Here is Father’s Commentary:
The item presented here is the oldest document in the Collection. I have items that are older, but this is the full document. It is from Pope Clement IV and is dated 1266. It’s a papal bull and you can see the lead seal hanging from silk thread, which means it was more important than if twine thread had been used. So this is a silk thread bull attached to the parchment from 1266. So it’s a great item, and is not too long after Francis of Assisi lived.
Again I have items that are older, but this is the oldest full document in the Collection.
The Collection is so fascinating for both clergy and laity, and even non-Catholics, I think, find it fascinating. If you think that this item in 1266 was before the ‘split’– that is, the Protestant Reformation–Clement IV was their Pope, too.
This papal bull is unsigned and untranslated and dated 1266 from the second year of Pope Clement IV’s pontificate. It is one of the oldest items in the collection.
The word, bull comes from the Latin, bubble. It is the lead seal that was appended to the end of a document acting as the signature of the pope. On one side, it contains the pope’s name and on the other, images of Saints Peter and Paul from whom the pope is given his authority.
The bull is generally an official document of the Holy Father. We know by the choice of threading used, either silk or twine, the importance of any particular bull.
In this document the bulla is still attached to the item.
Biographical Information about Pope Clement IV (1265-1268):
Guy Foulques, a Frenchman from Provence, ascended the throne of the papacy in 1265 when he was seventy years old. A trusted confidant of (St.) Louis IX, king of France, Guy Foulques was a famous lawyer and a layman. He was the father of two children before entering a Carthusian monastery upon the death of his wife to show his contempt for worldly affairs. Once he became a priest (and then, quite rapidly, a bishop and archbishop) the church became aware of his great legal skills as an arbiter. He had a great love of justice and an interest in reconciliation. Pope Urban IV sent him as a legate to England. In 1265, even though he tried to refuse, he was elected pope and took the name of his favorite saint, Clement. He was seventy years old.]
In his short reign as a pontiff, he was mostly consumed with political affairs. He was soon to find that having aligned himself with Charles of Anjou would prove no less tyrannical and troublesome than the German Hohenstaufens. Each monarch promised their allegiance to the pope and each then proceeded to break every vow they made to their pope. Giving Charles the crown of Naples and an army to defend the kingdom did nothing to insure support. The people suffered as much under both sovereigns and both sovereigns gave enormous trouble to the ruling pontiff.
Clement attempted to reunite the churches of the East and West but was short-sighted in asking too much of them: expecting them to grovel in submission was unacceptable to them, and the situation was further complicated by Charles of Anjou’s wish to make Constantinople a Roman city. Clement approved this. The attempt failed.
In spite of Clement IV’s rise to ecclesiastical power because of his great ability as a diplomat, notably as legate to England, he proved to be less memorable as a pontiff. He died in 1268, in Viterbo, nearly four years after ascending the throne.
He is buried in Santa Maria in Gradi, outside of Viterbo.