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Bill Thayer

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Epiphany


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If this scene looks a bit strange to us in the twenty-first century, it's mostly because we are used to seeing Magi shown as kings, wearing robes, and accompanied by a sizable retinue: none of that is in the Gospels: it's a medieval development — as in this splendid example in the cathedral of Orvieto, fostered in part I suspect by the church to remind kings of their spiritual duties. Here, then, they wear trousers (bracae) and something that looks very much like the pileus or Phrygian cap; the trousers, at least, should not surprise us at all, since this article of Celtic clothing was what men had been wearing in Rome for a couple of centuries when this was carved. Look closely: might they be quilted? 
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Page updated: 29 Aug 09