Among the most represented animals in the Christian funeral symbolism, the pelican is the symbol of the sacrifice of Christ and charity. In the book ‘Physiologist’ it is said that the Pelican kills its own puppies, when they start growing. After three days, in order to bring them back to life he opens its own chest with his beak and purifies them with his own blood. Some scholars ignore the fact that the pelican kills his puppies and focus on the sacrifice of the animal, which gives its blood as food for its children. The Christological symbol is present in the ‘Divina Commedia’ by Dante Alighieri who calls Jesus "our Pelican" (Paradiso, XXV, 112). In the Renaissance art, the pelican is often represented as a symbol of Charity. Ripa represents it as he personification of goodness: "the pelican is a bird which, according to many authors, spurns itself with its own beak and feeds its puppies with its own blood, [...]". Moreover, as an attribute of Compassion, the pelican is often symbolically linked to the vulture. The animal is frequently represented in the funeral iconography of modern western cemeteries as a Christological symbol. Sometimes, its representation is even supposed to be linked to the Masonic symbology.

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Traduzione di Enrico Caneti, revisione professoressa Annamaria Marconi, Classe IIIQ, Liceo Galvani Bologna, anno scolatico 2017-2018.

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Descrizione del Cimitero di Bologna
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Descrizione del Cimitero di Bologna (Description of the Certosa cemetery), fascicolo XLI, ultimo della Collezione. Giovanni Zecchi, Bologna, 1829. © Museo Risorgimento Bologna | Certosa.