Der Fischerring des Papstes

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

The Pope Benedict Forum

The Ring of the Fisherman (308 KB)

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope on 19 April 2005. He called himself Benedict XVI. He was officially introduced to his office on 24 April 2005.

In his sermon the Holy Father said:

“… The second symbol used in today’s liturgy to express the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry is the presentation of the fisherman’s ring. Peter’s call to be a shepherd, which we heard in the Gospel, comes after the account of a miraculous catch of fish: after a night in which the disciples had let down their nets without success, they see the Risen Lord on the shore. He tells them to let down their nets once more, and the nets become so full that they can hardly pull them in; 153 large fish: “and although there were so many, the net was not torn” (Jn 21:11). This account, coming at the end of Jesus’s earthly journey with his disciples, corresponds to an account found at the beginning: there too, the disciples had caught nothing the entire night; there too, Jesus had invited Simon once more to put out into the deep. And Simon, who was not yet called Peter, gave the wonderful reply: “Master, at your word I will let down the nets.” And then came the conferral of his mission: “Do not be afraid. Henceforth you will be catching men” (Lk 5:1-11). …“


Holy Mass for the official introduction of Pope Benedict XVI to his office, accompanied by the handing over of the pallium and the Piscatory Ring – Sermon of the Holy Father – Saint Peter’s Square, Sun 24 April 2005.

The Holy Father’s ring is the unique beautiful making of master goldsmith Claudio Franchi. It contains approx. 1.23 oz. of gold and is decorated with a great number of symbols.

The studio of master goldsmith Claudio Franchi is situated in a narrow lane of craftspeople, close to the River Tiber:

via Tor di Nona, 60
I-00186 Roma (RM)
Phone nr. 0039 06 6813 6305

Claudio Franchi was raised in a surrounding where goldsmithery was part of the family tradition. Whereas his father taught his the craft, he studied art history and the handling of gold and silver. He also attended seminars concerning the restoration of antique objects made from precious metals.

He studied at Sapienza University of Rome under professor Vittorio Cassale. His studies helped him develop historical, artistic and technical expertise. These skills would equally inspire him in creating new objects.

Professor Casal’s lectures on the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, the Mannerists’ choice of colours and the technical and communicative skills of the Baroque artists enabled him to enter the world and spirit of great artists. He actually began to think just like them.

On 8 April 2005, a prelate of the Vatican called on Claudio Franchi, vice president of the union of Roman goldsmiths. Even though he had never worked for the Vatican before, he was then asked to design a ring for the newly elected Pope.

To begin with, he came up with two design proposals: A very modern ring and a fairly traditional, rather classic version. Then his models and sketches were delivered to the Vatican. Furthermore, he gave an explanation of the symbols used.

Four days later, he met the committee charged with the choice of the new ring. He learned that the modern one had been chosen. Franchi received instructions to begin his work immediately in order to finish the ring by Wed, 20 April 2005. Thus, it would be possible to check its size and to engrave the Pope’s name (Benedictus XVI) in the ringplate on time. Having celebrated Mass together with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel the Pope received Claudio Franchi.

Measuring the size was an emotional scene: He came up with ring size 24, which the Pope deemed a pleasant number, since it is exactly twice the number of apostles.

Franchi explained the symbolic message of his creation to the Holy Father. As far as he can remember, the Pope made a reserved, yet obliging and amiable impression on him. The image on the ring depicts Saint Peter casting his net. The picture on the traditional ring pays much attention to details, whereas the modern version rather indicates the scene.

Its elliptic shape suggests Saint Peter’s Place with the colonnades designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The ringplate depicts two stylized fish with the cross of the pallium engraved where their fins are touching. The engravings were sandblasted, since this technique has proven an efficient device in the depiction of details. Moreover, it produces a very pictorial effect on the golden surface.

The Pope instructed him to finish both models and deliver them on Sunday. Mr Franchi was told that both rings would be laid out on Saint Peter’s tomb until the Pope would have made up his mind on which ring he was finally going to wear.

(c) Caludio Franchi

Both rings were delivered in a gold-plated jewel case with a velvet inner lining. Pope Benedict XVI finally chose the classic ring. The other ring was left at the Vatican as well.

(c) Claudio Franchi

At the official introduction to his office, the classic ring alone would rest in the jewel case. It was passed to Pope Benedict XVI by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Cardinal Sodano.

Mr Franchi, too, was present at the introduction. Watching the Pope stick the ring on his finger was a memorable experience to him.

As well as the waxen moulds, the design sketches and drawings of both rings are securely stored in Mr Franchi’s archives.

The Piscatory Ring was originally meant to be used to sign official documents and certificates. Pope John Paul II used to wear a simple ring with a cross and the letter “M” on its ringplate.

For further information:
Entry from the exhibition catalogue:

Habemus Papam – Le elezioni Pontificie da S. Pietro a Bennedetto XVI
Rom 2006, ISBN 88-8016-744-8