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Historians fascinated by Snitterfield discovery

THE discovery at Snitterfield of a 12th century Papal Bulla — a lead, coin-like object attached to a document proclaiming the Pope’s decision on a critical issue — has fascinated local historians.

It was found by a metal detector specialist in land near to the church of St James the Great in the village and is now in the possession of Warwickshire Museum.

The name of Pope Alexander III is clearly inscribed. Alexander was Pope from 1159 to 1181 during the reign of King Henry II in England.

Alexander refused to take sides during the long-running constitutional dispute between Henry and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but canonised Becket after his murder in 1170.

Sara Wear, curator of human history at Warwickshire Museum, pointed out this week that Papal bulls were issued on a regular basis on all manner of issues, and the one found at Snitterfield could simply be a confirmation of the Vatican’s consent regarding some local ecclesiastical matter.

The object — about one and a half inches in diameter and less than a quarter of an inch thick — is inscribed with the name of Pope Alexander III on one side with the heads of St Peter and St Paul on the reverse.

Found with it was a Pilgrim’s Tablet, presumably given to a pilgrim on completion of his journey.

Originally the bulla would have been attached to a silk cord holding parchment or vellum proclaiming the Pope’s decision, but these have rotted away over time and so it is impossible to know what this particular document would have stated.

Sara said: “It is good to have another example of these known within the county. They do turn up on occasions, but they’re not a regular find.

“It does add to our picture of Warwickshire in the mid- to late-12th century, showing that it was fully involved in the to-ings and fro-ings of the church and communications with the Vatican.”

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