Chap. VIII.

Of the three Kings of Collein.

A COMMON conceit there is of the three Kings of Collein,[1] conceived to be the wise men that travelled unto our Saviour by the direction of the Star; Wherein (omitting the large Discourses of Baronius, Pineda, and Montacutius,) that they might be Kings, beside the ancient Tradition and Authority of many Fathers, the Scripture also implieth. The Gentiles, shall come to thy light, and Kings to the brightnesse of thy rising.[2] The Kings of Tharsis and the Isles, the Kings of Arabia and Saba shall offer gifts,[3] which places most Christians and many Rabbins interpret of the Messiah. Not that they are to be conceived potent Monarchs, or mighty Kings; but Toparks, Kings of Cities or narrow Territories; such as were the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Kings of Jericho and Ai, the one and thirty which Joshua subdued, and such as some conceive the Friends of Job to have been.

But although we grant they were Kings, yet can we not be assured they were three. For the Scripture maketh no mention of any number; and the numbers of their presents, Gold, Myrrhe and Frankincence, concludeth not the number of their persons; for these were the commodities of their Country, and such as probably the Queen of Sheba in one person had brought before unto Solomon. So did not the sons of Jacob divide the present unto Joseph, but are conceived to carry one for them all, according to the expression of their Father: Take of the best fruits of the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present. And therefore their number being uncertain, what credit is to be given unto their names, Gaspar, Melchior, Balthazar, what to the charm thereof against the falling sickness,4 or what unto their habits, complexions, and corporal accidents, we must rely on their uncertain story, and received pourtraits of Collein.

Lastly, Although we grant them Kings, and three in number, yet could we not conceive that they were Kings of Collein. For though Collein were the chief City of the Ubii, then called Ubiopolis, and afterwards Agrippina, yet will no History inform us there were three Kings thereof. Beside, these being rulers in their Countries, and returning home, would have probably converted their subjects: but according unto Munster, their conversion was not wrought until seventy yeares after by Maternus a disciple of Peter. And lastly, it is said that the wise men came from the East; but Collein is seated West-ward from Jerusalem; for Collein hath of longitude thirty four degrees, but Jerusalem seventy two.[5]

The ground of all was this. These wise men or Kings, were probably of Arabia, and descended from Abraham by Keturah, who apprehending the mystery of this Star, either by the Spirit of God, the prophesie of Balaam, the prophesie which Suetonius mentions, received and constantly believed through all the East, that out of Jury one should come that should rule the whole world: or the divulged expectation of the Jews from the expiring prediction of Daniel: were by the same conducted unto Judea, returned into their Country, and were after baptized by Thomas. From whence about three hundred years after, by Helena the Empress their bodies were translated to Constantinople. From thence by Eustatius unto Millane, and at last by Renatus the Bishop unto Collein: where they are believed at present to remain, their monuments shewn unto strangers, and having lost their Arabian titles, are crowned Kings of Collein.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [Cologne; the story is that the wise men did not return to the east, or wherever they came from, but went on to Cologne; or at least that their bodies were translated there at some time after their deaths; most usually, from Milan. The remains reside in the Cathedral. For an early 19th century look which includes a complete description of the reliquary, Cologne. For the Wikipedia article, Shrine of the Three Kings - Wikipedia, which gives only one version of the story of how the relics got to Cologne. The arms of the town include three crowns.]

2 [Isaiah 60:3]

3 [Psalms 72:10]

4 Gaspar fert myrrham, &c. [In the Festa Anglo-Romana,

Tres reges regnum tria dona ferebant;
Myrrham homini, uncto aurum, thura dedere Deo.

1646 has "Gaspar" in the text; subsequent editions have "Gasper" (but "Gaspar" in the marginal note).]

5 [This argument would seem to be beating a nonexistent tiger made of paper, but you can never be too careful when dealing with error. Perhaps Browne had actually met someone who believed that the "Three Kings of Cologne" were not only the wise men of scripture, but were in actual literal fact Kings of the city of Cologne.]

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