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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England

  • Date:

    1300-1500

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.226-1962

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Public access description

    Bronze rings shaped like buckled straps survive in some numbers from the middle ages. This ring is engraved with the Latin motto 'Mater dei memanto' which can be translated as 'Mother of God remember me'. This suggests that they were sold at shrines, in the same way as lead pilgrim badges. These rings haven't been linked with a particular shrine but the shape of the ring and the inscription calling upon the Virgin Mary may relate to a shrine holding a girdle relic such as Le Puy in France or Prato, Italy. Girdles which had been blessed at a shrine or inscribed with prayers were sometimes worn by pregnant women during their pregnancy and labour to help ensure a safe delivery such as the girdle hired by Elisabeth of York, wife of Henry VII to help during her pregnancy. It is possible that these rings served a similar purpose although it should be noted that rings in the shape of belts or buckles continued to be made into the nineteenth century.

    A ring, described as 'formed like a strap or garter buckled and inscribed 'Mater dei memento mei' was found at Necton, Norfolk and recorded in 1847 in 'Memoirs illustrative of the history and antiquities of Norfok and the city of Norwich'. The British Museum has a similar ring (AF882) as does the Norwich Castle Museum. Another V&A ring (M.225-1962) shares the same design.

    This ring was formerly part of the collection of Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977), art historian and collector. Early on she collected gems and jewels which resulted in the 1921 book, English Jewellery from the 5th Century BC to 1800. She published widely on jewellery, French medieval art and architecture. Evans was elected the first woman president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1959 (through 1964). She was a trustee of the British Museum (1963-67). In her personal life, she donated time and money to many charitable historic causes, nearly all of them anonymously. Her will left collections to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Birmingham City Art Gallery.

    She gave her gem and jewellery collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum through a series of gifts, beginning in 1960. Her association with the museum went back to her childhood and she developed personal friendships with the museum curators and Directors. In 1975, two years before her death aged 84, Joan Evans made over her remaining jewels to the museum, choosing to remain anonymous during her lifetime. As she wrote jokingly to curator Charles Oman, her village was ‘divided into those who think it must have been me and those who say it cannot have been because I am so shabby.’

    In her final years, offering her collection to the museum, she wrote movingly that ‘My jewels come to your Department with love and gratitude. It has been kind to me for 65 years.’

  • Physical description

    Bronze ring shaped like a buckle, inscribed 'Mater dei memanto'

  • Object history note

    Found at Hethersett, near Wymondham Norfolk in 1845 and exhibited by Joseph Warren of Ixworth at the Ironmongers Hall Exhibition, 1869, p. 485. Then Sir John Evans Collection, Dame Joan Evans collection.
    A purse frame with a variation on this inscription, dated 1450-1500, was recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (SUR-B93AC3 )as was a spoon handle (WMID-5FF2DB). Similar rings were recorded as CORN-4A7DC7, LON-596D94 and BH-7ADF24.

  • Descriptive line

    Bronze ring shaped like a buckle, inscribed 'Mater dei memanto'. England, 14th century

  • Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

    Ironmongers Hall Exhibition, 1869, p. 485.
    Archaeological Association Journal XII, pl. 40

  • Collection code

    Metalwork Collection