[PAULUS V] Bulla

Rome, Manuscript on vellum, 1619


Single sheet, 38x28cm. 25 lines, black-brown ink, Italian rotunda. Pen flourishes inked to left and upper margin in different hand, folded. A little grease soiling to right edge, central minor tear affecting a couple of letters, holes with thread holding lead seal of Pope Paul V slightly torn. In excellent condition. Lower blank margin signed in four contemporary hands, fold inscribed ‘J. Gallaterina’, illegible signature, ‘Fran: Causseus’, faded autograph and ‘de Angeli Pietro(?)’ inked to verso.

Rare ms. bull by Pope Paulus V, issued on August 15, 1619 at Santa Maria Maggiore, to provide absolution for uxoricide and a dispensation for remarriage ‘super impedimento criminis’. It was signed by J. Gallaterina—whose autograph is present on other bulls of the 1610s—and addressed to the Bishop of Lodi in Lombardy, who had petitioned on behalf of the uxoricide, Alessandro Belleni (or Bellegno) from Codogno. Belleni ‘met carnally’ the unmarried Francesca de Petra from Vanzi with whom he moved to Piacenza; they exchanged vows to be married should his wife die and lived together as if married. They were both expelled from the city upon instigation of his wife, whom he then killed accidentally in a bout of ‘provoked’ anger during an altercation. The bull conceded absolution through the ‘customary’ penitence of the Roman Church and a ‘nihil obstat’ for remarriage as the wife’s death was ‘non machinata’ (not purposely caused). Presumably, without this, there could have been no second marriage. Papal bulls retaining their lead seals are rare on the market, and this one is even more unusual for its very human content.

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