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The history behind the processional mace

The mace of the University of Delaware (foreground) shown with the chain of office and cap and gown worn by President David P. Roselle at Commencement.

Click here for low-resolution video from UD’s 155th Commencement. 

Click here for high-resolution video from UD’s 155th Commencement.

Click here for Commencement 2004 photo album.

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About UD’s 155th Commencement

Graduation numbers

Academic regalia

Why a mace?

Signs of the times

Commencements past
2:48 p.m., May 29, 2004--If you trace its history back far enough, the mace—the ornamental staff carried at the lead of the Commencement procession—was originally a weapon of war.

Traditionally used by horsemen and warriors to unseat battle opponents and smash heavy armor during tournaments, it was typically made entirely of metal and was crafted to include a grooved head with lethally sharp spikes.

After abandoning its barbaric roots for more genteel pursuits in the Middle Ages, the mace became associated with high-level state occasions and eventually gained prominence as a modern-day symbol of power, authority and dignity, according to a booklet published by the University Archives.

In keeping with this current symbolism, the University’s mace, which has the elaborate features of an early 14th-century model, is carried before the platform group by the University marshal during academic processions to signify the dignity and sovereignty of the University.

Acquired in 1971, UD’s mace is 42 inches long and weighs nine and one-half pounds. The head of the mace is 10 inches in diameter and displays eight diamond-shaped, enamel-and-gold-plated silver panels that alternate the Blue Hen and the American holly—the state bird and state tree, respectively.

A handcrafted work of art, the mace is part of the University’s Permanent Art Collection.

Photo by Robert Cohen

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