Rare medieval St George ring found in Norfolk

Medieval ring with St George image Image copyright Portable Antiquities Scheme
Image caption The medieval gold ring has the image of St George and the Dragon engraved on it

A 600-year-old gold ring engraved with St George and the Dragon sheds new light on the saint's medieval followers in Norwich, an expert has told the BBC.

The ring, found by a metal detectorist in South Creake, Norfolk, dates from between 1350 and 1430.

Dr Jonathan Good, author of The Cult of St George, said the ring "attests to the popularity of St George" and may be linked to a guild devoted to the saint.

The ring was ruled to be treasure at an inquest in Norwich this week.

It is set to be acquired by Norwich Castle Museum.

Image caption The Guild of St George operated in Norwich between 1385 and 1548

Dr Good, who is associate professor of history at Reinhardt University, in Georgia in the US, said the ring "could have have owned by a guild member. It could have been a way of them showing their dedication".

Medieval guilds were formed by groups of people coming together and paying a weekly subscription to celebrate a particular saint, say prayers for dead guild members and provide sickness benefit.

The one with the longest life in Norwich - operating between 1385 and 1548 - was the guild of St George, with each member subscribing a farthing a week and services being held on St George's feast day on 23 April.

"It is in these pre-reformation times that St George came into his own in England," said Dr Good.

Dr Kathleen Kennedy, an expert in medieval rings and associate professor at Penn State-Brandywine University in the US, said it was "a wonderful find for Norwich".

She said the ring was "originally enamelled, so like so much of the medieval statuary remaining to us today, what we see as one colour would have originally been brightly variegated".

Dr Adrian Marsden, a coin expert based at Norwich Castle Museum, said: "The ring has on it St George spearing a dragon. That is unusual and interesting because St George was a very popular saint in Norwich."

Under the Treasure Act of 1996 any object containing more than 10% silver and gold and more than 300 years old must be reported to the coroner who decides if it is classed as treasure.

If museums later acquire the object, the finder is normally rewarded the full market value, determined by experts at the British Museum.

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