Dunterton (G-B): Ancient ring a clue to church past?

Jo Clarke / Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Source - http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Ancient-ring-clue-church-past/story-20631587-detail/story.html

The archaeology collections here in Plymouth contain some truly amazing objects including some beautiful gold treasure items – one example of which is this fabulous gold and sapphire ring.

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The piece was discovered near Dunterton, not far from Tavistock by a Plymouth metal detectorist in the mid-2000s.The ring was acquired for the City Museum and Art Gallery’s permanent collections thanks to funding support from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Headley Trust which helps museums buy items which have been officially declared as Treasure.

This ring would have belonged to someone with significant wealth and power. It’s similar to two rings discovered in Exeter that are believed to have belonged to clergymen from the upper levels of the church.

Over the years, at least a dozen sapphire rings have been found in the graves of Medieval bishops. They were probably worn by them as a symbol of their vow to live a life of religious service.

The Medieval period runs from around AD 400 to 1500. The ring dates from 1200-1300 so was made during the era known as the High Middle Ages. This was a time of rapid population growth throughout Europe as well as much political and social change.

Sapphires were thought to help maintain chastity. Men of the clergy were supposed to be celibate so wearing a sapphire ring would have definitely been appropriate.

This ring is of very fine quality. In fact, it may originate from a school of gem cutting that was based in the West of England during Medieval times. The location where it was discovered might also be significant and add weight to the idea that it belonged to a member of the clergy.

The parish of Dunterton lies on the route between the Medieval priory at Launceston and the Abbey at Tavistock. Could it have been lost by a bishop travelling between the two?