Four Vestments on Epiphany Featuring the Adoration of the Magi

Epiphany is associated with events that denote the revelation of the Incarnation. In the Eastern church, this is represented primarily by the Baptism of Christ, whereas in the Latin West, it is represented by way of the Adoration of the Magi -- or Three Kings -- whom symbolically also represented the non-Jewish, gentile populations of the world and who would too come to recognize Christ. Of course, if we think of how we use this word contemporaneously -- whereby we speak of "having an epiphany" -- that will also help to provide us with a better sense of what this great feast is. Basically we are referring to something "dawning" on us, or put more simply, becoming aware of or realizing something. In this instance then, we are becoming aware of the Incarnation.

Epiphany has many customs associated with it of course, including the fact it marks the end of the period popularly known as the twelve days of Christmas -- a period which was demarcated as festive and solemn by the Council of Tours in the year 567.  During the medieval and Renaissance periods, depictions of Epiphany by way of the Adoration of the Magi were frequently to be found, not only in painting and sculpture, but also in needle and thread.

To mark the feast of Epiphany today, we thought we'd share four vestments, one taken from the medieval period and three others from the Renaissance, which prominently feature the Magi. 

The first such example is a sixteenth century dalmatic that comes from the Vatican itself, taken from the treasury of the Sistine Chapel -- and generally available for viewing as part of the Vatican Museums permanent exhibitions. 


Our next example also has a kind of papal connection insofar is it a cope that was gifted as part of a solemn Mass set by the future Pope Julius II in the fifteenth century, (You can see the rest of the set in our article, A Fifteenth Century Solemn Mass Set Gifted by the Future Pope Julius II).

This next cope comes from the very beginning of the sixteenth century on cloth of gold. The image of the Adoration of the Magi found on the hood/shield of the cope includes painted elements for the faces with embroidery for the rest. 


Last but not least we have this fourteenth century chasuble set within the tradition of Opus Anglicanum. Obviously this work has been cut down from its original shape, but it still includes its depiction (amongst others) of the Adoration of the Magi. 

1330-1350 (Source)

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