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The goldsmith who made the Fisherman's ring for Benedict XVI

Claudio and Roberto Franchi are the fourth generation in one of the oldest goldsmith families of Rome. When their workshop was first created in 1886, their family never imagined that over the years, they would be commissioned to make a ring for a pope.

In addition to being goldsmiths, Claudio is an art historian. During an exhibition with his works on display, the pope's master of ceremonies discovered Claudio's talent.

CLAUDIO FRANCHI
Goldsmith and Art Historian

“The pope's master of ceremonies was struck by the kind of person I am: an art historian, a silversmith, and a representative of a historic family. Therefore, he directly involved me in the project of recovering this work of art, which in the past was seen as a prestigious commission.”

He ordered the Fisherman's ring, a work in which the Apostle Peter is depicted fishing on the bank of a river. Within two weeks, he completed the ring that identifies the visible head of the Church.

CLAUDIO FRANCHI
Goldsmith and Art Historian

“The Fisherman's ring is one of the most important elements that represents the principal symbol of the pontificate. FLASH In the past, the ring was an extremely practical element because it was used to seal pontifical documents. So much so, that the first thing Cardinal Camerlengo did was to destroy the ring in order to prevent the falsification of documents.”

The two Italian brothers delivered the ring in person to Benedict XVI. However, when he renounced his pontificate, the ring was not destroyed. Rather, it was marked with a cross and is currently on display in the Vatican Museum.

With the arrival of Pope Francis, there were many changes. Among them, the choice of the ring's material: he wanted it in silver and not in gold. Claudio did not make the pope's ring, because Pope Francis chose to wear the one that the artist Enrico Manfrini had created for Pope Paul VI.

Claudio says that this choice is more symbolic rather than economic.

CLAUDIO FRANCHI
Goldsmith and Art Historian

“The election of Pope Francis lead in one direction, I would say, that is more inspired by the media than concrete realities. Thus, his renouncing a gold ring was more to project an image of poverty, even if this image is not completely true. While it is true that the Fisherman's ring which Pope Francis wears is made of silver, and not gold, it is of no less value, because the same amount of work went into creating its symbolic meaning.”

Pope Francis is the first pope to wear a ring that a previous pope did not use. In addition, he only uses the ring on certain occasions, because he usually wears the ring he had when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. 

Throughout the history of the Church, objects laden with liturgical symbolism, such as rings, crosses or pallia, served to communicate Christian values and the message of the Church.

Although the need for goldsmiths and artists “commissioned” by the Vatican is diminishing, the two Italian brothers demonstrate there are still people with the same passion for detail that artists had such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Raphael.

Benedict XVI: A love affair with the truth - Trailer from ROME REPORTS on Vimeo.