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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gilt and engraved bronze

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Very large gilt bronze or copper rings set with glass or crystal bezels are often known as Papal rings. They are decorated with the arms of Popes or Cardinals from the 15th century along with papal keys and tiaras and are usually distinguished by their great size and low intrinsic value. Their exact function is unknown but it has been suggested that they were worn as credentials by mounted couriers between Popes and other church figures and sovereigns. They served to prove the identity of the messager but were not of a value which would tempt thieves.

These rings were very popular with nineteenth century antiquarians and it is likely that out of the 100 plus surviving examples, some were made later to satisfy the demands of collectors.

Physical description

Gilt bronze Papal ring, the original stone replaced by a signet. Engraved on one side with the crown and column of the Colunna family, for Pope Martin V (1417-1431). On the other side, the papal tiara. Engraved on either side of the bezel P and M for Papa Martinus

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gilt and engraved bronze

Marks and inscriptions

Engraved with a crown and column
For the Colunna family, for Pope Martin V (1417-1431)

Engraved with the papal tiara.
On the reverse

Engraved P and M
for Papa Martinus
On either side of the bezel


Height: 3.5 cm, Width: 2.6 cm, Depth: 2.1 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Historical context note

These types of rings are distinguished by their massive size and low intrinsic worth. It is believed they were used as credentials by mounted couriers. The size of the rings made it possible for them to be worn over riding gloves and the low value helped preserve their wearers from attacks by robbers on the road

Descriptive line

Gilt bronze Papal ring, the original stone replaced by a signet for Pope Martin V (1417-1431), Italy, early 15th century

Subjects depicted

Tiara (papal); Columns (architectural elements); Crowns (headdresses)


Jewellery; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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