HistoryHeidelberg’s University Seal

The seal shows the apostle Peter, the university’s patron saint, sitting under a canopy. The two kneeling knights are most likely elector Ruprecht I on the right in the wax imprint and his nephew, co-regent and successor Ruprecht II on the left.


They are shown giving Peter parts of their wealth, symbolised by the escutcheons they are giving into his custody. The left shield depicts the Bavarian diamonds, the right one the Palatine lion. An elaborate silver seal was commissioned early in the university’s history – on November 18, 1386 – and this seal remained a part of the university’s insignia for many years. Towards the end of the 17th century, however, the seal was lost during the confusion of the War of Palatine Succession. After its “rediscovery” in an art shop decades later, the seal made its way into the possession of the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg, where it has resided since the 19th century.

To prevent anything from happening to the silver seal, the university also commissioned a simple seal, adorned with the same picture, for everyday use. How many such seals it commissioned and when, however, remains unclear. Three of these simple metal seals have been preserved, and in 2004, the university archive was able to purchase one of these from a private owner (see picture).

The seal is 70mm in diameter. The circumscription begins at the top, slightly off-centre, and reads:"+s[igillum] universitatis [ornament] studii [ornament] heydelbergensis [ornament]". The scripture ribbon is bordered on both sides by a rope of pearls. Following these artistic elements, the seal now is usually used in a printed form. Pitted and stylised with clear lines, it is a ubiquitous element of the university’s logo – used for the anniversary medals in 1961 and 1986, book covers or signs – and forms an important part of the university’s corporate design.

Werner Moritz
The author was the director of the Heidelberg University Archive from 1996 to 2010.

Heidelberg’s University Seal