This incredible project has been rumbling on for a number of years, and has at last come to its conclusion. Some of you who follow Hannah on Instagram may have heard the odd snippet of information here and there, but at last (better late than never) we are so excited to reveal the story in full. Three years ago exactly (see THIS blog post) Hannah discovered that she had won a commission from Durham Cathedral. Her self-appointed brief was to design and make a medieval-inspired gold ring, inspired by St Cuthbert's famous gold pectoral cross inlaid with garnets, the carved figures on his coffin, and the myths and legends surrounding St Cuthbert's affinity with animals. The ring is to be included in the displays at the launch of the new Open Treasure exhibition galleries, and afterwards the ring will remain in the Cathedral collections forever.
In August 2017, Hannah and her husband attended the evening Private View launch event for Open Treasure - and finally got to see the ring in the exhibition space it was intended for! The ring can be seen in the first part of the displays; in the late 14th century Monks' Dormitory. As you go up the stairs, it's in a window alcove on the immediate left.
Hannah hand carved the ring from recycled 18ct yellow gold. It was scaled up in size and dimension, taking inspiration from bishops' rings, so that the ring would stand out more in the display case. It is around a UK size Z+3. With a slight court-shaped profile, the outside face of the ring is engraved with animals found in the stories of St Cuthbert. Inspiration for the naive style of engraving came from the outline-carved figures on the fragments of St Cuthbert's coffin, which dates from the late 7th century AD.
There is a grey seal, an otter, a red kite, a wild cat, and a tern. The animals are all native to the North East of England, and all appear in the stories of St Cuthbert as his allies and animal guides.
The ring is inlaid with twelve tiny faceted garnet gemstones which surround the animals in a scattered pattern, taking inspiration from the garnets inlaid into the cross pendant.
Inside, the ring is engraved with a quote from Venerable Bede, who was almost a contemporary of St Cuthbert. It reads in a continuous spiral; "he alone loves the Creator perfectly, who manifests a pure love for his neighbour."
The statement below was actually included in Hannah's submission to the Cathedral, and beautifully explains the message of the ring, and the honour and privilege she feels when creating something so deeply symbolic.
You can find out more about Open Treasure and plan your visit to see the treasures of St Cuthbert, via Durham Cathedral's website.