Lead seal found in northwestern Poland has been identified as rare papal bull from the reign of Pope Boniface IX (1350-1404). It was discovered in 2021 north of the former cemetery in the village of Budzistovo by metal detectors of the PARSĘTA search and reconnaissance group. Dirt and corrosion made identification difficult at first. Experts in Krakow cleaned and preserved it, finding an inscription that marks it as the seal of Boniface IX.
Bulls were round seals, usually made of lead, hung from silk threads attached to the parchment of official proclamations and documents. These were legally valid and well recognizable signatures. Metallurgical analysis showed that this one was made from pure lead obtained from galena deposits in Cyprus, Sardinia, Greece and Spain. This composition indicates that the bull is the original and not a later copy.
The inscription on the reverse reads: BONI/FATIUS/PP:VIII. The obverse depicts images of Saints Peter and Paul, marked with the inscription SPASPE above their heads.
In the 9th century, what is now called Budzistovo was founded by Pomeranian tribes as the fortified settlement of Kolobrzeg. The settlement was located on the Parsenta River, 2.5 miles from its mouth in the Baltic Sea, and was rich in salt, fish, iron ore, and arable land. The Polish Piast dynasty conquered the area in the 10th century, and Kołobrzeg developed into a regional trading center for salt and dried fish.
It became the seat of a bishopric in 1000, but did not fully Christianize the area until the 12th century. At that time, the church of St. Mary was built. It was converted into an abbey in the 13th century when German settlers founded the new city of Kołobrzeg on the Baltic Sea and the former Pomeranian fortress was renamed Stary Kołobrzeg. Then a monastery for Benedictine nuns was built in Old Kołobrzeg.
Historians speculate that the bull was kept in a Benedictine monastery, based on a mention in a comprehensive history of Kołobrzeg written by 18th-century pastor Johann Friedrich Waxen. He recorded that in 1397 Boniface issued an indulgence for Benedictine nuns. This guaranteed full indulgence to anyone who attended the local church.
Since no relics relating to the monastery have survived to this day, (Dr. Robert Dzemba, head of the history department of Kołobrzeg) says that if it can be proven that this is the same bull Waxen refers to, it will be nothing more than ” historical revelation. (…)
Dzemba suggests that this particular papal bull may have been lost in the 16th century.
“After the 1534 congress in Trzebiatow introduced Lutheranism in Pomerania, the document simply lost its value,” he said. “Perhaps the bull was discarded when the duchy took control of the monastery as a result of this congress, but it may have been lost centuries later. We will probably never know when or why it was abandoned.”
The canned bull is on display at the Museum of Weapons in Kołobrzeg.