The Recently Discovered Bulla of Bolesław III Wrymouth (1102–1138) and the Problem of Lead Seals in Early Medieval Poland
The author considers the four lead bullae discovered during archaeological excavations in the Wielkopolska region (Poznań, Gniezno, Głębokie) and in Mazovia (Susk) during the years 2002–2006. The bullae are round and bear signs of being affixed to documents by cords. They are stamped on both sides: the obverses depict a ruler by the name Bolesław or Władysław (inscriptions are damaged), while the reverse sides bear the image of St. Adalbert. Objects of the sort were unknown in Poland before these findings. The author points out the similarity of the lettering and of the images with other extant seals and coins. The analysis brings him to the conclusion that the bullae are to be dated in the last 25 years of Bolesław’s III Wrymouth rule (period: 1113–1138). Their origins are connected with the weakening of the duke’s power after the murder of his brother, Zbigniew. According to Suchodolski, the duke made efforts to strengthen his authority among others by emphasizing the patronage of St.Adalbert over his person – the patron saint of the country. The author also attempts to determine the relative chronology of the bullae. In his opinion these bullae served as authentication elements added to documents.
Leaden bullae were used in numerous European countries, both in the Byzantin and Latin worlds. Suchodolski argues that the discussed bullae are not copies of a single foreign exemplar, but repeat various motifs found on different bullae, stemming chiefly from Italy, France and (or) southern Germany. The idea of producing such seals could come from the foreign members of the duke’s court, including the persons who came to Poland with his wife, Salomea the Countess of Berg. Similarly, the makers of the bullae should be looked for in the same milieu.