Byzantine Ring with Christogram
Rings were worn as a sign of faith in catacombs of the Late Roman period before Christianity was the official religion. These were usually made of bronze and had secret symbols, like a lamb, fish, cock or other images concealing the religious message. In 313 AD the Edict of Milan proclaimed religious tolerance of Christianity in the Roman Empire, and Constantine (272-337 AD) became the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. By the fourth century, jewelry bearing symbols like the Christogram, or the Chi-Rho monogram, was worn to show allegiance to the new faith. The Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) represent the first two letters of the name of Christ; as a symbol such rings may have been worn to insure protection, but they were also known to be given as imperial gifts to military officers.
Gold ring with wide hoop in flat D-section which widens towards the shoulders with engraved and niello fringed textile ornament with tassel (like an altar cloth). The hoop ends support the rectangular bezel with tapering sides. On top a punched edge frames a Chi-Rho monogram in reverse with niello inlay. The ring shows wear through age and is in good wearable condition.
Munich, Collection, CS (London, Art Market, 10 Oct. 2006)
Constantine the Great, Bischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, Trier (2 June – 4 November 2007)
Christianisation of Medieval Europe, Diözesanmuseum, Paderborn (6 December 2000 – 31 March 2002).
exh. cat. Constantine the Great, Bischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, Trier 2007, vol. II,.1.125
exh. cat. Christianisation of Medieval Europe, Diözesanmuseum, Paderborn 2001, II, p. 43-45, no. 26
Surviving early Christian and Byzantine rings with Chi-Rho monogram are found in bronze or gilt bronze, on intaglios; however, gold examples are rare. For this type, cf. Spier 2012, no.5 with further examples and in the Ferrell Collection, Spier 2010, no. 43. The shoulder ornament on the ring here appears to be unique.