This particular bulla is an extremely rare and valuable artifact to have in the Collection, not only because of its age, but also because it was issued by the Medici Pope, Leo X, during an era that presaged the Protestant Reformation. In fact, this document was issued in 1517, the same year that Martin Luther drifted into open rebellion with the Catholic church and posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31st of that year.
The actual bulla on this document, displaying Leo PAPA X, on one side, has the traditional image of Saints Peter & Paul on the other side with a variation on bullae: this one has the addition of the Medici symbol of five balls, which figure heavily in architecture in both Rome and in Florence, seat of the Medici family. Pope Leo X’s coat of arms also has that image and immediately identifies him as a Medici.
According to Father Kunst, it is a design he has never seen on a bulla.
Stories abound on the internet as to the true meaning of the five balls, but no one knows for sure.
The word, bulla 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 he 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.