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Papal bull

Papal bull

Overview

A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 or charter issued by a Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla
Bulla (seal)
Bulla , is a type of seal impression. It comes in two forms: metal and clay.- Clay bullae :The original bulla was a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal...

 that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it.

Papal bulls were originally issued by the pope for many kinds of communication of a public nature, but after the fifteenth century, only for the most formal or solemn of occasions. Modern scholars have retroactively used the term "Bull" to describe any elaborate papal document issued in the form of a decree
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

 or privilege
Privilege
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth...

 (solemn or simple), and to some less elaborate ones issued in the form of a letter.
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Timeline

1054   Three Roman legates break relations between Western and Eastern Christian Churches through the act of placing an invalidly-issued Papal Bull of Excommunication on the altar of Hagia Sophia during Saturday afternoon divine liturgy. Historians frequently describe the event as the start of the East-West Schism.

1252   Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull ''ad exstirpanda'', which authorizes, but also limits, the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.

1256   The Grand Union of the Augustinian order formed when Pope Alexander IV issues a papal bull ''Licet ecclesiae catholicae''.

1256   The Augustinian monastic order is constituted at the Lecceto Monastery when Pope Alexander IV issues a papal bull ''Licet ecclesiae catholicae''.

1302   Pope Boniface VIII issues the Papal bull ''Unam sanctam'' (One Faith).

1343   Pope Clement VI issues the Bull ''Unigenitus''.

1348   Papal bull of Pope Clement VI protecting the Jews accused to have caused the Black Death.

1377   Pope Gregory XI issues five papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of English theologian John Wycliffe.

1484   Pope Innocent VIII issues the ''Summis desiderantes'', a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the most oppressive witch hunts in European history.

1503   James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor are married according to a Papal Bull by Pope Alexander VI. A Treaty of Everlasting Peace between Scotland and England signed on that occasion results in a peace that lasts ten years.

 
Encyclopedia

A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 or charter issued by a Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla
Bulla (seal)
Bulla , is a type of seal impression. It comes in two forms: metal and clay.- Clay bullae :The original bulla was a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal...

 that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it.

Papal bulls were originally issued by the pope for many kinds of communication of a public nature, but after the fifteenth century, only for the most formal or solemn of occasions. Modern scholars have retroactively used the term "Bull" to describe any elaborate papal document issued in the form of a decree
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

 or privilege
Privilege
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth...

 (solemn or simple), and to some less elaborate ones issued in the form of a letter. Popularly, the name is used for any papal document that contains a metal seal.

Papal bulls have been in use at least since the sixth century, but the term was not first used until around the middle of the thirteenth century and then only for internal un-official papal record keeping purposes; the term had become official by the fifteenth century, when one of the offices of the Papal chancery
Apostolic Chancery
The Chancery of Apostolic Briefs , is a former office of the Roman Curia, merged into the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs by Pope Pius X on June 29, 1908 with the apostolic constitution Sapienti Consilio...

 was named the "register of bulls" (registrum bullarum).

Today, the bull is the only written communication in which the Pope will refer to himself as episcopus servus servorum Dei
Servus Servorum Dei
Servus Servorum Dei is a Latin phrase meaning Servant of the Servants of God. The phrase is one of the titles of the Pope and is used to refer to the Pope in the beginning address of Papal bulls.-History:...

, meaning "Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God." For instance, Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

, when he issues a decree in bull form, will begin the document with Benedictus, Episcopus, Servus Servorum Dei. While it used to always bear a metal seal, it now does so only on the most solemn occasions. It is today the most formal type of letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 issued by the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 Chancery in the name of the Pope.

Format


A bull's format began with one line in tall elongated letters containing three elements: the Pope's name, the Papal title episcopus servus servorum Dei, meaning 'bishop, servant of the servants of God', and the few Latin words that constituted the incipit
Incipit
Incipit is a Latin word meaning "it begins". The incipit of a text, such as a poem, song, or book, is the first few words of its opening line. In music, it can also refer to the opening notes of a composition. Before the development of titles, texts were often referred to by their incipits...

 from which the bull would also take its name for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull's purpose.

The body of the text had no specific conventions for its formatting; it was often very simple in layout. The closing section consisted of a short datum, mentioning the place it was issued, the day of the month and the year of the pope's pontificate and signatures, near which was attached the seal.

For the most solemn bulls, the Pope would sign the document himself, in which case he used the formula Ego N. Catholicae Ecclesiae Episcopus (I, N., Bishop of the Catholic Church). Following the signature in this case would be an elaborate monogram
Monogram
A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos. A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a...

, the signatures of any witnesses, and then the seal. Nowadays, a member of the Roman Curia
Roman Curia
The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, together with the Pope...

 signs the document on behalf of the Pope, usually the Cardinal Secretary of State
Cardinal Secretary of State
The Cardinal Secretary of State—officially Secretary of State of His Holiness The Pope—presides over the Holy See, usually known as the "Vatican", Secretariat of State, which is the oldest and most important dicastery of the Roman Curia...

, and thus the monogram is omitted.

Seal


The most distinctive characteristic of a bull was the metal seal, which was usually made of lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, but on very solemn occasions was made of gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 (as Byzantine imperial deeds often were). It depicted the founders of the Church of Rome
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, the apostles Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

, identified by the letters Sanctus PAulus and Sanctus PEtrus. The name of the issuing pope is on the reverse side. This was then attached to the document either by cords of hemp
Hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

 (in the case of letters of justice, and executory) or by red and yellow silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 (in the case of letters of grace) that was looped through slits in the vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

 of the document. Bulla is the name of this seal, because whether of wax, lead, or gold, the material making the seal had to be melted to soften it and take on an impression: Latin bullire, "to boil".

Since the late eighteenth century, the lead bulla has been replaced with a red ink stamp of Saints Peter and Paul with the reigning Pope's name encircling the picture, though very formal letters, e.g. the bull of Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII
-Papal election:Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Roncalli was elected Pope, to his great surprise. He had even arrived in the Vatican with a return train ticket to Venice. Many had considered Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, a possible candidate, but, although archbishop...

 convoking the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

, still receive the lead seal.

Original papal bulls exist in quantity only after the eleventh century onward when the transition from fragile papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 to the more durable parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

 was made. None survives in entirety from before 819. Some original leaden seals, however, still survive from as early as the 6th century.

Content


In terms of content, the bull is simply the format in which a decree of the Pope appears. Any subject may be treated in a bull, and many were and are, including statutory decrees, episcopal appointments, dispensations
Dispensation (Catholic Church)
In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a dispensation is the suspension by competent authority of general rules of law in particular cases...

, excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

s, apostolic constitution
Apostolic constitution
An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the...

s, canonization
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

s and convocation
Convocation
A Convocation is a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose.- University use :....

s. The bull was the exclusive letter format from the Vatican until the fourteenth century, when the papal brief
Papal brief
The Papal Brief is a formal document emanating from the Pope, in a somewhat simpler and more modern form than a Papal Bull.-History:The introduction of briefs, which occurred at the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Eugenius IV , was clearly prompted for the same desire for greater simplicity...

 began to appear. The brief is the less formal form of papal communication and is authenticated with a wax impression (now a red ink impression) of the Ring of the Fisherman
Ring of the Fisherman
The Ring of the Fisherman, also known as the Piscatory Ring, Annulus Piscatoris and the Anello Piscatorio , is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, who is head of the Catholic Church and successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade...

. There has never been an exact distinction of usage between a bull and a brief, but nowadays most letters, including encyclical
Encyclical
An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Catholic Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop...

s, are issued as briefs.

See also

  • Abbreviator
    Abbreviator
    Abbreviator, plural Abbreviators in English or Abbreviatores in Latin, also called Breviators, were a body of writers in the papal chancery, whose business was to sketch out and prepare in due form the pope's bulls, briefs and consistorial decrees before these are written out in extenso by the...

  • Bull of the Crusade
    Bull of the Crusade
    A Bull of the Crusade was a Papal bull that granted indulgences to those who took part in the crusades against Muslims, pagans or sometimes heretics...

  • Bulla (seal)
    Bulla (seal)
    Bulla , is a type of seal impression. It comes in two forms: metal and clay.- Clay bullae :The original bulla was a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal...

  • Edict
    Edict
    An edict is an announcement of a law, often associated with monarchism. The Pope and various micronational leaders are currently the only persons who still issue edicts.-Notable edicts:...

  • Fatwa
    Fatwa
    A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

  • Golden Bull
    Golden Bull
    A Golden Bull or chrysobull was a golden ornament representing a seal , attached to a decree issued by Byzantine Emperors and later by monarchs in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The term was originally coined for the golden seal itself but came to be applied to the entire decree...

  • Great Seal of the Realm
    Great Seal of the Realm
    The Great Seal of the Realm or Great Seal of the United Kingdom is a seal that is used to symbolise the Sovereign's approval of important state documents...

  • Holy Roman Empire
    Holy Roman Empire
    The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

  • Letters Patent
    Letters patent
    Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

  • List of papal bulls
  • Proclamation
    Proclamation
    A proclamation is an official declaration.-England and Wales:In English law, a proclamation is a formal announcement , made under the great seal, of some matter which the King in Council or Queen in Council desires to make known to his or her subjects: e.g., the declaration of war, or state of...

  • Ukase
    Ukase
    A ukase , in Imperial Russia, was a proclamation of the tsar, government, or a religious leader that had the force of law...


Sources and external links



Attribution