Medieval Writing
Papal Bulls (3)
A notably simplified form of the papal bull, which provided grants or favours but was not so elaborate as the privilege, was referred to as a titulus. It was essentially a charter, but lacked some of the complex features of the solemn diploma.
Bull of Innocent III

Bull of Innocent III, of 1208 to the monastery of St Luzi in Chur (Chur, Bischöfliches Archiv). (From Steffens 1929)

papal seal
The above example is written in a small neat diplomatic minuscule without too many elaborations, but it does use the papal knot abbreviation mark and stretches the st letter combination. However, there is no elongated heading apart from the name of the pope. The final clause is relatively simple, with a plain threat that an omnipotent God and Saints Peter and Paul will deal with any transgressors. There is no Amen, no sign manual or Bene Valete, no long lists of witnesses and the date is in a relatively simple format. The bulla is attached by a silk thread and bears the heads of Saints Peter and Paul.
At another stage down the levels of formality were documents sometimes known as mandamenta, which were letters containing orders, advice or instructions. These might be considered the papal equivalent of a writ.
bull of Innocent III Papal bull of Pope Innocent III of 1213, commanding the peoples of Ireland to abide sincerely in fealty to John, King of the English, and his heirs (Public Record Office, Museum, Case A, No.16). (From New Palaeographical Society 1908)
The above example has a much simplified diplomatic minuscule script, no elaborate headings, graphic devices or witness lists and a simplified form of date. The seal, which is not visible in the photograph, is attached with hemp, as is usual in this grade of document. The interesting circular graphical device at the bottom is the rubber stamp of the Public Record Office, plonked right into the middle of the dating clause. Sigh....
Papal bulls, like any other kind of charter, were sent from the originating agency to the recipients, where they were kept or lost or stolen at the Reformation or burnt in fires, or generally subjected to the various hazards that befall dispersed documents. They are to be found scattered across the length and breadth of western Christendom. I have even seen them for sale on eBay. Copies were kept in registers in the papal chancery, more extensively as the middle ages progressed. By the later middle ages the sheer volume of material is so vast that heroic attempts to publish it systematically have been constrained by the enormity of the task.
effigy of a pope Funerary effigy of a 14th century pope, from the Petit Palais Museum in Avignon.
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