Comenius’ signet ring still carried by descendants

Jan Amos Comenius, photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

A signet ring which the famous Czech pedagogue and philosopher Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius) gave his daughter is reportedly still in possession of his descendants. Throughout the centuries, the object has made its way through at least three continents and is a closely guarded family heirloom.

For many centuries, signet rings were an important object for identification and communication. Used to imprint the sender’s signature on a wax seal, they tended to be inherited by the male heir of a family.

Evidence that the famous Czech pedagogue Jan Amos Komenský had such a ring too exists in one of the documents located at the Memorial of Kralice Bible in East Bohemia’s Kralice nad Oslavou. The memorial is located near a fort which was occupied by the protestant community of the Unity of the Brethren and used as by them as a secret printing press. Komensky himself was a member of this religious denomination and his faith was the reason why he had to emigrate from the Kingdom of Bohemia after the Battle of White Mountain.

Monika Doležalová from the Memorial of Kralice Bible told Czech Radio that Komensky passed on the ring to his daughter Elisabeth.

Memorial of Kralice Bible in Kralice nad Oslavou, photo: Irena Šarounová / Czech Radio

“The rare item was always inherited by the youngest son. At the time, he had no son. That is why the ring was passed on to the daughter.”

Komensky’s daughter married a man called Petr Jablonský, who later changed his name to Figulus and their descendants possessed the ring for several centuries.

One of the documents located in the memorial building shows this was the case even after the First World War, when a certain Jiří Viktor Figulus received a letter from a notary.

“I have an important message for you Mr. Figulus. Your last relative has died on the battlefields of Europe and you are the last male relative of your kin. Therefore, the platinum ring of Komensky belongs to you.”

The last surviving male heir of the Figulus family therefore travelled to the newly formed Czechoslovakia. However, he found out there was a condition for anyone who adopted the family heirloom, says Ms Doležalová.

“The notary gave the astounded Figulus a written statement that he had to sign. It read that the ring must never leave his hand, not even as collateral in times of privation.”

Figulus signed the document and took hold of the ring. However, he also had no son and the ring was therefore inherited by his daughter Gerta, who lived in Czechoslovakia and married a man called Ferdinand Kallik.

The Kallik’s left Czechoslovakia in 1946 and moved to South Africa where Gerta had relatives. Her family eventually settled in the United States.

Gerta visited Czechoslovakia in 1958. She was then asked by the authorities if the state could make a copy of the ring. However, Gerta found out that this could mean the original would be swapped for the copy and soon left the country.

The ring was then inherited by another descendent of the Kallik line who reportedly lives in California.

Authors: Tom McEnchroe , Irena Šarounová
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