Abbot ring – Bishop ring – Founder Ring – Pontifical ring – Glove ring

Abbot ring - Bishop ring - Founder Ring - Pontifical ring - Glove ring

Abbot’s ring

A type of finger ring worn by an abbot. Such rings were usually of gold, set with a single gemstone, and worn on the third finger of the right hand.

In England in medieval times they were supposed to be surrendered to the Crown on the death of the owner (see Bishop ring).

An abbess also was permitted to wear a ring of this type until the practice was banned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1572; thereafter an abbess wore only her Nun’s ring.

Bishop’s (or episcopal) ring

A type of finger ring worn by a bishop upon his consecration and sometimes thereafter, except during the celebration of the Mass (see Pontifical ring).
The form is not specified, but the Synod of Milan in the 7th century decreed that such rings should be of pure gold and set with n unengraved gem, hence early examples bear only a rough stone as found

The usual stone in England is a sapphire, sometimes an amethyst. Such a ring was originally worn on the right hand, but more recently on the third finger of the left. Only one such ring is worn, but formerly several other rings were worn by bishops, on fingers and thumb and sometimes more than one on a finger (and occasionally over a glove).

Each bishop’s ring was made for a particular bishop and was sometimes interred with him; but, although it was customary for a bishop to be buried wearing a ring, it was not always his consecration ring, hence many rings found in tombs of bishops are not a ‘bishop’s ring’.

From the 13th century an abbot was accorded the right to a ring similar to a bishop’s ring. From the time of Edward I every bishop’s ring and Abbot’s ring was supposed to be surrendered to the Crown, as a ‘mortuary’ (death duty), but this seems not to have been rigidly enforced, especially as to the pontifical ring, and sometimes a less valuable substitute was surrendered or was interred with a deceased bishop.

‘Founder’s Ring

The pontifical ring sometimes said, but without historical basis, to have belonged to Bishop William of Wykeham. It is of gold or silver-gilt, with an irregular-shaped bezel set with a pale sapphire in a scalloped collet.

The cast hoop has shoulders decorated with an unidentified winged figure, below which are floral ornaments and a saltire cross. It is in the collection of William of Wykeham JEWELS at New College, Oxford.

Glove ring

Glove ringA type of finger ring that is worn over a gloved finger and hence larger than the usual finger ring. Some rings were thus worn during the Renaissance, but more often the finger of the glove was slit to accommodate and display a large ring. An ecclesiastical ring was sometimes worn over a glove.

Pontifical ring

A type of finger ring worn by a bishop on the fourth finger of his right hand, when celebrating the Mass. Such rings were large (being worn over a glove; see glove ring) and were ornately decorated with several gemstones. The earliest extant ring of this type dates from c. 1255; another early example is the ‘Founder’s Ring. A bishop might have several such rings. The only persons entitled to such rings, other than a bishop, were those with offices at the Papal court.