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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
THE THREE KINGS BEFORE HEROD
Matthew 2: 1-6

Here begins a detailed cycle of five scenes concerning the Magi. Herod is seated in his distinct space, holding an open book which he discussed with the kings, while a sword bearer stands behind him. Facing him, and gesticulating in animated fashion, the three kings stand in order of seniority, led by the oldest with a white beard. The star shines beyond the margin.

This is a conflation of two separate scenes illustrated in earlier art. In the first, Herod consults the prophecy of Micah with the scribes, to locate Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. In the second episode, Herod tells the kings where to go. The most extensive early examples of these scenes are found on Carolingian ivories from Metz (AP, 55, pl 104, 105). The cycle was clearly known in Anglo-Saxon England because multiple scenes appear in the Missal of Robert of Jumièges, and the scene of Herod with his scribes is found in the Paris Psalter (Bib. Nat. Lat. 8846), late 12th century, but copied from a much earlier source.

The detail of this cycle, running to five scenes and conflating two more, reflects contemporary interest in the liturgical drama of the Epiphany. However, Pächt points out that every scene in this cycle can be shown to have a pictorial precedent and is not reliant on drama (AP, 83).

Quire 2.
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