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Medieval iconographic ring with Saint Christopher. A yellow gold ring, with rectangular bezel finely engraved with a representation of Saint Christopher carrying the Christ child on his back and wading through a river, the ridged trumpeting shoulders accented with foliate details and proceeding to a solid D-shape shank. Tested yellow gold, approximately 8.97 grams in weight, circa 15th century, accompanied by an Oxford Lab X-ray fluorescence report stating the composition of the metal.
For rings of a similar date which also feature the image of Saint Christopher, see C.C. Oman, 'Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue of Rings 1930', Ipswich, 1993, cats. 728-9.
Saint Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers. His life is recounted in the thirteenth century text known as the Golden Legend. Saint Christopher is said to have originated in Canaan but journeyed far and wide, before eventually encountering a hermit who instructed him in the Christian faith. Standing a remarkable five cubits (2.3m) in height, the hermit advised Christopher that it would be pleasing to Christ if he assisted people in crossing a dangerous river. Dutifully he followed the hermits advice and one day was approached by a child who asked Saint Christopher to aid him in his crossing. Although small in stature, the child was enormously heavy and Christopher struggled to bring him across. Once they had reached safety, he exclaimed: 'You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were'. The child replied: 'You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work' and promptly vanished. His faith strengthened by this encounter, Saint Christopher spent the remainder of his life converting pagans to Christianity. This subsequently led to his martyrdom by beheading.
A ring such as this would have had particular significance in the fifteenth century, when journeys were often long and perilous. During this period, it was not uncommon for devout Christians to travel for many months or even years in order to reach the Holy Land and other important places of pilgrimage.