Wise Men and Gifts: The Journey of the Magi

The three wise men that journeyed from the East following a star were originally depicted as Persian priests in Byzantium art. They evolved in Western art to symbolize the three ages of man and later to represent distinct ethnic royalty. Caspar the King of Tarsus, Balthasar the King of Ethiopia and Melchior, King of Arabia exemplified a diversity of age and race. Each brought a rare gift for the Christ child: gold for royalty, frankincense for the soul and myrrh to heal the body. The early Church used this magical image to teach and entertain an illiterate public. The myth of the magi lives on in Spain and Portugal where the three wise men bring gifts to children who leave carrots and hay out to lure them and their horses.