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CAGS History – Coat of Arms
The ancient art form of heraldry dates from the 12th century. In olden times knights in full armour looked very similar and it was difficult to discern the allegiance of any individual, especially from a distance. Chivalry obliged therefore that each knight wear a coat bearing a distinctive symbol over his armour (a coat of arms) indicating the army or group to which he belonged. Similar symbols were displayed on banners, shields and horse cloths. A personal crest of boiled leather or light wood was affixed like a coxcomb to the top of the helmet. Below the crest a silken mantle hung down to keep the heat of the sun off the back of the armour. In a decorative representation of a coat of arms the mantle is slashed and swirled to hang pleasingly about the helmet and shield.
The shield has a red and white boarder reminding us of our Barber-Surgeon origins. The main charge on the shield is an eagle on a golden field. The eagle is taken from the crest of the mother college, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and modified. On the CAGS shield the eagle is red to represent surgery (rather than golden), the imperial crown has been removed and the head has been turned to face forward. A lance held in the eagle’s right claw represents a surgical instrument. The addition of a serpent wound about the lance forms a modified caduceus a symbol of the medical profession from antiquity. The colour red and the metal gold are borrowed from the coat of arms of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, our immediate parent organization.
On the top of the helmet is a circlet or coronet of red maple leaves, emblematic of Canada. From this arises the right hand of a Surgeon grasping a dagger on which is impaled the head of a dragon erased connoting the eradication of disease.
The mantling is again in surgical red and lined in gold.
Sapientia Manaque Apta (“Wisdom and a Skillful Hand”) is a modification of the motto of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada which reads “With a Keen Mind and Skillful Hand”. Sapientia (wisdom) embodies the concepts of knowledge and judgment, both essential in a Surgeon no matter how dexterous.
The CAGS coat of arms was developed under the guidance of Dr. Robert H. Thorlakson, M.D., FRCS, FRCSC, FACS of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The noted heraldic artist Gordon Macpherson of Burlington, Ontario rendered the library painting. Regrettably electronic reproduction as for this web page hardly does justice to this endeavor. The CAGS coat of arms was presented to and accepted officially by the Chief Herald of Canada, Robert D. Watt in 1992. The formal letters patent were issued to CAGS and the arms were registered in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. A notice of grant was published in the Canadian Gazette. A copy of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons Coat of Arms mounted on red velvet and framed in a gold box frame hangs in the quarters of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Ottawa.