Epiphanytide : Day 4

Star of wonder

Star of light

Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading

Still proceeding

Guide us to thy perfect light.

The Magi were not Kings, but may actually have been Persian priests or Babylonian astronomers or Nabataean spice-traders who served Kings by using their skills in interpreting dreams and the movements of the stars. Ancient depictions of them never involved symbols of royalty, but simply the Phrygian cap and garments of noble Persians. The Magi were eventually pictured as representatives of different peoples and races.

The Victoria and Albert Museum share some thoughts about the race of Magi represented in pieces of art they hold.

These objects show the Adoration of the Magi, or the visit of the three wise men or kings to Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus. They depict one of the kings as a black African. The earliest known example of a black king may be represented in a wall painting of about 1360 in the Emmaus monastery in Prague. The black Magus was instantly recognisable by his black skin but he was also often distinguished from the others by his flamboyant dress. Although the appearance of the black king may have been partly inspired by real Africans living in Europe, his look was mainly a mixture of European ideas of the exotic. Although the black king was fairly common in Northern European art by the end of the 15th century, it was less frequent in Florentine Renaissance art.

What might ‘the black magnus’ represent in your own faith journey?

How might this representation of different races be helpful or unhelpful in the 21st century?


Almighty and everlasting God, creator of time and space of season and epoch, of birth and evolution of both living creatures and galaxies alike, hear us as we humbly come before you as we mark our brief passage of time as another year begins. We have heard the Christmas story, about how you came to live among us. As we try to understand what this means in our lives we pray that you will guide our life journeys.

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