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A papal bull is a type of public decree,
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
, or
charter A charter is the grant of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social scie ...
issued by a
pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

pope
of the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic Church
. It is named after the leaden
seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, List of semiaquatic tetrapods, semiaqu ...
('' bulla'') that was traditionally appended to the end in order to authenticate it.


History

Papal bulls have been in use at least since the 6th century, but the phrase was not used until around the end of the 13th century, and then only internally for unofficial administrative purposes. However, it had become official by the 15th century, when one of the offices of the
Apostolic Chancery The Apostolic ChanceryCanon 260, ''Code of Canon Law'' of 1917, translated by Edward N. Peters, Ignatius Press, 2001. ( la, Cancellaria Apostolica; also known as the "Papal" or "Roman Chanc(ell)ery") was a dicastery A dicastery (from gr, δικ ...
was named the "register of bulls" ("''registrum bullarum''"). By the accession of
Pope Leo IX Pope Leo IX (21 June 1002 – 19 April 1054), born Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg, was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 12 February 1049 to his death in 1054. Leo IX is widely considered the most historically significant Germans, G ...

Pope Leo IX
in 1048, a clear distinction developed between two classes of bulls of greater and less solemnity. The majority of the "great bulls" now in existence are in the nature of confirmations of property or charters of protection accorded to monasteries and religious institutions. In an epoch when there was much fabrication of such documents, those who procured bulls from
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
wished to ensure that the authenticity of their bull was above suspicion. A papal confirmation, under certain conditions, could be pleaded as itself constituting sufficient evidence of title in cases where the original deed had been lost or destroyed. Since the 12th century, papal bulls have carried a leaden seal with the heads of the Apostles
Saint Peter Saint Peter; he, שמעון בר יונה, Šimʿōn bar Yōnāh; ar, سِمعَان بُطرُس, translit=Simʿa̅n Buṭrus; grc-gre, Πέτρος, Petros; cop, Ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ, Petros; lat, Petrus; ar, شمعون الصفـا, Sham ...

Saint Peter
and
Saint Paul Paul the Apostle,; el, Παῦλος, translit=Paulos; cop, ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ; he, פאולוס השליח; – AD commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Hebrew name Saul of Tarsus,; ar, بولس الطرسوسي; el, ...

Saint Paul
on one side and the pope's name on the other. Papal bulls were originally issued by the pope for many kinds of communication of a public nature, but by the 13th century, papal bulls were only used for the most formal or solemn of occasions.
Papyrus Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...

Papyrus
seems to have been used almost uniformly as the material for these documents until the early years of the eleventh century, after which it was rapidly superseded by a rough kind of
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
. Modern scholars have retroactively used the word "bull" to describe any elaborate papal document issued in the form of a
decree A decree is a rule of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, ...

decree
or
privilege Privilege may refer to: Arts and entertainment * ''Privilege'' (film), a 1967 film directed by Peter Watkins * ''Privilege'' (Ivor Cutler album), 1983 * ''Privilege'' (Television Personalities album), 1990 * ''Privilege (Abridged) ''Privile ...
, 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. Today, the bull is the only written communication in which the pope will refer to himself as "'' Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei''" ("Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God"). While papal bulls always used to bear a metal seal, they now do so only on the most solemn occasions. A papal bull is today the most formal type of public decree or
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
issued by the
Vatican Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Ci ...
Chancery in the name of the pope.


Format

A bull's format formerly began with one line in tall, elongated letters containing three elements: the pope's name, the papal title "''Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei''" ("Bishop,
Servant of the Servants of God Servant of the servants of God ( la, servus servorum Dei) is one of the titles A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or a ...
"), and its
incipit The incipit () of a text is the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label. In a musical composition File:Chord chart.svg, 250px, Jazz and rock genre musicians may memorize the melodies for a new song, which means that the ...
, i.e., the first few
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
words from which the bull took its title 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''" that mentioned the place of issuance, day of the month and year of the pope's pontificate on which issued, and signatures, near which was attached the seal. For the most solemn bulls, the pope signed 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 A monogram or wenzel ( pl, Węzeł, "knot") is a motif Motif may refer to: General concepts * Motif (chess composition), an element of a move in the consideration of its purpose * Motif (folkloristics), a recurring element that creates recogn ...

monogram
, the signatures of any witnesses, and then the seal. Nowadays, a member of the
Roman Curia The Roman Curia ( la, Romana Curia ministerium suum implent) comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdi ...
signs the document on behalf of the pope, usually the
Cardinal Secretary of State The Secretary of State of His Holiness ( it, Segretario di Stato di Sua Santità), commonly known as the Cardinal Secretary of State, presides over the Holy See's Secretariat of State (Vatican), Secretariat of State, which is the oldest and mos ...
, and thus the monogram is omitted.


Seal

The most distinctive characteristic of a bull was the metal seal ('' bulla''), which was usually made of
lead Lead is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements ...

lead
, but on very solemn occasions was made of
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
, as those on Byzantine imperial instruments often were (see
Golden Bull A golden bull or chrysobull was a issued by s and later by monarchs in Europe during the and , most notably by the . The term was originally coined for the golden (a '' aurea''), attached to the decree, but came to be applied to the entire ...
). On the obverse it depicted, originally somewhat crudely, the early Fathers of the , the
Apostles upright=1.35, Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla">Chi_Rho.html" ;"title="fresco with the Chi Rho">Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome In Christian theology and ecclesiology, apostles, parti ...

Apostles
Saint Peter Saint Peter; he, שמעון בר יונה, Šimʿōn bar Yōnāh; ar, سِمعَان بُطرُس, translit=Simʿa̅n Buṭrus; grc-gre, Πέτρος, Petros; cop, Ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ, Petros; lat, Petrus; ar, شمعون الصفـا, Sham ...

Saint Peter
and
Saint Paul Paul the Apostle,; el, Παῦλος, translit=Paulos; cop, ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ; he, פאולוס השליח; – AD commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Hebrew name Saul of Tarsus,; ar, بولس الطرسوسي; el, ...

Saint Paul
, identified by the letters ''Sanctus PAulus'' and ''Sanctus PEtrus'' (thus, ''SPA •SPE'' or ''SPASPE''). St. Paul, on the left, was shown with flowing hair and a long pointed beard composed of curved lines, while St. Peter, on the right, was shown with curly hair and a shorter beard made of dome-shaped ''globetti'' (beads in relief). Each head was surrounded by a circle of ''globetti'', and the rim of the seal was surrounded by an additional ring of such beads, while the heads themselves were separated by a depiction of a cross. On the reverse was the name of the issuing pope in the
nominative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
form, with the letters "PP", for ' ("Shepherd of Shepherds"). This disc was then attached to the document either by cords of
hemp Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a botanical class of ''Cannabis sativa ''Cannabis sativa'' is an annual herbaceous flowering plant The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of Embry ...
, in the case of letters of justice and executory letters, or by red and yellow
silk Silk is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all o ...

silk
, in the case of letters of grace, that was looped through slits in the
vellum Vellum is prepared animal skin or "membrane", typically used as a material for writing on. Parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instrume ...

vellum
of the document. The term "''bulla''" derives from the Latin "''bullire''" ("to boil"), and alludes to the fact that, whether of wax, lead, or gold, the material making the seal had to be melted to soften it for impression. In 1535, the Florentine engraver
Benvenuto Cellini Benvenuto Cellini (, ; 3 November 150013 February 1571) was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, and artist who also wrote poetry and a famous autobiography. He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism Man ...

Benvenuto Cellini
was paid 50 ''
scudi The ''scudo'' (pl. ''scudi'') was the name for a number of coins used in various states in the Italy, Italian peninsula until the 19th century. The name, like that of the French écu and the Spanish escudo, Spanish and Portuguese escudo, was derive ...
'' to recreate the metal matrix which would be used to impress the lead ''bullae'' of
Pope Paul III Pope Paul III ( la, Paulus III; 29 February 1468 – 10 November 1549), born Alessandro Farnese, was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the , with 1.3 billion Cathol ...

Pope Paul III
. Cellini retained definitive iconographic items like the faces of the two Apostles, but he carved them with a much greater attention to detail and artistic sensibility than had previously been in evidence. On the reverse of the seal he added several
fleurs-de-lis The fleur-de-lis, also spelled fleur-de-lys (plural ''fleurs-de-lis'' or ''fleurs-de-lys''), is an iris (in French, and mean 'flower' and 'lily' respectively) that is used as a decorative design or symbol. The fleur-de-lis has been used in t ...

fleurs-de-lis
, a heraldic device of the Farnese family, from which Pope Paul III descended. Since the late 18th 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 ( la, Ioannes; it, Giovanni; born Giuseppe Angelo Roncalli, ; 25 November 18813 June 1963) was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian deno ...
convoking the
Second Vatican Council The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the , or , was the 21st ecumenical council An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological e ...
, still receive the leaden seal. Original papal bulls exist in quantity only after the 11th century onward, when the transition from fragile
papyrus Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...

papyrus
to the more durable
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
was made. None survives in entirety from before 819. Some original lead ''bullae'', 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,
excommunication Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure A censure is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism. In parliamentary procedure, it is a debatable main motion that could be adopted by a majority vote. Among the ...

excommunication
s,
Apostolic constitution An apostolic constitution ( la, constitutio apostolica) is the most solemn form of legislation Legislation is the process or product of enrolling, enacting, or promulgating Promulgation is the formal proclamation or the declaration that a ...
s,
canonization Canonization is the declaration of a deceased person as an officially recognized saint, specifically, the official act of a Christianity, Christian communion declaring a person worthy of Cult (religious practice), public cult and entering his ...
s, and
convocation A convocation (from the Latin ''wikt:convocare, convocare'' meaning "to call/come together", a translation of the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:ἐκκλησία, ἐκκλησία ''ekklēsia'') is a group of people formally assembled for a specia ...
s. The bull was the exclusive letter format from the Vatican until the 14th century, when the papal brief appeared. The brief is the less formal form of papal communication and was authenticated with a wax impression, now a red ink impression, of the Ring of the Fisherman. There has never been an exact distinction of usage between a bull and a brief, but nowadays most letters, including
encyclical An encyclical was originally a circular Circular may refer to: * The shape of a circle * Circular (album), ''Circular'' (album), a 2006 album by Spanish singer Vega * Circular letter (disambiguation) ** Flyer (pamphlet), a form of advertisement * ...
s, are issued as briefs.


See also

*
AbbreviatorAn Abbreviator (plural "Abbreviators" in English and "Abbreviatores" in Latin) or Breviator was a writer of the Apostolic Chancery, Papal Chancery who adumbrated and prepared in correct form Papal bulls, Papal brief, briefs, and papal consistory, con ...
* Bull of the Crusade *
Canonical Coronation A canonical coronation ( la, coronatio canonica) is a pious institutional act of the Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop ...
*
Edict An edict is a decree or announcement of a law, often associated with monarchy, monarchism, but it can be under any official authority. Synonyms include "dictum" and "pronouncement". ''Edict'' derives from the Latin wikt:edictum#Latin, edictum. N ...
*
Encyclical An encyclical was originally a circular Circular may refer to: * The shape of a circle * Circular (album), ''Circular'' (album), a 2006 album by Spanish singer Vega * Circular letter (disambiguation) ** Flyer (pamphlet), a form of advertisement * ...
*
Fatwa A fatwā (, also ; ar, فتوىٰ; plural ''fatāwā'' ) is a nonbinding legal opinion In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a ...

Fatwa
*
Golden Bull A golden bull or chrysobull was a issued by s and later by monarchs in Europe during the and , most notably by the . The term was originally coined for the golden (a '' aurea''), attached to the decree, but came to be applied to the entire ...
*
Heirloom Seal of the Realm The Heirloom Seal of the Realm (), also known in English as the Imperial Seal of China, is a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. ...
*
Great Seal of the Realm The Great Seal of the Realm or Great Seal of the United Kingdom (known prior to the Treaty of Union of 1707 as the Great Seal of England; and from then until the Union of 1801 as the Great Seal of Great Britain) is a seal Seal may refer to ...
*
Letters Patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
* Papal brief *
Proclamation A proclamation (Lat. ''proclamare'', to make public by announcement) is an official declaration issued by a person of authority to make certain announcements known. Proclamations are currently used within the governing framework of some nations ...

Proclamation
*
Rota (papal signature) Image:Alexander III Rota.png, ''Rota'' of Pope Alexander III, AD 1175 The ''rota'' is one of the symbols used by the Pope to authenticate documents such as papal bulls. It is a cross inscribed in two concentric circles. Pope Leo IX was the fi ...
*
Ukase Example of a modern ''ukaz'': the ambassadorial appointment of Sergey Kislyak to the United States in 2008. In Imperial Russia The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia ...

Ukase


Notes


References


Chambers, Ephraim. ''Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences'', 1728
*


Further reading

* Albert, C.S.
Bull
” ''Lutheran Cyclopedia.'' New York: Scribner, 1899. p. 67
Papal Encyclicals Online


{{DEFAULTSORT:Papal Bull Christian genres Seals (insignia)