January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany (Festa dell' Epifania), which celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi, who are called in Greek Magoi (Latin Magi: ‘magicians’ or ‘astrologers’).
The only gospel to mention the event is that of Matthew (2: 1-12). In the tenth century the three Magi (a number not specified by Matthew, but deduced to accord with their three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh) began to appear as kings. The three kings came to be known by a variety of names, standardised in the Middle Ages as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.
In the earliest depictions, the Magi wear Persian pants and sport Phrygian caps, references to their origin in the east.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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