Tain and District Museum.
Custodians of one of the oldest documents in the Highlands are planning to use a 21st Century method of fundraising in order to preserve it for future generations.
A Papal Bull dated 17th July 1492 confirms the status of the Collegiate Kirk of St Duthac of Tain, a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary visited by James IV.
The Bull was the Pope’s way of recognising and defending a religious order or settlement and the acknowledgement effectively put the Ross-shire town on Scotland’s religious map.
However, the ancient parchment is fading and disintegrating and can no longer be on public view. So the Trustees of Tain and District Museum are to launch an online crowd funding campaign to have it professionally conserved and to create a high quality digital facsimile to display in the museum.
The Tain document, written on parchment in the year Columbus discovered America, bears the name of Pope Innocent VIII and bears the signature of his cardinal secretary Alessandro Farnese.
Farnese went on to become Pope Paul III – the pope who excommunicated King Henry VIII.
Chairman of the Trustees Alistair Jupp said, “We have not been able to display The Bull for some time due to its condition. This important document has been in our trust for over 500 years and we feel it is our responsibility to preserve it for future generations”.
The Collegiate Church in Tain was built to house the bones of St Duthac, a venerated eleventh century preacher born in the town who is said to have performed a number of miracles.
King James IV is said to have made a pilgrimage to the shrine every year for 20 years. James V and Robert the Bruce are also believed to have visited the church.
The Bull is currently in the hands of professional conservators at the Highland Archive Centre and will have to be kept in a controlled environment to prevent any further deterioration.
Written on vellum, it measures 14inches by 9 and the original lead papal seal is attached to it by a silken chord in which red and yellow strands mingle, to show that it contains matters of justice as well as grace.
For decades the document hung in the museum displayed in a silver gilt frame donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who owned nearby Skibo Castle. The museum trustees hope to use the frame to house the digital facsimile.
This crowd funding venture is being set up to raise £800 for its preservation and digitization, so that visitors to the museum’s Tain Through Time exhibition can have the pleasure of viewing this rare and treasured document.