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Another Two Pirita Rings?

In 2018, Ivar Leimus published a short note on a golden finger ring depicting a Calvary that was recently acquired by the Estonian History Museum. In that paper, he analysed whether the ring might belong to the corpus of finger rings that are connected to the Pirita Convent of Bridgettines (three gold rings). He came to the conclusion that based on analogues from Sweden and elsewhere, as well as the tradition of the Order of St. Bridget, this item could indeed be connected to the Pirita Convent. Leimus left open the origin of the other three finger rings (gilded silver, not gold) from Estonia – stray finds with the same motif – as there was not enough data to support a connection to the Bridgettines. A recent find (from 2020), another gilded silver ring depicting a Calvary, provoked the idea that perhaps other Estonian finds might also have indirect evidence supporting their Bridgettine background. Two examples have been considered in the present paper.

In autumn of 2015, a heavily corroded silver ring (Fig. 1) was found in the village of Muriste (Muris in German) in Western Estonia by a metal detectorist. As a loose find, it has no clear connection to the findspot. However, during the late medieval period, this village belonged to the sisters of the Cistercian nunnery in Lihula (about 26 km from Muriste). Associating the finger ring with a member of the Order of St. Bridget seems to be improbable but is not completely impossible.

The Muriste finger ring helped to discover yet another gilded silver ring depicting a Calvary. Namely, at a training session for users of search devices in early 2020, one participant, after seeing a photograph of the Muriste finger ring, remembered finding something similar about 20 years ago. This find (Fig. 2), which has now been placed at the disposal of Heritage Board officials, is a good quality gilded finger ring from Ülgase village in Jõelähtme Parish, Northern Estonia. Although the exact findspot does not offer any suggestions regarding its origin, analysis of the historical sources does help us further. Based on a late 17th-century map (Fig. 3), the ring could possibly have been lost in the meadow that belonged to Ülgase (Ilgas in German) Manor. This particular manor was granted to Tallinn’s cathedral canons as a prebend endowment between 1387 and 1565, and thus the ring’s unlucky owner might possibly have been connected to the canons. On the other hand, the meadows of Vandjala village that were donated to Pirita Convent in 1424 are not far from the findspot. Therefore, it is possible that a stray find that at first sight lacks any contextual information may perhaps indeed have been the finger ring of a member or supporter of the Order of St. Bridget. This, in turn, should make us more attentive to other stray finds of finger rings bearing the image of the Calvary in the future.