- Museum number
Amulet-ring; gold; inscribed on outer face.
- Production date
Diameter: 0.90 inches
Weight: 88 grains
- Curator's comments
- Text from Dalton 1912, Catalogue of Finger Rings
The names of the Magi, or Three Kings, do not occur in the Canonical or Apochryphal Gospels; it has been suggested that they may be of Mithraic origin, and that they may be borrowed from titles of Mithras as 'the White One', 'the King of Light', 'the Lord of Treasures' (C.W. King, Arch. Journ. xxvi, p. 234). They were supposed to be of especial efficacy against falling sickness, though the Stockholm MS. (see under no. 866) includes them in a long charm against fever (Archaeologia, xxx, p. 400).
The Lilium Medicinae of Bernard of Gordon (late 13th cent.) contains the following passage: 'Si aliquis est in paroxismo. Si ponat os supra aurem patientis et dicat ter istos tres versus procul dubio statim surgit:
Gaspar fert mirram, thus Melchior, Baldasar aurum:
Haec tria qui secum portabit nomina regum
Solvitur a morbo, Christie pietate, caduco.
(Magistri Bernardi de Gordonio Lilium Medicinae, Pt. II, ch. xxv, De Epilepsia: Lugduni, 1486. Quoted by E. Le Blant, Rev. Arch. 1892, Pt. I, p. 60).
The first of the three verses has remained in use in Europe down to modern times (ibid.). The names of the Kings are common on mediaeval ornaments, and through the celebrity of the Three Kings at Cologne outlived most magical formulae; and they are mentioned by Sir Thomas Browne in his Vulgar Errors, Book v, ch. viii. For instances of their use in comparatively recent times see Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. xxx, p. 370. They are inscribed on the Glenlyon brooch in the British Museum (Pennant, Tour in Scotland, i, p. 103)
For mediaeval examples of rings, &c., with the names see Arch. Journ. vii, p. 333; iii, p. 77; xv, p. 274; Proc. Soc. Ant. London, 2nd series, iv, p. 519; viii, p. 332; xix, p. 264; Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. xviii, p. 84; xxxvi, p. 101; Notes and Queries, 3rd series, x, 1866, p. 8; C. roach Smith, Collectanea Antiqua, i, p. 120; ii, p. 50; Ctalogue of the Ironmongers' Exhibition, p. 485.
This is no. 2 in the Londesborough Collection catalogue. Crofton Croker describes it as, 'Charact Ring. Gold. Engraved outside with Jassper . Melchior . Baltazar . in . god . is . a . r . the names of the three kings of Cologne; to which the addition, probably means, "in God is a remedy." Workmanship, fourteenth, or early in the fifteenth century. Worn as a talisman'.
"The legend of the three kings of Cologne, one of the most popular of the numerous stories accepted by the Christian world in the middle ages, has been published at full length by Mr Wright, in his edition of the Chester Plays". Smith's Collecteana Antiqua, Vol. i, p. 115.
" The three kings of Cologne, in the legend, are distinguished by the names of Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper. They were supposed to be the wise men (according to the legend three kings of Arabia), who made offerings to our Saviour. Their bodies travelled first to Constantinople, thence to Milan, and lastly to Cologne, by various removals. See a sketch of their history in Brown's Vulgar Errors, VII, viii, p. 379; also, as to their names as a charm, the Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1749, xix, p. 88; Smith's Collecteanea etc.
Text from Ward, Cherry et al, 'The Ring from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century,' London 1981, pl. 199.
The outside of this ring of rectangular section is inscribed in black-letter: JASPER (sic) MELCHIOR BALTASAR (sic) IN GOD IS AR. The names of the Three Kings were thought to be especially efficacious against epilepsy and fever; their popularity owed much to that of the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne. The names are found engraved on both rings and brooches. The second part of the inscription clearly indicates an English origin and may be the beginning of a phrase such as 'in god is our salvation'.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1999 8 Feb-2 Apr, London, Wellcome Institute Library, Renaissance Medicine
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Londesborough Collection 2