Abstract: This article discusses the symbolic meaning behind the decoration on Bishop Wilhelm Atanazy Kloske’s episcopal ring dating from the nineteenth century, which has been preserved in the treasury of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Gniezno. It is unique due to the miniature figures which support a large amethyst. The figures represent the four estates (or social orders) of the realm: the clergy, the commoners, the knights and the burghers/bourgeoisie. Recently, it has been pointed out they are modelled directly on the nineteenth-century figures in Gniezno Cathedral which support the seventeenth-century reliquary of St. Adalbert (Pol: Wojciech), the principal patron saint of Poland. The author also discusses other objects which may have inspired the decoration: nineteenth-century French rings, and the works of Baroque goldsmiths in Poland, and also points out that the source of these iconographic figures can be found in nineteenth-century art. A more detailed analysis of the meaning behind these figures brings to mind the idea of unity and the patriotism of a traditional society built on the estates of the realm as a force capable of standing up against the country’s denationalization by the partitioning powers. The owner of the ring made this idea come to fruition through his social activities.
Keywords: wilhelm atanazy kloske, st. adalbert, episcopal ring, estates of the realm, eleventh century, prussian partition