The Papal Bull

The Papal Bull is the instrument which founded the University. It was issued by Pope Nicholas V on 7 January 1451 and was officially received in Glasgow on 20 June that year.

The University has been without its original Bull, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1451, since the mid-sixteenth century. In 1560, during the political unrest accompanying the Scottish Reformation, the then chancellor, Archbishop James Beaton, a supporter of the Marian cause, fled to France taking with him for safe-keeping many of the archives and valuables of the Cathedral and the University, including the Mace and the Bull. Although the Mace was sent back in 1590 the archives were not. Principal Dr James Fall told the Parliamentary Commissioners of Visitation on 28 August 1690, that he had seen the Bull at the Scots College in Paris, together with the many charters granted to the University by the Kings and Queens of Scotland from James II to Queen Mary. The University enquired of these documents in 1738 but was informed by Thomas Innes and the superiors of the Scots College, that the original records of the foundation of the University were not now to be found. If they had not been lost by this time they certainly went astray during the French Revolution when the Scots College was itself under threat and its records and valuables were moved for safe-keeping out of the city of Paris. Nevertheless, the Bull remains the authority by which the University awards degrees.
Open a large image of the Papal Bull.

Note on the date of the Bull

Throughout the middle ages, Western Europe used the Julian calendar, consisting of 365 days with an extra day every fourth year. By this calendar New Year's Day was 25 March, i.e. 24 March 1450 was followed by 25 March 1451. This, the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was precisely 9 months before Christmas Day. Pope Gregory XIII began his reformation of the calendar in 1582 and his 'Gregorian' calendar is still the one most popularly used in the western world today. His reforms included a loss of ten days, adopted in Scotland and England in 1751 and the beginning of a new year on 1 January. In Scotland, 31 December 1599 was followed by 1 January 1600 but the change did not take place in England until 1 January 1752. Therefore in dating the University's Papal Bull, it is 1450 by the Julian calendar but 1451 by the Gregorian one.

The Papal Bull translated into English

NICHOLAS the Bishop, servant of the servants of God, for perpetual memory of the fact. Amongst other blessings which mortal man is able in this transient life by the gift of God to obtain, it is to be reckoned not among the least, that by assiduous study he may win the pearl of knowledge, which shows him the way to live well and happily, and by the preciousness thereof makes the man of learning far to surpass the unlearned, and opens the door for him clearly to understand the mysteries of the Universe, helps the ignorant, and raises to distinction those that were born in the lowest place. And therefore, the Apostolic See, the prudent administrator of spiritual as well as temporal things, and the steady and unfailing friend of every commendable undertaking, to the end that men may be moved more readily to win so lofty a height of human condition, and when won, dispense it again to others, always with increase thereof, encourages some, prepares places for others, aids and fosters others, and loads them with gracious favours. Forasmuch, therefore, as it was lately shown to us on behalf of our dearest son in Christ, James, the illustrious King of Scots, that the said King, laudably intending not only the weal of the commonwealth, and indwellers and inhabitants of the country subject to him, but also the other parts neighbouring thereto, was very desirous that a university, with every lawful faculty, should be set up and ordained by the Apostolic See in his city of Glasgow, as being a place of renown and particularly well fitted therefor, where the air is mild, victuals are plentiful, and great store of other things pertaining to the use of man is found, to the end that there the Catholic faith may be spread, the simple instructed, equity in judgement upheld, reason flourish, the minds of men illuminated, and their understandings enlightened. We, having carefully considered the premises, and also the uncommon sincerity of faith and devotion which the said king is known to bear towards us and the Roman Church, are moved with fervent desire that the said city may be adorned with the gifts of the sciences, so that she may produce men distinguished for ripeness of judgement, crowned with the ornaments of virtue and erudite with the dignities of the various faculties and that there may be an overflowing fountain of the sciences, out of whose fullness all that desire to be imbued with the lessons of knowledge may drink. Having, therefore, with careful deliberation, deeply weighed all these things, and especially the suitableness of this city, which, as we have heard, is said to be particularly meet and well fitted for multiplying the seeds of learning and bringing forth of salutary fruits, not only for the advantage and the profit of the said city, but also of the indwellers and inhabitants of the whole kingdom of Scotland, and the regions lying round about, we, being moved with fatherly affection, and inclined by the supplications of the said king in that behalf, to the praise of God's name, and propagation of the orthodox faith, erect, by apostolical authority a university in the said city in all times to come for ever, as well in theology and canon and civil law as in arts, and every other lawful faculty. And that the doctors, masters, readers, and students there may brook and enjoy all and sundry privileges, liberties, honours, exceptions, and immunities granted by the apostolic see, or otherwise in any manner of way to the masters, doctors and students in the university of our city of Bologna: And that our reverend brother, William, bishop of Glasgow, and his successors for the time being, bishops of Glasgow, may be rectors, named chancellors, of the aforesaid university, who may have the same authority and power over the doctors, masters and scholars and others in the whole of this university, as have the rectors of the schools of the said university of Bologna. And that those who in process of time shall merit to obtain a diploma in the faculty in which they study, and licence to teach, that they may be able to instruct others; and also that those who seek the honour of master or doctor to be conferred on them, shall be presented by the doctor or doctors and master or masters of the faculty in which the examination is to be held, to the Bishop of Glasgow now and for the time being, and if the church of Glasgow lack the solace of a pastor, to the vicar or official in spiritual things of our beloved sons of the chapter of the said church. Which bishop, or vicar, or official, having called together the other doctors and masters then teaching there, shall diligently attend by himself or another to the examination of those that are to be promoted in those things which in any way are requisite for the degree of master or doctor, according to the wont and custom commonly observed in other universities, and shall bestow on them such licence, or confer such honour of mastership, if they shall be found fit and qualified for the same. And those who shall have been examined and approven in the said university of the city of Glasgow, and shall have got such licence to teach and degree, as aforesaid, shall thenceforth, without any other examination and approval, have full liberty to be regents and to teach, as well in the said city as in each and all other universities in which they shall choose to rule and teach, notwithstanding of any statues and customs, even although strengthened by oath, apostolic conformation, or any other guarantee, and whatsoever else there may be in the contrary, Let none therefore in any wise infringe this writing of our erection, constitution and appointment, or with foolhardy daring go in the contrary thereof; but if any one shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he shall incur the wrath of Almighty God, and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at St Peter's, the year of our Lords incarnation, one thousand four hundred and fifty, the seventh of the ides of January, and the fourth year of our pontificate.

The Papal Bull in its original Latin

NICOLAUS EPISCOPUS seruus seruorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam. Inter cetereas felicitates quas mortalis homo in hac labili vita ex dono Dei nancisci potest, ea non in ultimis computari meretur, quod per assiduum studium adipisci valet scientiae margaritam, que bene beateque viuendi viam prebet, ac peritum ab inperito sua preciositate longe facit excellere, et ad mundi archana cognoscenda dilucide introducit, suffragatur indoctis, et in infimo loco natos vehit in sublimes. Et propterea sedes apostolica, rerum spiritualium et eciam temporalium prouida ministratrix, et cuiusuis commendabilis exercitii perpetua et constans adiutrix, ut eo facilius homines ad tam excelsum humane condicionis fastigium acquirendum, et acquisitum in alios refundendum semper cum augmento inducantur, illos hortatur, eis loca preparat, illos iuvat et fovet, ac favoribus prosequitur graciosis. Cum itaque, sicut pro parte carissimi in Christo filii nostri Jacobi Scotorum Regis illustris nuper fuit expositum coram nobis, ipse rex, non solum ad utilitatem reipublice ac incolarum et habitatorum terrarum sibi subiectarum, sed eciam aliarum parcium vicinarum, laudabiliter intendens, in eius ciuitate Glasguensi, tanquam in loco insigni et valde accomodo, in quo aëris viget temperies, victualium ubertas, ceterarumque rerum ad usum humanum pertinentium copia reperitur, desideret plurimum fieri et ordinari per sedem apostolicam Studium Generale, in qualibet licita facultate, ut ibidem fides catholica dilatetur, erudiantur simplices, equitas seruetur iudicii, vigeat racio, illuminentur mentes et intellectus hominum illustrentur. Nos premissa, et eciam eximiam fidei ac deuocionis sinceritatem quam idem rex ad nos et Romanam ecclesiam gerere comprobatur, attente considerantes, feruenti desiderio ducimur quod ciuitas ipsa scienciarum ornetur muneribus, ita ut viros producat consilii maturitate conspicuos, virtutum redimitos ornatibus et diuersarum facultatum dignitatibus eruditos, sitque ibi scienciarum fons irrigans de cujus plenitudine hauriant vniuersi litterarum cupientes imbui documentis. Hiis igitur omnibus, et presertim ydonietate huius ciuitatis, que ut accepimus ad multiplicanda doctrine semina, et germina salutaria producenda, valde congrua et accommoda fore dicitur, diligenti examinacione pensatis, non solum ad ipsius ciuitatis, sed etiam incolarum et habitatorum totius regni Scocie, et regionum circum jacencium, commodum atque proficuum, paternis affectibus excitati, nec non ipsius regis in hac parte supplicacionibus inclinati, ad laudem divini nominis et orthodoxe fidei propagacionem, in eadem ciuitate Generale Studium autoritate apostolica erigimus, ac statuimus, et eciam ordinamus, ut in ipsa ciuitate de cetero studium hujusmodi perpetuis futuris temporibus vigeat, tam in theologia ac jure canonico et ciuili, quam in artibus et quauis alia licita facultate. Quodque doctores, magistri, legentes et studentes ibidem, omnibus et singulis priuilegiis, libertatibus, honoribus, exempcionibus, immunitatibus, per sedem apostolicam, vel alias quomodolibet, magistris, doctoribus et studentibus in studio nostre ciuitatis Bononiensis concessis, gaudeant et utantur. Ac venerabilis frater noster, Willelmus episcopus Glasguensis, ac successores sui qui pro tempore fuerint Glasguenses episcopi, prefati studii sint rectores, cancellarii nuncupati, qui habeant supra doctores, magistros, et scolares, ac alios de uniuersitate studii hujusmodi, similem facultatem et potestatem quam habent rectores scolarum dicti studii Bononiensis. Quodque illi, qui processu temporis brauium meruerint in facultate illa in qua studuerint obtinere, ac docendi licenciam ut alios erudire valeant; necnon magisterii seu doctoratus honorem petierint, eis largiri per doctorem seu doctore ac magistrum siue magistros facultatis ejusdem in qua examinacio fienda fuerit episcopo Glasguensi nunc et pro tempore existenti, et Glasguensi ecclesia pastoris solatio destituta, vicario seu officiali in spritualibus dilectorum filiorum capituli dicte ecclesie presententur. Quiquidem espiscopus, vel vicarius, seu officialis, aliis doctoribus et magistris ibidem tunc legentibus convocatis, promovendos eosdem in hiis que ad magisterii seu doctoratus honorem quomodolibet requiruntur, per se vel alium, juxta morem seu consuetudinem in aliis studiis obseruari solitos, examinare studeant diligenter, eisque, si ad hoc sufficientes et ydonei reperti fuerint, hujusmodi licenciam tribuat seu magisterii impendat honorem. Illi vero qui in eodem studio ciuitatis Glasguensis examinati et probati fuerint, ac docendi licenciam et honorem hujusmodi obtinuerint, ut prefertur, extunc, absque alia examinacione et probacione, deinceps regendi et docendi, tam in eadam ciuitate, quam in singulis aliis studiis generalibus in quibus regere et docere voluerint, plenam et liberam habeant facultatem, statutis et consuetudinibus eciam juramento confirmatione apostolica, vel quacunque firmitate alia vallatis, ceterisque contrariis non obstantibus quibuscunque. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostre ereccionis, constitucionis et ordinacionis, infringere, vel ei ausu temerario contrahire; si quis autem hoc attemptare presumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei, et beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum ejus, se noverit incursurum. Datum Rome, apud Sanctum Petrum, anno incarnationis Dominice millesimo quadrigentesimo quinquagesimo, septimo Idus Januarii, pontificatus nostri anno quarto.

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