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The Ring of the Fisherman

Image of Saint Peter Used For Cameo
Saint Peter "Fisherman of Men"

The Ring of the Fisherman is a ring worn by The Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. It is also known as the Piscatory Ring or in Latin as 'Annulus Piscatoris'. The ring may also be referred to as the Ring of St. Peter, due to its engraved design featuring a low-relief cameo of St. Peter, one the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. The significance of and the association with St. Peter and the Ring of the Fisherman is credited to a story or verse taken from the Holy Bible, specifically Mark 1:17. Through the word of Christ, Jesus appointed St. Peter as a 'Fisher of Men', and the Pope, being the leader of the Catholic Church, is seen as a 'Fisher of Men' and a successor to Saint Peter.

Newly elected popes can choose the design for their ring, but it they all depict the image of St. Peter. Most depict the image of St. Peter on a fishing boat pulling a net. Another style shows a low-relief engraving of St. Peter holding a set of two keys; one key representing the power of heaven and the other representing the spiritual authority of papacy on Earth. Above the image of St. Peter, an inscription is usually made with the name of the new pope along the top edge of the bezel.

As one of the most famous pieces included in the Pope's regalia, it is arguably the best-known ecclesiastical ring in history. The Fisherman's Ring is worn on the third finger of the right hand of the pope. It originally served as a signet, but since the 15th century, the ring has been replaced with the official papal seal. It was first documented in 1265, and it has been mentioned for centuries since. The Ring of the Fisherman used to be gilded from pure gold, but new popes have begun to use silver in their rings as well.

Cameo Seal on Pope Francis's Ring
Cameo Seal on Pope Francis's Ring

A new Fisherman's Ring is given to every newly appointed pope during their inauguration mass. According to the Catholic tradition, upon the death or resignation of a pope, the ring is supposed to be destroyed by a special silver hammer. The destruction of the ring is required because in the past the ring was used as a seal for signing documents in the name of the Vatican by authorization of the reigning pope. Thus, if the ring was not destroyed, it could be used to forge documents if it was to fall into the wrong hands. Today, since it is no longer used as a seal, rather than destroying the ring, old papal rings are simply defaced by making two deep cuts into the seal engraving; afterwards, the ring is securely stored, deep within the walls of the Vatican.

The current reigning leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, chose a very modest and simple ring depicting an image of St. Peter holding a set of two keys. His ring was designed by goldsmith, Enrico Manfrini. The previous Pope's ring was not simple at all. Pope Benedict's ring was inspired by a painting made by artist, Michelangelo. It took over 200 illustrations before the final design of the ring was decided upon. The ring was cast from 35 grams of pure gold and it took 8 skilled artisans working 15-hour days for over 2 weeks to craft the ring. The ring was inscribed with "Benedictus XVI", the Pope's title in Latin, and features an image of Saint Peter.

  • First Published: January-27-2015
  • Last Updated: August-30-2017
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