Fisherman's ring

The Ring of the Fisherman, also known as the Piscatory Ring, Annulus Piscatoris (in Latin) and the Anello Piscatorio (in Italian), is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, who is head of the Catholic Church and successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade. It used to feature a bas-relief of Peter fishing from a boat, a symbolism derived from the tradition that the apostles were "fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). The Fisherman's Ring is a signet used until 1842 to seal official documents signed by the Pope.[1]

History

A letter written by Pope Clement IV to his nephew Pietro Grossi in 1265 includes the earliest known mention of the Ring of the Fisherman, which was used for sealing all the pope's private correspondence. Public documents, by contrast, were sealed by stamping a different papal seal onto lead which was attached to the document. Such documents were historically called papal bulls, named after the stamped bulla of lead.[2]

Use of the Fisherman's Ring changed during the 15th century when it was used to seal official documents called papal briefs. That practice ended in 1842, when the wax with its guard of silk and the impression of the ring was replaced by a stamp which affixed the same device in red ink.

Through the centuries, the Fisherman's Ring came to be known via its feudal symbolism. Borrowing from the traditions developed by medieval monarchs, followers showed respect to the reigning Pope by kneeling at his feet and kissing the Fisherman's Ring.

Use practice

A new ring is cast for each Pope. Around the relief image is the reigning Pope's Latin name in raised lettering. During the ceremony of a Papal coronation or Papal inauguration, the Dean of the College of Cardinals slips the ring on the third finger of the new Pope's right hand. Upon a papal death, the ring used to be ceremonially destroyed using a papal silver hammer in the presence of other Cardinals by the Camerlengo. This used to be in order to prevent the sealing of backdated, forged documents during the interregnum, or sede vacante.[3] Nowadays the obliteration of the signet is just a symbol of the end of rule of the pope, who used to wear that ring. This custom was also followed after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by applying a deep cut on the signet.[4]

Although Pope Benedict XVI wore his Fisherman's Ring daily, it is not the custom for popes to wear it at all. Generally, a new pope will either inherit the daily-wear ring of his predecessor or will choose a new daily-wear style. Pope John Paul I wore a wide gold band; in imitation of this, Pope John Paul II wore a wide gold crucifix in the form of a ring. Generally, popes of the past wore episcopal rings in keeping with the fashions of the time. Pope Pius XII, for example, often wore a heavily ornate ring set with a stone. Pope Pius IX most often wore a cameo of himself, made entirely of tiny diamonds, whilst Pope Pius X wore a simple, smaller stone-set ring.

In popular culture

In Pink Panther 2, the thief known as The Tornado steals the Ring of the Fisherman from the Pope's finger while he is sleeping in the Papal Apartments. Inspector Clouseau and the Dream Team of detectives go to investigate and Clouseau makes a fool of himself by dressing up as the Pope and reenacting the Pope's routine before falling off the balcony of the apartments in front of thousands of visitors. The Ring is later discovered in an apartment where The Tornado is found dead.

References

External links

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  • The Piscatory Ring (Anulus piscatoris) of Pope Benedict XVI.
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