xi eniaus dou Pui; xi petiz eniaus dou Pui

Jewelry had many uses in the middle ages, just as it does now. As Maximin Deloche pointed out in his 1929 study on rings in France, rings in particular could serve several ends: a king, pope, or a bishop, for example, might use a signet ring to authenticate documents, whereas ecclesiastical and secular leaders often wore rings to denote their exalted status. Rings were also exchanged to signify special relationships between wearers, and might be inscribed with messages or decorations on the band or even on a mounted stone. Oftentimes, rings were placed on the fingers of the dead when they were buried, and therefore accompanied their owners to the grave. As was suggested in a medieval ring collection catalogue, this kind of jewelry might also be considered a form of movable wealth, something that could be easily liquidated should the wearer need to exchange it for cash or other goods.

A collection of eleven rings designated as “from [or of] Le Puy” are among the many items listed in the The Account-Inventory of Eudes de Nevers, a Burgundian count who died on crusade in 1266. Although they were listed on three separate lines in the Account-Inventory (folio 1a, 2a, and 4b), little is known about the significance of Le Puy as their place of origin, the kind of rings they were, or the reason the count had so many in his possession. It is uncertain, for example, to which town or city of “Le Puy” the rings were ascribed. They may have come from the town of that name now located in the Doubs region of France, near the count’s home region of Burgundy. The town of Le Puy-en-Velay located further south is also a possibility, however, since it is recognized as the place where the First Crusade was launched and therefore might bear some relationship to the count’s Holy Land adventure. And even if the document also mentions two precious stones—an emerald and a sapphire—each of which were presumably mounted on rings offered to two of the count’s inheritors, there is no information about what the style of a ring from “Le Puy” might be, even if they are described as “small” (petit) elsewhere in the inventory.

As to the purpose of these eleven rings, the only clue may come from the death-bed ritual to which the document also bears witness. In a scene that seems to have come straight from a medieval romance, the Account-Inventory records how, in his final moments on this earth, the count’s most precious possessions, including gemstones and cameos meant for his successors, were bequeathed one by one to his most trusted companions. Six men were given rings in succession, and Hugh d’Augerant, Eudes’s closest peer, was entrusted with two rings to bring back home to the dying count’s father in Burgundy. In light of this practice, it seems likely that the Eudes had secured a supply of rings from Le Puy so that he might bestow them on members of his retinue as a token of good service during the course of his crusading activities. However, the count did not live long enough to do so, and the rings were eventually sold off for 33 sous tournois (the currency of the city of Tours, in France) to help pay the many debts the deceased nobleman had accrued while in the Holy Land.