The cast of the skull of Pope Benedict XIII can be viewed in Gallery 1 at MUSA

Graduation Weeks always make us think about the origins of the University!  Here, Rebecca Jackson, Visitor Services Facilitator at MUSA ponders on the life of Pope Benedict XIII, who granted the original papal authority on the University.

On 25th November 1328, Pope Benedict XIII or ‘Papa Luna’ was born. He was born Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor, in the Kingdom of Aragon. An Aragonese nobleman he later became Pope Benedict XIII, though officially considered an Antipope by the Catholic Church. It was Papa Luna who granted the university its Papal Bull in 1413 that allowed it to teach Theology, Canon Law, Civil Law, Medicine and Arts, and other ‘Lawful Subjects’.

Papa Luna was an important figure in the Western Schism of the Catholic Church in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. From 1309, seven popes had resided in Avignon, France instead of the traditional seat in Rome. Pope Gregory XI was ultimately convinced to return to Rome, but turmoil broke out after his death. Some of the cardinals, including Papa Luna, rejected Gregory’s successor Pope Urban VI and instead supported Pope Clement VII who moved his seat of power back to Avignon. There was at this time two popes. Papa Luna succeeded Pope Clement VI in 1394 as Pope Benedict XIII.

Though Papa Luna lost some supporters to his claim to the Papacy, Scotland remained faithful to him. It was therefore Papa Luna to whom Bishop Henry Wardlaw petitioned to receive a Papal Bull to officially establish the University of St Andrews in 1413. His symbol, the crescent moon, still tops the university’s coat of arms today. Gallery 1 in MUSA displays a cast of Papa Luna’s skull, as well as a copy of one of the Papal Bulls the established the university.


Wills and Kate with Papal Bull
Prince William and Catherine Middleton visiting the University of St Andrews with Principal Louise Richardson and Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell view the Papal Bull that made St Andrews a university with Norman Reid (right) Keeper of Manuscripts.

Pic Alan Richardson Dundee




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