Tympanum of the South Portal at Vézelay

12th century
Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, Vézelay, France

In the Magi scene Mary sits on a throne as usual. The child is on her lap, as in the old Throne of Wisdom images, but instead of facing the viewer he reaches for the mage's gift. The Magi have arrived with servants and a horse or camel (on the far right). Mary wears a veil on her head.

In the lower register are an Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity. Unusually, there is no furniture or architectural element in the Annunciation panel to separate Mary from the angel. The Visitation scene pictures the "city in Judah" (Luke 1:30) as a single building from which two figures look out to watch Mary and Elizabeth. This device goes back at least to the 6th century and continues through the Middle Ages.

The panel on the right uses an arch to suggest the cave in which some sources said the child was born. Mary and the child are disposed as in the older tradition, recumbent but separate from each other. Above these figures the sculptor manages to squeeze in the beasts, a midwife, and Joseph (with his hand on his cheek, also traditional).

Outside the arch, the angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, who are already on their way to the cave with one of their sheep.

Read more about images of the Magi.

Source: Pol Mayer via this page at Wikimedia Commons.