symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
H – Another angel, also with wings, holding out the encircled symbol of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the nineteenth century, Edmundites were called “Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” and to the present-day Edmundites continue to invoke Jesus and Mary as our patrons.
I – A hand extended down from a cloud holding out an encircled cross. I believe this represents the Hand of God extending, as it were, the cross to the kneeling religious, thus symbolizing the words of Jesus to his disciples: “If any one would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow” (Mt. 16:24). This symbol of the hand extending a cross was part of the twelfth century seal of the Cistercian Abbey at Pontigny. The cross itself seems to be much in the form of the cross formée that has been used in a number of twentieth century Edmundite Seals, like the one to the right.