Saving the 500 year old Papal Bull: St Duthac: Tain

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Papal Bull

Volunteers at a small Highland museum have turned to a 21st Century method of fundraising in order to save a 500 year-old document. The trustees of the Tain and District Museum have started a crowd-funding campaign in order to raise enough money to preserve an historic Papal Bull.

The parchment established the Ross-shire town as a key religious centre in Scotland. The museum hopes to raise £800 to conserve it. Dated 17 July 1492, the Papal Bull confirmed the status of the Collegiate Kirk of St Duthac of Tain, a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary visited regularly by King James IV. The document was the Pope’s way of recognising and defending a religious order or settlement.

Written on vellum, the ancient parchment has the original lead papal seal attached to it by a silken chord of red and yellow strands. It bears the name of Pope Innocent VIII and carries the signature of his cardinal secretary Alessandro Farnese. Farnese went on to become Pope Paul III – the pope who excommunicated King Henry VIII.

Tain’s Papal Bull is not on public display because of its deteriorating condition. The museum plans to professionally conserve the document and create a high quality digital facsimile to display in the museum. Chairman of the Trustees Alastair Jupp said: “We have not been able to display The Bull for some time due to its condition. “This important document has been in our trust for over 500 years and we feel it is our responsibility to preserve it for future generations.”

The Collegiate Church in Tain was built to house the bones of St Duthac, an 11th Century preacher born in the town who is said to have performed a number of miracles.

King James IV is said to have made a pilgrimage to the shrine every year for 20 years. James V and Robert the Bruce are also believed to have visited the church.

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