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Shrine of the Three Holy Kings, circa 1190-1220

Photo: © Dombauhütte Köln, Matz und Schenk

The Shrine of the Magi is the largest, most artistically significant, and, in terms of its content, most ambitious reliquary of the Middle Ages. The relics were brought to Cologne from Milan in 1164. From about 1190 to 1220 a number of artisans worked on the shrine in the workshop of the goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun and in workshops in Cologne and along the river Meuse that continued his work. Ornamentation on the shrine includes gold- and silver-embossed, fire-gilded figures, filigree panels set with precious and semi-precious stones, intaglios, and cameos, and columns, arches and profiles trimmed with enamels. The images depicted on the shrine include scenes from the history of salvation from the dawning of time to the Last Judgment. Although the shrine was shortened by one axis after being hidden from French revolutionary troops in 1794, it was largely restored to its original shape during the most recent period of restoration, which lasted from 1961 to 1973. The intention in the Middle Ages was that the shrine would be placed in the crossing. Today, however, it rises above the medieval high altar at the back of the inner choir, making this area the main focus of the Gothic cathedral, which was built as a stone reliquary for this precious shrine.

Detailed views of this image:
Shrine of the Three Holy Kings, circa 1190-1220 Cameo with Medusa Head, 1st Cent. after Christ Venus Gem, 1st Century before Christ Gem with Head of a Ruler, 1st Cent. after Christ The Shrine of the Three Kings, Front Side, c. 1200
Gem with Dancer, 1st Cent. before Christ Cameo with Head of Ruler, 2nd Cent. before Christ Adoration of the Magi The Three Kings with King Otto IV Baptism of Christ
Lion Heads under the Ridge Ornament Last Judgement Hunting Frieze, Boar Hunt Hunting Frieze, Battle of Riders Hunting Frieze, Battle with Lion
Nero Cameo, 1st C. after Christ Shrine of the Three Holy Kings, David Side Shrine of the Three Holy Kings, Back Side, c. 1220 Shrine of the Three Holy Kings, Solomon Side