St. Alban’s Psalter, St. Alban’s, before 1123 or c. 1130/40

Hildesheim, St. Godehard, ms St. God. 1, p. 26

The depiction of St. Matthew’s Gospel, verse 2:12, from the narrative of the Three Magi, is among the most astonishing motives of Romanesque art. After the kings brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Gospel continues: “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” Rather than God himself, most pictures show an angel, and some of them belong to the finest extant depictions of sleep and dream, although none of them attempt to illustrate the contents of the dream.

One particular and charming example is the rilievo by Master Gislebertus in Burgundian Autun which shows the three asleep under a common blanket, wearing their crowns. Others are known also in the art of illumination, mostly embedded in extensive picture cycles which include several stations, one after another. The scenes are then precisely fit into initials whose bodies neatly enclose the three, with a little angel hovering above them.