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Bulls and Briefs

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Bulls and Briefs.—A bulla was originally a circular plate or boss of metal, so called from its resemblance in form to a bubble floating upon water (Lat. bullire, to boil). In course of time the term came to be applied to the leaden seals with which papal and royal documents were authenticated in the early Middle Ages, and by a further development the name, from designating the seal, was eventually attached to the document itself. This did not happen before the thirteenth century and the name bull was at first only a popular term used almost promiscuously for all kinds of instruments which issued from the papal chancery. A much more precise acceptation has prevailed since the fifteenth century, and a bull has long stood in sharp contrast with certain other forms of papal documents. For practical purposes a bull may be conveniently defined to be “an Apostolic letter with a leaden seal”, to which one may add that in its superscription the pope invariably takes the title of episcopus, servus servorum Dei.

In official language papal documents have at all times been called by various names, more or less descriptive of their character. For example, there are “constitutions”, i.e. decisions addressed to all the faithful and determining some matter of faith or discipline; “encyclicals” which are letters sent to all the bishops of Christendom, or at least to all those of one particular country, and intended to guide them in their relations with their flocks; “decrees”, pronouncements on points affecting the general welfare of the Church; “decretals” (epistolae decretales), which are papal replies to some particular difficulty submitted to the Holy See, but having the force of precedents to rule all analogous cases. “Rescript”, again, is a term applicable t o almost any form of Apostolic letter which has been elicited by some previous appeal, while the nature of a “privilege” speaks for itself. But all these, down to the fifteenth century, seem to have been expedited by the papal chancery in the shape of bulls authenticated with leaden seals, and it is common enough to apply the term bull even to those very early papal letters of which we know little more than the substance, independently of the forms under which they were issued.

It will probably be most convenient to divide the subject into periods, noting the more characteristic features of papal documents in each age.

I. EARLIEST TIMES TO ADRIAN I (772).—There can be no doubt that the formation of a chancery or bureau for the drafting and expediting of official papers was a work of time. Unfortunately, the earliest papal documents known to us are only preserved in copies or abstracts from which it is difficult to draw any safe conclusions as to the forms observed in issuing the originals. For all that, it is practically certain that no uniform rules can have been followed as to superscription, formula of salutation, conclusion, or signature. It was only when some sort of registry was organized, and copies of earlier official correspondence became available, that a tradition very gradually grew up of certain customary forms that ought not to be departed from. Except for the unsatisfactory mention of a body of notaries charged with keeping a record of the Acts of the Martyrs, c. 235 (Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis, I, pp. c—ci), we meet with no clear reference to the papal archives until the time of Julius I (337-353), though in the pontificate of Damasus, before the end of the same century, there is mention of a building appropriated to this special purpose. Here in the scrinium, or archivium sanctae Romance ecclesice, the documents must have been registered and kept in a definite order, for extracts and copiesstill in existence preserve traces of their numbering. These collections or regesta went back to the time of Pope Gelasius (492-496) and probably earlier. In the correspondence of Pope Hormisdas (514-525) there are indications of some official endorsement recording the date at which letters addressed to him were received, and for the time of St. Gregory the Great (590-604) Ewald has been at least partially successful in reconstructing the books which contained the copies of the pope’s epistles. There can be little doubt that the pontifical chancery of which we thus infer the existence was modeled upon that of the imperial court. The scrinium, the regionary notaries, the higher officials such as the primicerius and secundicerius, the arrangement of the Regesta by indictions, etc. are all probably imitations of the practice of the later empire. Hence we may infer that a code of recognized forms soon established itself, analogous to that observed by the imperial notaries. One formulary of this description is probably still preserved to us in the book called the “Liber Diurnus,” the bulk of which seems to be inspired by the official correspondence of Pope Gregory the Great. In the earlier papal letters, however, there are as yet but few signs of the observance of traditional forms. Sometimes the document names the pope first, sometimes the addressee. For the most part the pope bears no title except Sixtus episcopus or Leo episcopus catholicae ecclesiae, sometimes, butmore rarely, he is called Papa. Under Gregory the Great, servus servorum Dei (servant of the servants of God) was often added after episcopus, Gregory, it is said, having selected this designation as a protest against the arrogance of the Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Faster, who called himself “Oecumenical Bishop“. But though several of St. Gregory’s successors followed him in this preference, it was not until the ninth century that the phrase came to be used invariably in documents of moment. Before Pope Adeodatus (elected in 672) few salutations are found, but he used the form “salutem a Deo et benedictionem nostram”. The now consecrated phrase “salutem et apostolicam benedictionem” hardly ever occurs before the tenth century. The Benedictine authors of the “Nouveau traite de diplomatique” in ascribing a much earlier date to this formula were misled by a forged bull purporting to be addressed to the monastery of St. Benignus at Dijon. Again, in these early letters the pope often addressed his correspondent, more especially when he was a king or person of high dignity, by the plural Vos. As ages went on this became rarer, and by the second half of the twelfth century it had completely disappeared. On the other hand, it may be noticed incidentally that persons of all ranks, in writing to the pope invariably addressed him as Vos. Sometimes a salutation was introduced by the pope at the end of his letter just before the date—for example, “Deus to incolumem custodiat”, or “Bene vale frater carissime”. This final salutation was a matter of importance, and it is held by high authorities (Bresslau, “Papyrus and Pergament”, 21; Ewald in “Neues Archiv”, III, 548) that it was added in the pope’s own hand, and that it was the equivalent of his signature. The fact that in classical times the Romans authenticated their letters not by signing their names, but by a word of farewell, lends probability to this view. In the earliest original bulls preserved to us BENE VALETE is written at full length in capitals. Moreover, we have at least some contemporary evidence of the practice before the time of Pope Adrian. The text of a letter of Pope Gregory the Great is preserved in a marble inscription at the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. As the letter directs that the document itself is to be returned to the papal archives (Scrinium), we may assume that the copy on stone accurately represents the original. It is addressed to Felix the subdeacon and concludes with the formula “BENE VALE. Dat. VIII Kalend. Februarias imp. dn. n. Phoca PP. anno secundo, et consulatus eius anno primo, indict. 7.” This suggests that such letters were then fully dated and indeed we find traces of dating even in extant copies as early as the time of Pope Siricius (384-398). We have also some bullae or leaden seals preserved apart from the documents to which they were once attached. One of these perhaps dates back to the pontificate of John III (560-573) and another certainly belongs to Deusdedit (615-618). The earliest specimens simply bear the pope’s name on one side and the word papae on the other.

II. SECOND PERIOD (772-1048).—In the time of Pope Adrian the support of Pepin and Charlemagne had converted the patrimony of the Holy See into a sort of principality. This no doubt paved the way for changes in the forms observed in the chancery. The pope now takes the first place in the superscription of letters unless they are addressed to sovereigns. We also find the leaden seal used more uniformly. But especially we must attribute to the time of Adrian the introduction of the “double date” endorsed at the foot of the bull. The first date began with the word Scriptum and after a chronological entry, which mentioned only the month and the indiction, added the name of the functionary who drafted or engrossed the document. The other, beginning with Data (in later ages Datum), indicated, with a new and more detailed specification of year and day, the name of the dignitary who issued the bull after it had received its final stamp of authenticity by the addition of the seal. The pope still wrote the words BENE VALETE in capitals with a cross before and after, and in certain bulls of Pope Sylvester II we find some few words added in shorthand or “Tyronian notes”. In other cases the BENE VALETE is followed by certain dots and a big comma, by a S S (subscripsi), or by a flourish, all of which no doubt served as a personal authentication. To this period belong the earliest extant bulls preserved to us in their original shape. They are all written upon very large sheets of papyrus in a peculiar handwriting of Lombard type; called sometimes littera romana. The annexed copy of a facsimile in Mabillon’s “De re diplomatica” reproducing part of a bull of Pope Nicholas I (863), with the editor’s interlinear decipherment, will serve to give an idea of the style of writing. As these characters were even then not easily read outside of Italy it seems to have been customary in some cases to issue at the same time a copy upon parchment in ordinary minuscule. A French writer of the tenth century speaking of a privilege obtained from Pope Benedict VII (975-984) says that the petitioner “going to Rome obtained a decree duly expedited and ratified by apostolic authority, two copies of which, one in our own character (nostra littera) on parchment, the other in the Roman character on papyrus, he deposited on his return in our archives”. (Migne; P.L., CXXXVII, 817.) Papyrus seems to have been used almost uniformly as the material for these official documents until the early years of the eleventh century, after which it was rapidly superseded by a rough kind of parchment. Apart from a small fragment of a bull of Adrian I (January 22, 788) preserved in the National Library at Paris, the earliest original bull that remains to us is one of Pope Paschal I (July 11, 819). It is still to be found in the capitular archives of Ravenna, to which church it was originally addressed. The total number of papyrus bulls at present known to be in existence is twenty-three, the latest being one issued by Benedict VIII (1012-24) for the monastery of Hildesheim. All these documents at one time had leaden seals appended to them, though in most cases these have disappeared. The seal was attached with laces of hemp and it still bore only the name of the pontiff on one side and the word papae on the other. After the year 855 the letters of the pope’s name were usually stamped round the seal in a circle with a cross in the middle.

The details specified in the “double dates” of these early bulls afford a certain amount of indirect information about the personnel of the papal chancery. The phrase scriptum per manum is vague and leaves uncertain whether the person mentioned was the official who drafted or merely engrossed the bull, but we hear in this connection of persons described as notarius, scriniarius (archivist), proto-scriniarius sanctae Romanae ecclesiae, cancellarius, ypocancellarius, etc., and after 1057 of camerarius, or later still notarius S. palatii. On the other hand, the datarius, the official mentioned under the heading data, who presumably delivered the instrument to the parties, after having superintended the subscriptions and the apposition of the seal, seems to have been an official of still higher consequence. In earlier documents he bears the titles primicerius sancta sedis apostolicae, senior et consiliarius, etc., but as early as the ninth century we have the well-known phrase bibliothecarius sanctae sedis apostolicae, and later cancellarius et bibliothecarius, as a combined title borne by a cardinal, or perhaps by more than one cardinal at once. Somewhat later still (under Innocent III) the cancellarius seems to have threatened to develop into a functionary who was dangerously powerful, and the office was suppressed. A vice-chancellor remained, but this dignity also was abolished before 1352. But this of course was much later than the period we have now reached.

III. THIRD PERIOD (1048-1198).—The accession of Leo IX, in 1048, seems to have inaugurated a new era in the procedure of the chancery. A definite tradition had by this time been created, and though there is still much development we find uniformity of usage in documents of the same nature. It is at this point that we begin to have a clear distinction between two classes of bulls of greater and less solemnity. The Benedictine authors of the “Nouveau traits de diplomatique” call them great and little bulls. In spite of a protest in modern times from M. Leopold Delisle, who would prefer to describe the former class as “privileges”, and the latter as “letters”, this nomenclature has been found sufficiently convenient, and it corresponds, at any rate, to a very marked distinction observable in the papal documents of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. The most characteristic features of the “great bulls” are the following:

In the superscription the words servus servorum Dei are followed by a clause of perpetuity, e.g. in perpetuam memoriam (abbreviated into IN PP. M.) or ad perpetuam rei memoriam. In contrast to this the little bulls have usually salutem et apostolicam benedictionem, but these words also appear in some great bulls after the clause of perpetuity.

After the second quarter of the twelfth century the great bulls were always subscribed by the pope and a certain number of cardinals (bishops, priests, and deacons). The names of cardinal-bishops are written in the center, under that of the pope; those of cardinal-priests on the left, and those of cardinal-deacons on the right, while an occasional blank shows that space had been left for the name of a cardinal who accidentally failed to be present. The pope has no cross before his name; the cardinals have. Earlier than this, even great bulls were subscribed by the pope alone, unless they embodied conciliar or consistorial decrees, in which case the names of cardinals and bishops were also appended.

At the foot of the document to the left of the signature of the pope is placed the rota or wheel. In this the outer portion of the wheel is formed by two concentric circles and within the space between these circles is written the pope’s signum or motto, generally a brief text of Scripture chosen by the new pontiff at the beginning of his reign. Thus Leo IX’s motto was “Misericordia domini plena est terra”; Adrian IV’s “Oculi mei semper ad dominum”. Before the words of the motto a cross is always marked, and this is believed to have been traced by the hand of the pope himself. Not only in the case of the pope, but even in the case of the cardinals, the signatures appear not to have been their own actual handwriting. In the center of the rota we have the names of Sts. Peter and Paul above and beneath them the name of the reigning pope.

To the right of the signature opposite the rota stands the monogram which represents Bene Valete. From the time of Leo IX, and possibly somewhat earlier, the words are never written in full, but as a sort of grotesque. It seems clear that the Bene Valete is no longer to be regarded as the equivalent of the pope’s signature or authentification. It is simply an interesting survival of an earlier form of salutation.

As regards the body of the document, the pope’s letter in the case of great bulls always ends with certain imprecatory and prohibitory clauses Decernirnus ergo, etc., Siqua igitur, etc. On the other hand, Cunctis autem, etc., is a formula of blessing. These and the like clauses are generally absent from the “little bulls”, but when they appear—and this happens sometimes—the wording used is somewhat different.

In the eleventh century it was usual to write Amen at the end of the text of a bull and to repeat it as many times as was necessary to fill up the line.

In appending the date, or, more precisely, in adding the clause which begins datum, the custom was to enter the place, the name of the datarius, the day of the month (expressed according to the Roman method), the indiction, the year of our Lord’s Incarnation, and the regnal year of the pontiff, who is mentioned by his name. An example taken from a bull of Adrian IV will make the matter clear: “Datum Laterani per manum Rolandi sancta Romance ecclesia presbyteri cardinalis et cancellarii, XII Kl. Junii, indic. V°, anno dominica incarn. MCLVII°, pontificatus vero domini Adriani papa quarti anno tertio.”

Before this period, it was also usual to insert the first dating clause, “Scriptum”, and there was sometimes an interval of a few days between the “Scriptum” and the “Datum”. The use of the double date, however, soon came to be neglected even in “great bulls”, and before 1124 it had gone out of fashion. This was probably a result of the general employment of “little bulls”, the more distinctive features of which may now be specified.

Although both great and little bulls alike begin with the pope’s name—Urbanus, let us say, or Leo, “episcopus, servus servorum Dei”—in the little bulls we have no clause of perpetuity, but instead of it there follows immediately “salutem et apostolicam benedictionem”.

The formula of imprecation, etc., at the end only occur by exception, and they are in any case more concise than those of the great bulls.

The little bulls have no rota, no Bene Valete monogram and no subscriptions of pope and cardinals.

The purpose served by this distinction between great and little bulls becomes tolerably clear when we look more narrowly into the nature of their contents and the procedure followed in expediting them. Excepting those which are concerned with purposes of great solemnity or public interest, the majority of the “great bulls” now in existence are of the nature of confirmations of property or charters of protection accorded to monasteries and religious institutions. At an epoch when there was much fabrication of such documents, those who procured bulls from Rome wished at any cost to secure that the authenticity of their bulls should be above suspicion. A papal confirmation, under certain conditions, could be pleaded as itself constituting sufficient evidence of title in cases where the original deeds had been lost or destroyed. Now the “great bulls” on account of their many formalities and the number of hands they passed through, were much more secure from fraud of all kinds, and the parties interested were probably willing to defray the additional expenditure that might be entailed by this form of instrument. On the other hand, by reason of the same multiplication of formalities, the drafting, signing, stamping, and delivery of a great bull was necessarily a matter of considerable time and labor. The little bulls were much more expeditious. Hence we are confronted by the curious anomaly that during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, when both forms of document were in use, the contents of the little bulls are from an historical point of view immensely more interesting and important than those of the bulls in solemn form. Of course the little bulls may themselves be divided into various categories. The distinction between litterae communes and curiales seems rather to have belonged to a later period, and to have primarily concerned the manner of entry in the official “Regesta”, the communes being copied into the general collection, the curiales into a special volume in which documents were preserved which by reason of their form or their contents stood apart from the rest. We may note, however, the distinction between tituli and mandamenta. The tituli were letters of a gracious character—donations, favors, or confirmations constituting a “title”. They were, indeed, little bulls and lacked the subscriptions of cardinals, the rota, etc., but on the other hand, they preserved certain features of solemnity. Brief imprecatory clauses like Nulli ergo, Si quis autem, are usually included, the pope’s name at the beginning is written in large letters, and the initial is an ornamental capital, while the leaden seal is attached with silken laces of red and yellow. As contrasted with the tituli, the mandamenta, which were the “orders”, or instructions, of the popes, observe fewer formalities, but are more business-like and expeditious. They have no imprecatory clauses, the pope’s name is written with an ordinary capital letter, and the leaden seal is attached with hemp. But it was by means of these little bulls, or litterae, and notably of the mandamenta, that the whole papal administration, both political and religious, was conducted. In particular the Decretals, upon which the whole science of Canon Law is built up, invariably took this form.

IV. FOURTH PERIOD (1198-1431).—Under Innocent III, there again took place what was practically a reorganization of the papal chancery. But even apart from this, we might find sufficient reason for beginning a new epoch at this date in the fact that the almost complete series of Regesta preserved in the Vatican archives go back to this pontificate. It must not, of course, be supposed that all the genuine bulls issued at Rome were copied into the Regesta before they were transmitted to their destination. There are many perfectly authentic bulls which are not found there, but the existence of this series of documents places the study of papal administration from this time forward on a new footing. Moreover, with their aid it is possible to make out an almost complete itinerary of the later medieval popes, and this alone is a matter of considerable importance. In the light of the Regesta we are able to understand more clearly the working of the papal chancery. There were, it seems, four principal bureaux or offices. At the office of the “Minutes” certain clerks (clerici), in those days really clerics, and known then or later as abbreviatores, drew up in concise form the draft (litera notata) of the document to be issued in the pope’s name.

Then this draft, after being revised by a higher official (either one of the notaries or the vice-chancellor) passed to the “Engrossing” office, where other clerks, called grossatores or scriptores, transcribed in a large official hand (in grossam literam) the copy or copies to be sent to the parties. At the “Registration” office again it was the duty of the clerks to copy such documents into the books, known as Regesta, specially kept for the purpose. Why only some were copied and others not, is still uncertain, though it seems probable that in many cases this was done at the request of the parties interested, who were made to pay for the privilege which they regarded as an additional security. Lastly, at the office of “Bulls”, the seal, which now bore the heads of the two Apostles on one side and the name of the pope on the other (see cut), was affixed by the officials called bullatores or bullarii. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the great bulls, or privilegia, as they were then usually called, with their complex forms and multiple signatures, became notably more rare, and when the papal court was transferred to Avignon in 1309 they fell practically into disuse save for a few extraordinary occasions. The lesser bulls (litterae) were divided, as we have seen, into tituli and mandamenta, which became more and more clearly distinguished from each other not only in their contents and formulae but in the manner of writing. Moreover, the rule of authenticating the letter with a leaden seal began in certain cases to be broken through, in favor of a seal of wax bearing the impression of the “ring of the fisherman”. The earliest mention of the new practice seems to occur in a letter of Pope Clement IV to his nephew (March 7, 1265). “We do not write”, he says, “to thee or to our intimates under a [leaden] bull, but under the signet of the fisherman which the Roman pontiffs use in their private affairs” (Potthast, Regesta, no. 19,051). Other examples are forthcoming belonging to the same century. The earliest impression of this seal now preserved seems to be one lately discovered in the treasury of the Sancta Sanctorum at the Lateran, and belonging to the time of Nicholas III (1277-80). It represents St. Peter fishing with rod and line and not as at present drawing in his net.

V. FIFTH PERIOD (1431-1878).—The introduction of briefs, which occurred at the beginning of the pontificate of Eugenius IV, was clearly prompted by the same desire for greater simplicity and expedition which had already been responsible for the disappearance of the greater bulls and the general adoption of the less cumbersome mandamenta. A brief (breve, i.e. “short”) was a compendious papal letter which dispensed with some of the formalities previously insisted on. It was written on vellum, generally closed, i.e. folded, and sealed in red wax with the ring of the fisherman. The pope’s name stands first, at the top, normally written in capital letters thus: Plus PP IIII; and, instead of the formal salutation in the third person used in bulls, the brief at once adopts a direct form of address, e.g. Dilecte fili—Carissime in Christo fili, the phrase used being adapted to the rank and character of the addressee. The letter generally begins by way of preamble with a statement of the case and cause of writing and this is followed by certain instructions without minatory clauses or other formulae. At the end the date is expressed by the day of the month and year with a mention of the seal—for example in this form: “Datum Rome apud Sanctum Petrum, sub annulo Piscatoris die V Martii, MDLXXXXI, pont. nostri anno primo.” The year here specified, which is used in dating briefs, is probably to be understood in any particular case as the year of the Nativity, beginning December 25. Still this is not an absolute rule, and the sweeping statements sometimes made in this matter are not to be trusted, for it is certain that in some instances the years meant are ordinary years, beginning with the first of January. (See Giry, “Manuel de diplomatique”, pp. 126, 696, 700.) A similar want of uniformity is observable in the dating of bulls though, speaking generally, from the middle of the eleventh century to the end of the eighteenth, bulls are dated by the years of the Incarnation counted from March 25. After the institution of briefs by Pope Eugenius IV, the use even of lesser bulls, especially in the form of mandamenta, became notably less frequent. Still, for many purposes bulls continued to be employed—for example in canonizations (in which case special forms are observed, the pope by exception signing his own name, under which is added a stamp imitating the rota as well as the signatures of several cardinals), as also in the nomination of bishops, promotion to certain benefices, some particular marriage dispensations, etc. But the choice of the precise form of instrument was often quite arbitrary. For example, in granting the dispensation which enabled Henry VIII to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, two forms of dispensation were issued by Julius II, one a brief, seemingly expedited in great haste, and the other a bull which was sent on afterwards. Similarly we may notice that, while the English Catholic hierarchy was restored in 1850 by a brief, Leo XIII in the first year of his reign used a bull to establish the Catholic episcopate in Scotland. So also the Society of Jesus, suppressed by brief in 1773, was restored by a bull in 1818. A very interesting account of the formalities which had to be observed in procuring bulls in Rome at the end of the fifteenth century is contained in the “Practica” recently published by Schmitz-Kalemberg.

VI. SIXTH PERIOD: SINCE 1878.—Ever since the sixteenth century the briefs have always been written in a clear Roman hand upon a sheet of vellum of convenient size, while even the wax seal with its guard of silk and the impression of the fisherman’s ring was replaced in 1842 by a stamp which affixed the same device in red ink. The bulls, on the other hand, down to the death of Pope Pius IX retained many medieval features apart from their great size, leaden seal, and Roman fashion of dating. In particular, although from about 1050 to the Reformation the writing employed in the papal chancery did not notably differ from the ordinary book-hand familiar throughout Christendom, the engrossers of papal bulls, even after the end of the sixteenth century, went on using an archaic and very artificial type of Gothic writing known as scrittura bollatica, with manifold contractions and an absence of all punctuation, which was practically undecipherable by ordinary readers. It was in fact the custom in issuing a bull to accompany it with a transsumptum, or copy, in ordinary handwriting. This condition of things was put an end to by a motu proprio issued by Pope Leo XIII shortly after his election. Bulls are now written in the same clear Roman script which is used for briefs, and, in view of the difficulties arising from transmission by post, the old leaden seal is replaced in many cases by a simple stamp bearing the same device in red ink. In spite, however, of these simplifications, and although the pontifical chancery is now as an establishment much reduced in numbers, the conditions under which bulls are prepared are still very intricate. There are still four different “roads” which a bull may follow in its making. The via di cancelleria, in which the document is prepared by the abbreviatori of the chancery, is the ordinary way, but it is, and especially was, so beset with formalities and consequent delays (see Schmitz-Kalemberg, Practica) that Paul III instituted the via di camera (see Apostolic Camera) to evade them, in hope of making the procedure more expeditious. But if the process was more summary, it was not less costly, so St. Pius V, in 1570, arranged for the gratuitous issue of certain bulls by the via segreta; and to these was added, in 1735, the via di curia, intended to meet exceptional cases of less formal and more personal interest. In the three former processes the Cardinal Vice-Chancellor, who is at the same time “Sommista”, is the functionary now theoretically responsible. In the last case it is the Cardinal “Pro-Datario”, and he is assisted in this charge by the “Cardinal Secretary of Briefs”. As the mention of this last office suggests, the minutanti employed in the preparation of briefs form a separate department under the presidency of a Cardinal Secretary and a prelate his substitute.

SPURIOUS BULLS.—There can be no doubt that during a great part of the Middle Ages papal and other documents were fabricated in a very unscrupulous fashion. A considerable proportion of the early entries in chartularies of almost every class are not only open to grave suspicion, but are often plainly spurious. It is probable, however, that the motive for these forgeries in most cases was not criminal. They were prompted by the desire of protecting monastic property against tyrannical oppressors who, when title deeds were lost or illegible, persecuted the holders and extorted large sums as the price of charters of confirmation. No doubt, less creditable motives—e.g. an ambitious desire to exalt the consideration of their own house—were also operative, and while lax principles in this matter prevailed almost universally it is often difficult to distinguish the purpose for which a papal bull was forged. A famous early example of such forgery is supplied by two papyrus bulls which profess to have been addressed to the Abbey of St. Benignus at Dijon by Popes John V (685) and Sergius I (697), and which were accepted as genuine by Mabillon and his confreres. M. Delisle has, however, proved they are fabrications made out of a later bull addressed by John XV in 995 to Abbot William, one side of which was blank. The document was cut in half by the forger and furnished him with sufficient papyrus for two not unsuccessful fabrications. Though deceived in this one instance, Mabillon and his successors, Dom Toustain and Dom Tassin, have supplied the most valuable criteria by the, aid of which to detect similar fabrications, and their work has been ably carried on in modern times by scholars like Jaffe, Wattenbach, Ewald, and many more. In particular a new test has been furnished by the more careful study of the laws of the cursus, or rhythmical cadence of sentences, which were most carefully observed in the authentic bulls of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. It would be impossible to go into details here, but it may be said that M. Noel Valois, who first investigated the matter, seems to have touched upon the points of primary importance. Apart from this, forged bulls are now generally detected by blunders in the dating clauses or other formalities. In the Middle Ages one of the principal tests of the genuineness of bulls seems to have been supplied by counting the number of points shown in the circular outline of the leaden seal or in the figure of St. Peter depicted upon it. The bullatores apparently followed some definite rule in engraving their dies. Finally, regarding these same seals, it may be noted that when a bull was issued by a newly elected pope before his consecration, only the heads of the Apostles were stamped upon the bulla, without the pope’s name. These are called bullae dimidiatae. The use of golden bullae (bullae aureae), though adopted seemingly from the thirteenth century (Giry, 634) for occasions of exceptional solemnity, is too rare to call for special remark. One noteworthy instance in which a golden seal was used was that of the bull by which Leo X conferred upon King Henry VIII the title of Fidei Defensor.


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