The Georgetown Seal

The great seal of Georgetown University is nearly as old as the institution itself. It bears the founding date, 1789, and the Latin inscription, Collegium Georgiopolitanum Ad Ripas Potomaci in Marylandia. Before the founding date of the District of Columbia, the Village of Georgetown was indeed, "on the banks of the Potomac in Maryland."

The seal bears 16 stars, which dates it between 1796 when Tennessee was admitted into the Union and 1803 when Ohio, the 17th state was admitted. The scroll in the eagle's mouth bears the words "Utraque Unum," which comes from the epistle to the Ephesians. The passage from which the two words are taken tells of the oneness of Jews and Gentile in Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.

As is the way in universities, the two words have taken on a variety of meanings from other contexts: the accommodations of learning and faith; the gathering of the sciences and the arts; and most moving of all, the joining of the blue and gray after the Civil War. It is hard not to think that the original choice of this text looked also to the fit of the old faith into the new Republic, the dream of Archbishop Carroll.

In 1844, a round version of the seal was adopted, and that again was modified in 1894. That version organized the seal more tightly, left out much of its detail, and rather pompously substituted thirteen stars for the sixteen on the original. In 1977, it was voted to return to the original seal, with all its historical memories.

Who the artist was no one knows, but the school accounts tell us that on May 11, 1789, Georgetown received a cash gift for the engravings of the seal from Justine Douat, who had served as a nurse for Georgetown's younger students. The artist could well have been Miss Douat, but could also have been one of the early Jesuits who served on the Georgetown staff.