Papal Bull Cycle Relay

Between 09 August and 13 September 2013, staff from the University set out to retrace the 1,600 journey taken by the papal bull that granted Scotland’s first University its authority

It was on 28 August 1413 that Pope Benedict XIII issued the six founding documents (known as ‘bulls’ because of the lead ‘bulla’ or seal with which each document was authenticated) from Peñíscola in Aragon, which would confirm the privileges of the University of St Andrews. The journey of the papal bulls took more than 5 months, arriving in the Fife town on 3 February 1414 to scenes of jubilation.

600 years later six teams of cyclists, led by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, got on their bikes to retrace this historic journey.  Each team cycled one of six legs, across four countries, over 31 days. The route took the riders through Paris, London and historic pilgrimage sites including Canterbury and Durham. Each team covered approximately 300 miles, cycling 50 miles a day on average.

The cyclists carried with them a replica of the University’s surviving papal bull of foundation. The original survives to this day in the University of St Andrews museum (MUSA).