Shrine of the Magi

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.
Dr. Rolf Lauer, Kunsthistoriker