ALMA MATER (
Latin : alma "nourishing/kind", mater "mother"; pl.
almae matres) is an allegorical
Latin phrase for a university or
college . In modern usage, it is a school or university which an
individual has attended, or a song or hymn associated with a school .
The phrase is variously translated as "nourishing mother", "nursing
mother", or "fostering mother", suggesting that a school provides
intellectual nourishment to its students. Fine arts will often depict
educational institutions using a robed woman as a visual metaphor.
Before its modern usage,
Alma mater was an honorific title for
Latin mother goddesses , especially Ceres or
Cybele , and
later in Catholicism for the
Virgin Mary . It entered academic usage
University of Bologna adopted the motto "Alma Mater
Studiorum" ("nurturing mother of studies"), which describes its
heritage as the oldest operating university in the Western world . It
is related to alumnus , a term used for a university graduate that
literally means a "nursling" or "one who is nourished".
* 1 Etymology
* 3 Monuments
* 4 References
* 5 External links
John Legate's Alma Mater for Cambridge in 1600
Although alma (nourishing) was a common epithet for Ceres ,
Venus , and other mother goddesses, it was not frequently used in
conjunction with mater in classical Latin. In the Oxford Latin
Dictionary , the phrase is attributed to Lucretius'
De rerum natura ,
where it is used as an epithet to describe an earth goddess:
Denique caelesti sumus omnes semine oriundi
omnibus ille idem pater est, unde alma liquentis
umoris guttas mater cum terra recepit (2.991–93)
We are all sprung from that celestial seed,
all of us have same father, from whom earth,
the nourishing mother, receives drops of liquid moisture
After the fall of Rome , the term came into Christian liturgical
usage in association with the
Virgin Mary . "
Alma Redemptoris Mater "
is a well-known 11th century antiphon devoted to Mary.
The earliest documented English use of the term to refer to a
university is in 1600, when
University of Cambridge printer John
Legate began using an emblem for the university\'s press . The
device's first-known appearance is on the title-page of William
Perkins ' A Golden Chain, where the phrase Alma Mater Cantabrigia
("nourishing mother Cambridge") is inscribed on a pedestal bearing a
nude, lactating woman wearing a mural crown . In English
etymological reference works, the first university-related usage is
often cited in 1710, when an academic mother-figure is mentioned in a
Henry More by Richard Ward.
Many historic European universities have adopted Alma Mater as part
Latin translation of their official name. The
Latin name, Alma Mater Studiorum (nourishing mother of
studies), refers to its status as the oldest continuously operating
university in the world . Other European universities, such as the
Alma Mater Lipsiensis in Leipzig, Germany, or Alma Mater Jagiellonica
, Poland, have similarly used the expression in conjunction with
geographical or foundational characteristics. At least one, the Alma
Mater Europaea in
Salzburg , Austria, an international university
founded by the
European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2010, uses the
term as its official name
In the United States, the
College of William "> Alma Mater (1929,
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
The ancient Roman world had many statues of the Alma Mater, some
still extant (e.g., at the
Palatine Hill in Rome).
Modern sculptures are found in prominent locations on several
American university campuses. For example, in the United States: there
is a well-known bronze statue of Alma Mater by Daniel Chester French
situated on the steps of Columbia University's
Low Library ; the
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign also has an Alma Mater
Lorado Taft . An altarpiece mural in Yale University's
Sterling Memorial Library , painted in 1932 by
Eugene Savage , depicts
the Alma Mater as a bearer of light and truth, standing in the midst
of the personified arts and sciences.
Outside the United States, there is an Alma Mater sculpture on the
steps of the monumental