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The History and Significance of the Pope’s Ring

The History and Significance of the Pope’s Ring

The ring of the Fisherman is a signet ring worn by every pontiff of the Catholic Church. Along with the tiara, a domed headdress made in the form of three crowns, it is a part of the Pope’ vestment.

The Ring of the Fisherman’s Symbolism

The head of the Catholic Church is considered to be the Saint Peter the Apostle’s successor who was the disciple’s of Christ. Before his baptism, Peter was an ordinary fisherman. After the Resurrection of Christ, the name of this profession in relation to Peter began to be used metaphorically. The Christians consider the apostles to be a “fisher of men” whose mission was to route sinners from the path of death to the path of righteous life.

The image of the pontiff in Catholicism is treated the same way. He inherits the work of the apostle and becomes the fisher of men himself. Thus, the papal ring started being known as the ring of the Fisherman. The ring portrays Saint Peter throwing a net into the sea as a sign of the holy mission’s importance.

Traditions Associated with the Ring

The Vatican strictly observes traditions concerning the vestment of each new pontiff. As soon as the pope ascends to the throne, he receives an individual ring with his own name engraved on it. Such a signet with the name of his owner was used to certify important documents and personal letters until 1842. The pope literally used it as a seal.

For this reason, each successive pontiff gets a new ring during the official inauguration ceremony. This attribute of the vestment is cast from pure gold. The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinalspresents it to the Pope. During the coronation, the head of the church kisses the ring as a sign of his humility and acceptance of the highest mission to continue the work of Peter the Apostle.

Not only does the Pope wear a specific ring but also every bishop of the Catholic Church receives one. Such ecclesiastical rings symbolize the commitment of the cleric to his diocese. Bishop rings are normally large, stone-set pieces made of gold. You can view some examples of bishop rings at Traditionally, they are decorated with an amethyst insert

Why the Ring of the Fisherman is destroyed after the Death of the Pope

The life of the ring never lasted longer than the time of the pope’s stay on the throne. As soon as the pontiff died or renounced, the chamberlain destroyed the ring of the Fisherman with his name. This was done out of precaution so that during the election of the new pontiff cardinals or court officers of the Vatican could not falsify important documents.

It is interesting that the first mention of this relic occurs in the 13th century, in the letter of Pope Clement IV, dated 1265. Over the centuries of the Catholic Church’s existence, the traditions associated with the ring have been zealously observed. It has always been made only of gold and destroyed before the eyes of all the Cardinals. For the ability to ‘resurrect’ after its destruction the ring is sometimes called the Phoenix Ring.

Some changes in the tradition occurred in 2013 when the 266th Pope Francis ascended the Vatican’s throne. Not only is this pontiff a Jesuit and he comes from the New World but also he asked his ring to be made of silver covered with gilding. The request was granted and now Francis, for reasons of economy, wears a silver papal ring.


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