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Relaying the foundations of the University

Cycle relay

Staff and students at the University of St Andrews are being challenged to saddle-up for the University’s 600th anniversary celebrations – by taking part in a cycle relay re-tracing the journey of the University’s papal bulls of foundation.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, together with Master of the United College Professor Neville Richardson, will host a Relay Rally on Thursday October 18 in School III at 5.30pm to bring together everyone with an interest in taking on the challenge – either as a cyclist or as one of the team of assistants accompanying the cyclists in a support vehicle and providing mobile encouragement and vital help.

It was on August 28, 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 Peniscola 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 February 3, 1414 to scenes of jubilation.

Now staff and students are being encouraged to get on their bikes to retrace this 1,600 mile historic journey – with six teams of six people, each cycling one of six legs, across four countries, over 31 days. The route will take riders through Paris, London and historic pilgrimage sites including Canterbury and Durham. It is expected that each team will cover approximately 300 miles, cycling 50 miles a day on average.

The Principal will lead the way, having already committed herself and a team of Principal’s Office staff to undertake the first leg of the relay.

The Principal said:

“It was Henry Ogilvie who travelled from Peniscola to bring the papal bulls of foundation home to St Andrews. His journey set in motion six centuries of teaching and intellectual exploration. Now, 600 years later, we plan to retrace that journey as an act of gratitude, a celebration of how far we have come, and a demonstration that although we are now six hundred years older – we are getting faster with age.”

Teams will be asked to self-support, with the enterprise imagined as a collective, fun event for which each team takes responsibility for their own involvement and organisation. A moderate level of fitness is required, and a keen sense of adventure. For those who meet these requirements – on offer is a chance to approach the 600th Anniversary from a new direction, and to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Notes to News Editors

  1. Henry Ogilvie was a Master of Arts of the University of Paris and a priest of the diocese of St Andrews. In 1413 he was tasked with delivering a request to Pope Benedict XIII in Aragon asking, in the name of King James I, for formal confirmation of the founding of a national university in Scotland.
  2. Benedict XIII, a scholar himself, was enthusiastic and authorised six papal bulls for Henry Ogilvie to return with.
  3. One of the six papal bulls survives to this day in the University of St Andrews museum, MUSA.
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