Insignia form an indispensable part of Masaryk Universtiy traditions. As early as the Middle Ages, insignia have stood for a sovereign symbol of universities. At first, insignia reflected the exclusive status of universities in the medieval society; in the modern times, however, the meaning of insignia was reduced only to be fulfilling a representative function. A seal, a sceptre and a medal with a chain represent the oldest insignia of the university. The university could obtain its principal insignias in a traditional way – insignias were donated by the founder of the university or by another distinguished persona.
President Masaryk commissioned Otakar Španiel to design a new medal. The foreside depicts a portrait of T. G. Masaryk; while the essential motif of the reverse side is the dedication: “To Masaryk University in Brno by the President” together with a facsimile of Masaryk's signature. The same foreside, but with different reverse side – the central national emblem – appears on the Vice-Chancellor chain medal.
The celebration ceremony of presenting insignias to Masaryk University took place in the after-Munich atmosphere on 15 December 1938. At the outset of the occupation, insignias were put in a safe at the Faculty of Law, which was occupied in November 1939 (after the closure of the university). This caused the later decision to keep the insignias in the Mortgage and Land Bank of Moravia safe (Hypoteční a zemědělská banka moravská), where they were kept until 1945. The rector’s sceptre as well as the rector’s and vice-chancellor’s medals was sent to the Ministry of Education where they were to be destroyed. Nevertheless, owing to the patriotic clerical workers, these jewels were saved in the National Museum and at the Ministry.
In 1960, the university was renamed into the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně. In connection with this change, a new rector chain was provided. Its medal depicted a portrait of J. E. Purkyně on the foreside – which was inspired by his plaque medal in Prague made by Josef Václav Myslbek – with the inscription of “UNIVERSITAS PURKYNIANA”. Watson’s and Crick’s scheme of the deoxyribonucleic double spiral during its division was used for the reverse side. The sketch was drawn by Pavel Bravený. The motto of the faculty is “SCIENTIA EST POTENTIA”. The author of the pictorial concept of the medal was the sculptor Andrej Peter. The medal of new rector’s chain is different from its predecessors in its size – the caliber was 80 mm, while all the other examples were minted with a caliber of 65 mm. The chain had been used until the beginning of 1990 – a year when the university returned to its original name.
In 1937, a competition for designing university sceptres was announced. Designs of Václav Rada and Ladislav Bartoníček won. The lion with a double tail and a Slovak emblem on its shield was chosen for the capital of the sceptre.
The four founding faculties – the Faculty of Law, Medicine, Science and Arts – have their own traditional insignias, medals with chains and sceptres. Portraits of outstanding Czech personalities of particular science fields were chosen for the foresides of the medals in 1936. Otakar Španiel was the designer of all four medals – he also created the rector’s medal. Along with him, Jaroslav Benda also contributed to the designs of the chains. The medals of particular faculties depict portraits of distinguished representatives of the subject fields at the faculties. Moreover, mottos relating to these personalities form an integral part of the portraits. In the period when other faculties were established, a need for new insignias arose. A traditional conception to present a medal with a portrait of an outstanding personality from a particular field was adopted; however, the Faculty of Social Studies decided otherwise and chose a symbol of dialogue instead.
The university sceptres of the founding faculties were made in 1938 according to the designs of Václav Rada and Ladislav Bartoníček. The chains, together with medals, are made of gilded silver, the rector’s medal being an exception – it was minted in a golden compound. As for the newly established faculties, the authors of the designs and implementations of the insignias were chosen individually, on the basis of announced contests.
The Faculty of Sport Studies does not have its own insignia.
Albín Bráf is a representative of the law field of study – his portrait is depicted on the medal of the Faculty of Law; the motto “LEX DURA SED LEX” constitutes the reverse side of the medal.
The Faculty of Law chose a figure of Justice holding a sword for its sceptre.
This faculty chose a portrait of Jan Evangelista Purkyně with his motto “MEDICINAE MUNUS – SCIENTIA DE VITA HUMANA”.
The main motif of the Faculty of Medicine is Aeskulap´s staff with a snake.
Gregor Mendel is the main figure of the Faculty of Science sceptre with the motto “IN NATURA SPES ET VERITAS”.
The sun with rays constitutes the capital of the Faculty of Science sceptre.
František Palacký with his motto “SVOJI K SVÉMU A VŽDY PODLE PRAVDY” belongs to the symbols of the Faculty of Arts.
This faculty chose the owl standing on an open book as its symbol.
The medal on the rector’s chain was designed by Václav Adolf Kovanič. The foreside represents a portrait of J. A. Komenský; the reverse side depicts hands passing on a torch. The motto of the Faculty of Education is “TRADITIO LAMPADIS“.
As the burning torch was chosen as the symbol of this faculty, the sceptre was made according to that (after the design by Eduard Milén). The insignias originate from 1965.
The Faculty of Economics and Administration was established in 1991; it chose a portrait of the first rector of Masaryk University and an outstanding economist Karel Engliš for the foreside of its medal. The motto “VÝKONNOST, HOSPODÁRNOST, SOLIDÁRNOST” forms its reverse side and it constitutes a part of the composition with symbolic church of wisdom and knowledge.
The capital of the sceptre bears a motive of a winged helmet. The design of the chain and sceptre was created by sculptor Michal Vitanovský. The sceptre was made by sculptor Pavel Filip, following Vitanovský’s design. The faculty has been using its insignias since November 1995.
The Faculty of Informatics was established in 1994 as the seventh faculty of Masaryk University. The faculty has its own insignia since March 2007. The author of the insignia is the sculptor and art metal caster Jaromír Gargulák.
The portrait and signature of Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) decorates the foreside of the medal. Kurt Gödel, who was born in Brno, is considered one of the most important scientists of all times working in the field of Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy. His ground-breaking results became a part of foundational theoretical results contributing to Informatics as a scientific discipline with far-reaching practical outcomes. The motif of the reverse side of the medal is the emblem of the Faculty.
The capital of the sceptre refers to the symbol of fire as represented by Prometheus’s bringing fire to mankind. Fire was once essential for mankind as a rudimentary technology of versatile use, much alike the present role of Informatics.
The expanding Faculty of Social Studies has it own insignias, too. The designer is Lefteris Joanidis, who is also the author of the faculty logo. In the case of this faculty, however, the portrait of a distinguished persona was replaced by the three-dimensional depiction of the faculty symbol (used both for a one-sided medal and a capital of the sceptre). These insignias have been used since May 2004.
The Faculty of Sports Studies was established in 2002 as the nineth faculty of Masaryk University. It has used its insignia since September 2006. The insignia was designed by Lefteris Joanidis.
The dean's chain bears a medal with an engraved logo of the faculty on its foreside. An inscription kalokagathia decorates the reverse side of the medal.
The upper part of the sceptr – the capital – is composed of a medal which bears the logo of the faculty on its foreside and the inscription of kalokagathia on the reverse side. The laurel garland with gems in the faculty's colors frames the medal. In this sequence of the lower and upper parts of the scepter the symbolic appellation is hidden: there is no victory without fire.