The Franks Casket: Detail, The Epiphany

Early 8th century

This is the right side of the front of the casket, a highly stylized version of the Adoration of the Magi. As in images from previous centuries the Magi approach in a single horizontal line, bowing slightly and bearing their gifts. The Christ Child is pictured on the lap of the Virgin Mary, and the two are framed by an elaborate throne. The first mage offers a chalice of gold balls or coins. Above and below the chalice are a star and a bird respectively. These probably represent the two indicators that led the Magi to the Christ Child, the Star of Bethlehem and the Holy Spirit. Gregory the Great cites "the voice of the Spirit," traditionally symbolized by a dove, as the source of the prophecy regarding Bethlehem that the Magi heard of in Jerusalem (Fourth Sermon on Epiphany).

The mage on the left has a branch of the kind of tree from which one gets myrrh. The one in the middle offers a censer in which the frankincense is burning. The lines rising from the censer represent smoke. Above the censer are runes for the word magi.

More of the Magi

Source: Wikimedia Commons