Pope Pius II: A Papal Ring Given to a Representative of the Pope

Pope Pius II: A Papal Ring in Velvet Carrying Case

Information about the 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 Pius 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.

NOTE: These are not the fishermans’ rings, worn by popes,  which are destroyed upon their deaths.

Item No Longer in the Collection

Pope Pius II: Letter Signed as Cardinal Eaneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Dated 1457

The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This artifact is the oldest autograph in the Collection and was featured on Episode 5 of the series, Popes of the 17th. Century and Earlier.

Here is Father’s Commentary:

This was actually written while Pius II was a cardinal. And so his first name was ‘Enea’, so he signed with the initial ‘E’. He was the Cardinal of Siena at the time. This is dated 1457. Actually what he was doing was writing a letter of recommendation for a man to be the police chief of Siena.

Again, this was prior to his pontificate, but the mere fact that it’s actually signed by him, as opposed to some of the older papal bulls that are not signed, makes this significant, because it is the oldest one I have with a signature of a (future) pope.

So he’s writing to the secular head of Siena with his recommendation for a chief of police.

Additional Information:

The letter is dated October 6th, 1457. It is simply signed, E, as the Cardinal of Siena. It is a letter to the City Council of Siena, recommending a particular man to be the Chief of Police (or Commander of the City Forces). He commends him as a reliable person currently running the police force in Ancona. It is in very good condition and dated a year prior to his pontificate.

Pope Pius II was Cardinal Eaneas Sylvius Piccolomini.