Minggu, 15 September 2013


Bulla (seal)


Clay bullae

The original bulla was a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal. Once the clay has dried, the container (such as a vase or money bag) cannot be violated without visible damage to the bulla, thereby ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination.

Multi-stamped bulla (~1" diam.) formerly surrounding a dangling cord; unprovenanced Redondo Beach, California collection of antiquities

Bullae from antiquity appear in two distinct forms:
  • A lump surrounding a dangling cord (as with much later wax bullae and papal bullsmade of lead rather than clay)
  • A flat, disc-shaped lump pressed against a cord surrounding a folded document (such as papyrus or vellum)

In many cases, fingerprints of the person who made the impression remain visible near the border of the seal in the clay.

Metal bullae

The term bulla was eventually applied to seals made out of metal. Although the most typical form of bulla was made of lead, it was sometimes made of gold, as the ones affixed to the severalGolden Bulls issued by the Byzantine EmperorsHoly Roman Emperors, and various other monarchs in the Middle Ages. A particularly famous type of lead bulla is the one affixed to important documents issued by the Pope, called Papal bulls for the type of seal, where the bullahas an image of Saints Peter and Paul on one side and the name of the issuing Pope on the other.
Gallery of bullae

Bulla (amulet)

Bulla, an amulet worn like a locket, was given to male children in Ancient Rome nine days after birth. Rather similar objects are rare finds from Late Bronze Age Ireland. Roman bullae were enigmatic objects of lead, for the well-off covered in gold foil. A bulla was worn around the neck as a locket to protect against evil spirits and forces. A bulla was made of differing substances depending upon the wealth of the family. Before the age of manhood, Roman boys wore a bulla, a neckchain and round pouch containing protective amulets (usually phallic symbols), and the bulla of an upper-class boy would be made of gold.[1] Other materials included leather and cloth.
A girl child did not wear a bulla,[2] but another kind of amulet, like lunula until the eve of hermarriage, when it was removed along with her childhood toys and other things. She would then stop wearing child's clothes and start wearing women's Roman Dress. A boy used to wear a bulla until he became a Roman citizen at the age of 16. His bulla was carefully saved, and on some important occasions, like his becoming a general and commanding a parade, the bulla was taken out. He would wear the bulla during the ceremony to safeguard against evil forces like the jealousy of men.

Bronze Age Ireland

A small number of bullae made of base metal (usually lead, but also tin), or rarely clay, covered with a folded over piece of gold foil, have been found in Ireland dating to the Late Bronze Age. They were presumably worn suspended round the neck with a cord running through the hole below the flat top. The body of the bulla has roughly vertical sides before a making a semi-circle or inverted pointed arch at the bottom. The gold is incised with geometrical decoration. The type of object was named for its resemblance to the Roman form. Irish bullae are dated between about 1150 BC - 750 BC. Whether they were purely for adornment or had an amuletic or other function is unclear. Despite the small weight of gold used they would have been only available for elite groups. [3]

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Detail from a relief showing a Roman boy wearing a bulla

File:Etruscan - Bulla with Daedalus and Icarus - Walters 57371 - Side A.jpg
Etruscan bulla picturing Icarus

Papal bull

papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the lead seal (bulla) 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 by the 13th century, papal bulls  were only used for the most formal or solemn of occasions.[1]
Since the 12th century, papal bulls have carried a lead seal with the heads of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul on one side and the pope’s name on the other.[1]
Modern scholars have retroactively used the term "bull" to describe any elaborate papal document issued in the form of a decree or privilege  (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.[citation needed]
Papal bulls have been in use at least since the 6th century, but the  term was not used until around the middle 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  Papal chancerywas named the "register of bulls" (registrum bullarum).
Today, the bull is the only written communication in which the Pope will refer to himself asepiscopus servus servorum Dei, meaning "Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God." For instance,Benedict XVI, when he issued a decree in bull form, he began 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 issued by theVatican Chancery in the name of the Pope.

Papal bull of Pope Urban VIII, 1637, sealed with a leaden bulla.


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 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, the signatures of any witnesses, and then the seal. Nowadays, a member of the Roman Curia signs the document on behalf of the Pope, usually the Cardinal Secretary of State, and thus the monogram is omitted.

File:BenoƮt XVI synode 2008.jpg
The Pope issues Papal bulls through the various dicasteries of the Roman CuriaPope Benedict XVI in 2008.

File:Bulle pape Urbain V.jpg
Lead Bulla (obverse and reverse) of Urban V, Pope 1362 to 1370


The most distinctive characteristic of a bull was the metal seal, which was usually made of lead, but on very solemn occasions was made of gold (as those on Byzantine imperial instruments often were: see Golden Bull). On the obverse it depicted (originally somewhat crudely) the early fathers of the Church of Rome, the apostles Peter and Paul, identified by the letters Sanctus PAulus andSanctus PEtrus (thus, SPA •SPE or SPASPE). Paul, on the left, was shown with flowing hair and long pointed beard composed of curved lines, while Peter, on the right, was shown with curly hair and 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.[2] On the reverse was the name of the issuing pope in the nominative Latin form. This disc was then attached to the document either by cords of hemp (in the case of letters of justice, and executory) or by red and yellow silk (in the case of letters of grace) that was looped through slits in the vellum 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".
In 1535 the Florentine engraver Benvenuto Cellini was paid 50 scutes to recreate the metal matrix which would be used to impress the lead bulls of the 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 used on bullae. On the back of the seal he introduced several fleurs-de-lis, a heraldic symbol of the family from which Pope Paul III had come (i.e., the Farnese family).
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 convoking the Second Vatican Council, still receive the lead seal.
Original papal bulls exist in quantity only after the 11th century onward when the transition from fragile papyrus to the more durable parchment was made. None survives in entirety from before 819. Some original leaden seals, however, still survive from as early as the 6th century.


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, dispensationsexcommunicationsapostolic constitutionscanonizations andconvocations.
The bull was the exclusive letter format from the Vatican until the 14th century, when the papal brief 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. There has never been an exact distinction of usage between a bull and a brief, but nowadays most letters, including encyclicals, are issued as briefs.

Printed text of Pope Leo X's Bull against the errors of Martin Luther, also known as Exsurge Domine, issued in June 1520

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