THE CONCLUSION TO THE STORY OF THE THREE KINGS - PART IV
All their life, the Three Kings remained celibate, quite contrary to the custom of their peoples. They built a chapel upon the Hill of Vaus (Victory Hill) and St. Thomas consecrated the chapel. There they preached to all the people concerning the Christian Faith and the Star which had appeared to them. Their fame became so great and spread to so many lands that people came from far and wide to visit the chapel on the Hill of Vaus. Around this chapel and hill a city named Suwella was built. The Kingly Bishops ordained other bishops and priests and spread the Christian Faith throughout the land, offering Holy Mass and baptizing many. St. Thomas continued his travels further away and eventually suffered martyrdom for the love of Christ.
Now after many years of long and fruitful life in Suwella, as it grew cold and Christmas Day neared again, a wonderful star appeared above the city. The Three Kings understood this to mean that they were to be called to their heavenly homeland. They had a fair and large tomb built to contain them all and it was housed in the same chapel on Vaus. All three gathered together to solemnly offer the Divine Sacrifice on Christmas Day. On the eighth day of Christmas, Bishop Melchior, King of Arabia and Nubia said Mass devotedly and then, without any disease or harm, lay down and yielded his spirit to God. He was 116 years old. The other two Kings gave him a solemn burial in all his bishops' attire and episcopal articles.
On the Feast of Epiphany, after offering Holy Mass, Bishop Balthasar, King of Saba, died in a similar fashion. He was 112 years old and Caspar buried him in the same tomb as Melchior. Six days after that, Bishop Caspar, King of Tharsis, offered the Blessed Sacrament upon the altar, and then Our Lord Christ took his spirit to dwell in everlasting joy. He was 109 years old. The people buried him with all splendors and laid him in the tomb, in between the other two kings. And so these three glorious Kings who journeyed together in life, and assisted one another in sanctifying the Church as great bishops, also lay together in death. They entered into heavenly glory and their bodies remained whole and incorrupt for many years afterwards.
Unfortunately, as we well know, the enemies of our souls' salvation never rest. The devil contrived to spread his errors in their land. In time the vast majority of the people fell back into paganism and barbarism. They returned to the worship of false gods, forsook the law of God, persecuted the good, and desecrated the places made holy. The reverence to the three holy Kings was almost forgotten. Men from the homelands of each of the kings came to Vaus and returned home with the body of their King. Thus, each saintly King remained in his own country. Yet to the great dismay of these purloiners, once the corpses of the Kings were separated, they no longer remained incorrupt.
Once Emperor Constantine outlawed the persecution of Christians, his mother, Saint Helena, made a pious pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She visited the places hallowed by Our Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles and the earliest martyrs. She recovered the True Cross of Christ and built many churches upon the most sacred sites from the Life of Christ. St. Helena built a Church at the site of Our Resurrected Lord's appearance to St. Mary Magdalene. She also traveled to Bethlehem and visited the home/cave/manger where Christ had been born and built a Church there. Thereafter she also began to think of the three Kings who had long ago worshiped the Infant King there in Bethlehem. Thus she journeyed East in search of their relics.
She never stopped preaching Christ crucified and her witness inspired many, so that there was a re-flourishing of the Christian faith in those lands. The lords of the territories heard of her great desire for the relics of the three Kings and so they returned to her the bodies of King Melchior and King Balthasar. However, King Caspar had been carried off to a faraway isle by heretics. St. Helena did not want to see the three Kings parted, even in death. Eventually she was able to prevail upon the heretics to return the remains of St. Caspar to her, but only in exchange for a great sum and the body of the Apostle St. Thomas. The great queen fashioned a great chest, arrayed it with the most spectacular riches, and placed the relics of the Three Kings therein. She brought this great reliquary back with her to Constantinople and placed it in the great church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). Pilgrims from all over the East came to make great offerings to the Kings with pious devotion, and numerous miracles were worked through the relics of the Three Kings, on account of their great merits and benevolent intercession. Their devotion now spread ever further and even reached all corners of the Orient Church.
After the time of Emperor Constantine and Saint Helena, Julian the Apostate came to rule the Roman Empire. He persecuted the Christians and glorified the pagan gods. In this time of heresy the relics of the Three Kings were no longer honored. Attacks also buffeted the Empire from the East and Constantinople lost much of its land in Greece and Armenia. In time the Emperor of Rome, with the help of the Milanese, came to the aid of the Eastern Emperor and helped him reacquire much of the territory which had been lost. A holy man pivotal in the effort was Eustorgius, who also became Archbishop of Milan. The Emperor of Greece loved this man very much, both on account of his holiness and the aid he had lent in the great conflict, and asked him what fitting gift he could reward him with. Archbishop Eustorigus requested the relics of the Three Kings. The Emperor conceded this precious gift. So it was that with great pomp and ceremony the relics of the Three Kings were brought to Milan, where they remained for many centuries. This is also how and why the great devotion to the Three Kings spread from the Church in the East to all the Church in the West.
Centuries later a great lord, Frederick (so called “the Great”), came to hold much of Europe under his sway. He was a military genius, a political mastermind, and a very proud man. Driven by great ambition, he became the Holy Roman Emperor. However, as with many men of his character, he fell into rebellion. He betrayed the Pope, attacked the Church and Papacy, and attempted to unite all secular and ecclesiastical power in his own person. Frederick challenged the Church and Pope - and lost, but not without causing irreparable damage. The story of his harrowing attacks is for another tale, but suffice it to say that perhaps no man did more to harm the Church throughout the entire Middle Ages than Frederick (the effects of which we are still reeling from today).
During this time, the City of Milan was led by a nobleman named Asso. He defended the Pope and defied Frederick. On account of Asso's great prestige and influence, Frederick hated him greatly. He therefore marched his armies against Milan, lay siege to the city, and subdued it. He had Asso thrown in prison. Frederick then placed one of his confidants, Rainald, Archbishop of Köln (Cologne, Germany), as overseer of Milan.
In return for his freedom, Asso promised Rainald the city's greatest treasure: the relics of the Three Kings. These had been hidden deep within the earth once the battle had neared the city. The Archbishop secured Asso's release with the promise that he would no longer oppose Frederick. He then secretly sent the Three Kings' relics to his cathedral in Köln. Only thereafter, once they were securely in his possession, did Rainald ask Emperor Frederick if he would give him the holy relics. Given their great value, Rainald had never been to certain of the Emperor's response and thus employed this subterfuge. Yet Frederick agreed that this gift was appropriate for the Archbishop' service and loyalty to him. Thus, Archbishop Rainald of Cologne held a great public procession and received the relics of Three Kings in his great Cathedral of St. Peter in Köln on the banks of the Rhine River.
Many pilgrims continued to visit the Three Kings here, miracles continued to be wrought, and a very strong and vibrant devotion to the Three Kings blossomed in the German lands. To this very day, the relics of the Three Kings remain in Köln. If you ever visit that fair Cathedral, take advantage of the opportunity to reverence them. May you merit great graces by the pious devotion of venerating these most ancient and holy relics.
Note: Above is a picture of their current reliquary in Köln which you can see today.
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