Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral

From Academic Kids

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The shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne cathedral

The shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne cathedral is said to contain the bones of the Three Kings, also known as the Three Wise Men or Magi . It is a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the western world.

The remains of the Magi where taken from Milan (Italy) by Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa and given to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald von Dassel in 1164. To honor these important relicts, construction of the Cologne cathedral was started 1248. Today the Cologne cathedral is largest Gothic church in northern Europe, but the building took 632 years to complete.

Because of the importance of the shrine and the cathedral for the later development of the city, the Coat of Arms of Cologne contains three crowns to symbolise the Three Kings.

A scientific examination of the shrine in 1864 revealed 2000 years old bones and clothes.

Unknown facts about The shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne cathedral

  • 1180?: The construction of the golden shrine started, because
  • 1180 : Philip of Heinsberg received the honour-title "Regulus of Westfalia", (Gelnhauser Urkunde 1180)
  • 1180 : The construction of the townwall started (probably ended 1225)

The provable facts:

  • 1864: at the opening of the shrine, remains of the Three Kings and the coins of Philip of Heinsberg were discovered (July 20 1864): Eyewitness report: Floss, Dreikoenigenbuch, 1864, Page 108
    • "In einer besonderen Abteilung des Schreins zeigten sich nun mit den Resten uralter vermoderter Binden, wahrscheinlich Byssus, nebst Stuecken aromatischer Harze und aehnlicher Substanzen die zahlreichen Gebeine dreier Personen, die mit Beihilfe der anwesenden Sachverstaendigen sich zu fast vollstaendigen Koerpern ordnen liessen: der eine aus erster Jugendzeit, der zweite im ersten Mannesalter, der dritte bejahrt. Zwei Muenzen, Bracteaten von Silber und nur auf einer Seite gepraegt, lagen bei; die eine, erweislich aus den Tagen Philipps von Heinsberg, zeigt eine Kirche *, die andere ein Kreuz, das Jurisdictionsschwert an der einen, den Bischofsstab an der anderen Seite. (* "Ganz so wie die Muenze Philipps bei Harzheim historia rei numerariae coloniensis Tafel 3 Nr.14, 16, doch ohne die Umschrift; die andere in viereckiger Form, in der Mitte ein Kreuz, das Jurisdictionsschwert an der einen, den Bischofsstab an der anderen Seite, auch ohne Umschrift, ist jedenfalls nicht juenger und duerfte sich als eine Muenze von Rainald von Dassel erweisen.")
  • ca.1200: Eyewitness report: "In the days of Philip of Heinsberg the shrine of the three magi was built. This told me some eyewitnesses (Vita Eustorgius)."
    • "Temporibus domini Philippi episcopi, qui successit Reinoldo, fabricata (!) est eis capsa ... sicut nobis narraverunt qui presentes erant eorum translatoni ... " copy MGH 25, 108; Original: Floss, Dreikoenigenbuch, 1864, Page 116-122 (Latin)
  • 1199 +-1: King Otto gave a present to the church of Cologne: three golden crowns made for the three wise men: "Otto rex coloniensis curiam celebrans tres coronas de auro capitibus trium magorum imposuit"; MGSS 17, 292
  • The rear side of the shrine was constructed.
  • The head of the church of Cologne said: "A new cathedral must be built".


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