Saints cycle

Friday 9 August 2013

Staff from the University of St Andrews set out from the castle at Peñíscola, Spain

Staff from the University of St Andrews today (Friday 9 August 2013) set out from the castle at Peñíscola, Spain to retrace the foundations of Scottish higher education by cycling the route travelled 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.

Today the first relay team got on their bikes to retrace this 1,600 mile historic journey – the first of six teams in total, 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 and Vice Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson is leading the way, having 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 Peñíscola 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.”

The cyclists carry 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), while the replica bull is expected to be delivered to the University by the final relay team on 13 September 2013.

Follow the papal bull relay’s progress.

The 600th Anniversary papal bull cycle relay is supported by Endura, Rebellion Bikes, and High5.

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. For visitor information go to

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