(National Catholic Reporter) Ring Around the Cross

My article “Ring Around the Cross,” about the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Cloisters’ exhibit “Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection,” appears in National Catholic Reporter.

Here’s a selection:

Early Christian Gemstone Ring

Early Christian Gemstone Ring (4th–5th century, gold, garnets, and emerald). Metropolitan Museum of Art

It’s easy to approach the very concept of gem-studded rings with crosses in the early centuries of the church with a great deal of skepticism. If a camel has a better chance of wiggling through the eye of a needle than a rich man does of securing admission to heaven, what business do wealthy Catholics in, say, the fifth century have of wearing expensive jewelry with religious symbolism and iconography?

And isn’t it even more hypocritical and greedy of religious leaders to adorn themselves with costly jewelry and to think that slapping a gem-formed cross on the ring somehow makes it all kosher?

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