Fra Angelico, The Crucifixion: Detail, the pelican inset

Convent of San Marco, Florence

This detail is one of the insets in the border around the main image, all of which have banderoles with phrases relating to the Crucifixion. This banderole reads Similis factus sum pellicano solitudinis, "I am become like to a pelican of the wilderness" (Psalm 101:7). The pelican was a common symbol of Christ's blood reviving humanity. As Augustine put it, "These birds are said to slay their young with blows of their beaks, and for three days to mourn them when slain by themselves in the nest: after which they say the mother wounds herself deeply, and pours forth her blood over her young, bathed in which they recover life. This may be true, it may be false: yet if it be true, see how it agrees with Him, who gave us life by His blood" (Expositions of the Psalms, Ps. 102, ¶8).

View the entire fresco.
Read more about the pelican symbol.

Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.