After the dove, the pelican is the most common bird seen in Christian symbolism. During the late medieval and early Renaissance period, the motif of the pelican piercing its breast to feed its young with its blood became a popular symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Over time, variations of the legend occurred, but they are similar: “The baby pelicans die and after three days of mourning, the parent pelican pecks its own breast until there is a stream of blood. The babies take the blood and are revived.” In some legends the parent will die to save its young. Despite the variations of the legends, all symbolize Christ, who shed His blood for mankind, showing His self-sacrificing love.
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