Four distinctive styles of rings are included in this Collection with information about each of them at the end of the images.
Information from Father Kunst about the origins of his Collection and its mission is also included.
This website, displaying all of his artifacts, attempts to bring them to life as part of the living history of the papacy.
Information about the First Papal Ring from Father Richard Kunst, Curator
There is a bit of mystery to this type of papal ring, but most tend to believe they were not actually worn by the pope, given the quantities produced and the inexpensive materials used. Actual “Fishermans’ rings” would have been much more lavish with the use of real gold and embedded precious minerals.
These rings are thought to have been given by the pope to a representative at functions, or to papal couriers who were delivering messages from him to other church figures or sovereigns. They were meant to be large, so as to act as a noticeable credential, and purposefully were made of gold gilt bronze so as not to have such intrinsic value they would be a temptation to thieves. They are decorated with the coats of arms of popes, the “triple crown” papal symbol and various other papal symbols identifying the reigning pope: this one bears the name of Pope Paul II. Because of their noticeable size they probably were not intended to be worn for any extended period.
From what I have read, there are about 100 of these rings known to exist, most of which are to be found in museums. Currently three are on display in the Vatican Museum and are featured below.
Almost all of these rings date back to the 15th century.
This particular one contains a lapis lazuli stone, a semi-precious stone used by important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, which, when ground, produced the vivid blue hues in paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
NOTE: These are not the fishermans’ rings, worn by popes, which are destroyed upon their deaths.
2. An Ecclesiastical Commemorative Ring, Dated 1774
This is an extremely rare ecclesiastical Georgian style ring. It is a commemorative ring, possibly remembering the death of Pope Clement XIV, dated 1774.
It is an extremely interesting ring of unusual design and powerful in its simplicity. The ring is of fine silver with a mercury applied gold gilt surface. The band is of a flattened convex type which rises to wide signet shoulders. To each shoulder a Christian symbolic fish is seen. The bezel frame is a counter sunk oval at 2 cm in length with a finial lip casting and typically Georgian in style with a closed reverse case. Rising above the lower bezel is a collar case which holds a jet black onyx gem of chalcedony. The stone is cut as an intaglio and details an expertly ha d crafted image of the cross keys symbol, indicative of the Holy See of Rome and the Vatican symbol of State:=. The ring has a date inscription in italic script to the reverse of the bezel case reading 1774 AD.
It is believed this ring is a commemorative ring which may have been made to mark the sudden passing of Pope Clement XIV who died in September of the 1774.
The ring is considered to be highly historical with its own energy and unusual, pleasing design.
3. A Cornelian Intaglio Signet Ring with an image of Pope Gregory XVI
This artifact is a cornelian intaglio signet ring in unmarked white metal with an image of Pope Gregory XVI. It is a combination of red and maroon, and in certain light, it tends towards black.
The internal measurement is 18 mm, and the whole structure is very solid and certainly vintage.
are techniques in art in which an image is created by cutting, carving or engraving into a flat surface and may also refer to objects made using these techniques, such as this particular ring.
Cornelian (usually spelled “carnelian”) is a reddish-brown variety of the mineral chalcedony.
4. A Pastoral Ring Given to Bishops Participating in Vatican II From Pope Paul VI
Here is Father Kunst’s Commentary:
This item is the pastoral ring that Pope Paul VI gave to each one of the bishops participating in the Second Vatican Council. Henrico Manfreni was the artist who actually designed it. He was a very famous artist who designed items from Pius XII up until John Paul II.
This is a gold ring with the images of Peter and Paul and Jesus on it. And every bishop that participated in the council was given one of these rings (over 2800 participants). What makes it so unique is that it’s in its original presentation case, which is quite nice.
The cover has the coat of arms of Pope Paul VI engraved in gold. Usually when the Holy Father gives a gift– and they do this regularly—if you have a private audience, for instance, the gift will have the coat of arms of the pope. For example, the cases of rosaries given to me by Pope John Paul II, that are part of this Collection, always have his coat of arms on the cover. Also the medal of the rosary will have the coat of arms, too.
The rings were given at the end of the council, which was December 8, 1965.
About the Papal Artifacts’ Collection
As a high school senior, I had an assignment in my Government class to write to a politician. I chose President Jimmy Carter. He sent me an autographed photo of himself and his wife and that started my interest in autographs. I began researching celebrity addresses in all fields–sports, music, politics, movies, and more–and wrote letters to these various stars. After spending hundreds of dollars in postage, I amassed a fairly large collection.
My interest then turned toward historical autographs, particularly of past presidents. I started getting subscriptions to various autograph dealers and, though I was a student, I was able to buy a nice autograph from time to time. At one point, I had autographs of 16 presidents, dating back to President Martin Van Buren.
In 1995, I received an autograph dealer catalog that offered three different papal autographs for auction. It was the first time I had ever seen a signature of a Pope made available–in a way I was shocked that they even existed. I had to get a loan from my sister, but in the end I won two of the three papal items–autographs of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, both as cardinals.
This is what started my bug for papal and religious autographs. Not long after, I was able to add signatures of Pius VII and Pius IX. Eventually I lost all interest in modern day celebrities, as well as presidential autographs. I sold nearly the entire collection. With that money, I was able to purchase a number of other fine autographs with religious themes.
After being ordained to the priesthood, I finally had a steady income to put towards the collection. At the same time, the World Wide Web was a phenomenal source of leads for rare items. I made contact with several manuscript dealers throughout Europe and was able to access great items at very good prices.
I continue my search for old, rare, and unique papal items, from documents to papal clothing. The collection is always growing.
I am often asked what I intend to do with this collection. It has always been and remains my intent to donate it to the Church where it may be enjoyed forever. At the present time I am seeking a location where it may be displayed rather than kept in archival conditions. However, because of the rarity and age of the artifacts, this would demand museum quality conditions where storage of the artifacts could be closely monitored. An ideal situation would be a Catholic college or university interested in showing this very valuable and historical collection.
-Father Richard Kunst