Papal Seal From the Pontificate of Gregory XVI
The predecessor of Pius IX is Gregory XVI who reigned from 1831 to 1846, and there are a number of items from him in the Collection. One of them is something that shouldn’t exist–it is one of a couple items in the Collection that shouldn’t exist, because they are normally destroyed upon the death of the pope. An example of this would be his fisherman’s ring, which was the traditional emblem used to seal documents. The practice of using seals to authenticate Vatican documents began with Pope Clement IV in the 13th century.
All papal seals, like the ring, are destroyed at the time of a pope’s death to prevent the manufacture of forged papal documents. Since the ring was traditionally used to seal documents, it was broken and buried with the pope to show that it is no longer valid and can no longer be used. (The practice of burying the Fisherman’s ring is still being done.)
As the Vatican got larger and produced more documents, too numerous to be sealed in this manner, they didn’t just have the fisherman’s ring, but many additional seals to authenticate and authorize letters. So this item, which should not exist, and which should have been destroyed at the time of his death, would most likely have been an ink seal used to authenticate the documents being produced.
For something like this to escape destruction is very rare and is a very nice addition to this Collection.
Like other items in the Collection, this one relates to the myriad pieces of correspondence dealt with by the Vatican. You can hardly see a letter or a papal bull without some type of seal on the document. Lots of times it was just a wax seal with the emblem of the Pope that sealed the document. But I suspect this particular matrix to have been an ink seal, possibly used for more mundane letters than for an official bull or fiat. But having escaped destruction we can only assume what happened to it. Maybe there was a relatively low-level official at the Holy See who gave it to a nun and said, “Well, here, why don’t you take it but don’t make any documents with it.”
Father Kunst purchased this item by totally liquidating his savings. He saw it on an auction and bid highly. Even though he did not win, he stayed in communication with the seller. Happily, the person winning it returned it because he was disappointed that the pewter handle was not silver. From Father Kunst’s perspective, the fact that it is a seal from Pope Gregory XVI’s pontificate, and should no longer exist, makes it incredibly valuable, and the metal of the handle is not a consideration. It is a one of a kind item in its own case.
The person who sold this item is from Italy. When Father inquired how he got it, he said, One does not ask the sisters where they got their items. In other words, a convent or monastery in Europe possessed this item and needed money and sold it. They probably had it since the time of the Pope. Due to a lack of vocations and a need for money, these items are now finding their way onto the market.
The seal was definitely smuggled out during the pontificate of Gregory XVI. It most probably stayed in a particular monastery until sold to the person from whom Father purchased it. It would never have been allowed to be released after his death.—Fr. Richard Kunst
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.
19th Century Papal Postage Seal for Ancona, Italy in the Papal States
The artifact is a 19th century postal matrix for wax seals for the region of Ancona in the Papal States. It is made of brass with a fruit wood handle and a mushroom style cap.
The matrix is engraved with a papal miter, the traditional triple crown worn by popes and ending with the reign of Blessed Paul VI. The cross keys, the other traditional symbol of the papacy, are also visible on the matrix.
The legend on the seal reads, DELLA POSTA PONTIFICIA DI ANCONA UFF: Pontifical Mail of Ancona.
The matrix is in excellent condition and indicative of the method with which letters and documents were sealed by the Vatican during the 19th century.
Passport Issued by the Papal States to the Nephew of Blessed Pius IX
Passports are items that have ink stamps on them. Every country issues its own passports to indicate that somebody belongs to that particular country and is in good standing there and, therefore, able to travel to other countries as well. And the Papal States were no different. The Papal States as a nation, up until 1870, had their own passports, and this item is a passport from the time of Pope Gregory XVI with a lot of different ink stamps on it.
What is really interesting about this item is that it was issued to his successor’s nephew: that is, to Pope Pius IX’s nephew. So it really is a unique item associated with two popes and just happens to have been issued to the future Pope’s nephew.
Passports are a difficult item to obtain because a lot of auction houses will not actually sell passports because they are associated with someone’s identity.
Vatican City State issues passports today. Everyone who is made Cardinal is issued a passport as a citizen of the Papal State to make it easier for him or her to travel around Italy and Europe. —Fr. Richard Kunst