What is the Definition of Bull?


The bull is a papal document, issued by the pope or by the Apostolic Chancellery, which deals with matters related to faith, concessions of thanks or privileges, as well as judicial or administrative matters. The word, as such, comes from the Latin bulla , which means ‘bubble’.

Bulls are used to express various mandates: ordinances, constitutions, judgments of the Church, condemnations, concessions of privileges or indulgences, among other things.

Thus, the bulls could exempt someone from fulfilling a burden or obligation imposed by the Church, or they could grant special rights. Bulls, as such, were bought with money, hence they were only available to the richest and most powerful.

As a bull, on the other hand, it is also called the lead seal that is pending certain pontifical documents. This seal represents, on the one hand, the heads of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and, on the other, it bears the name of the Pope.

In Ancient Rome, the bull was a badge that, by way of a medal, the children of noble families carried around their necks until they reached the age of majority and could wear the robe.

Alexandrian bulls

As Alexandrian bulls it is called the set of pontifical documents through which the Holy See, through Pope Alexander VI (hence his name), granted the kings of Castile and Leon, in 1493, the right to conquer and evangelize America , then known as the West Indies. The Alexandrian bulls are made up of four documents: the brief Inter caetera , the minor bulls Inter caetera and Eximiae devotionis , and the Dudum siquidem bull .

Golden Bull

As a bull of gold it is called a type of official document that was initially used by the chancery of the Byzantine Empire and that, due to its importance, bore a gold seal. Different kingdoms and empires of the West adopted the golden bull to seal documents of particular importance.

A gold bull of great historical significance was the gold bull of 1356, made by the emperor of Germany Carlos IV, which contained a set of rules that specified the process of election of the emperor and established that it would not require approval papal.

Bull of Crusade

The crusade bull or bull of the Holy Crusade was one in which the pontiff granted different indulgences to those who went to war against infidels or to those who supported her financially. Also, as a bull of the Holy Crusade, the document containing the summary of the bull and which was distributed in print was called.