What is the most valuable thing you’ve ever found in your yard?
While 26-year-old Dekel Ben-Shitrit was doing some weeding in the garden at his Kibbutz in Israel, he found what turned out to be a rare 700-year–old bronze ring bearing the face of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of travelers.
“I rubbed it slightly and I saw it was carved with a human image inside a frame,” he later told the Times of Israel.
Ben-Shitrit then posted a photo of the ring on Facebook, asking whether anyone knew anything about its origin.
Yana Tchekhanovetz, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority soon got in touch, and examined the ring, dating it to the Crusader era, some time between the 12th and 15th centuries.
The ring features a picture of a man holding a staff appears to be St. Nicholas, who in Eastern Christianity was the patron saint of pilgrims and sailors.
“So Christian pilgrims to the Land of Israel from all over the Byzantine Empire (Turkey, the Balkans, Greece and present-day Russia) would carry his icon to protect them from harm. It is probable that the ring belonged to a pilgrim who sought the protection of St. Nicholas on his travels,” Tchekhanovetz told the Times of Israel.
The kibbutz where the ring was found was located in Lower Galilee near Roman Road used by Christian pilgrims on their way to sites in Mount Tabor, Nazareth and around the Sea of Galilee, according to the report.
St. Nicholas, known as Santa Claus, around the world, was a 4th century bishop of Myra (Turkey) remembered for his selfless works of charity.