The Procession of Virgins at Sant'Apollinare Nuovo: The Magi

6th century1
Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

The Procession of Virgins goes the length of the left wall of the nave, just above the columns, led by the the three Magi, who themselves follow the Star of Bethlehem as they bring their gifts to the Virgin and Child at the east end of the mosaic.

The Magi are here given names and differentiated by age, Balthassar the middle-aged man with black hair and beard, Melchior the beardless youth, and Gaspar with white hair and beard. This is a very early use of the three names, which first appear in a Greek work of the fifth century, the Chronica Alexandrina.2 The earliest known Latin translation of that work, the Excerpta Latina Barbari, was not written until about 100 years after this mosaic.3

As in some very early images of the Magi, these wear Phrygian caps to signify their coming from the East.

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Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 Everything above the waists of the Magi is a 19th-century restoration.

2 "Excerpta Latina Barbari," Wikipedia, citing Retrieved 2013-09-25.

3 "Biblical Magi," Wikipedia. Retrieved 2013-09-25.