The wise men (or kings) who visited the newborn Christ are mentioned only in Matthew’s Gospel. They are very enigmatic figures in the Gospel, and not many details about them are given. We are not even sure how long after Christ’s birth they came to pay him homage.

Matthew’s Gospel does mention that the wise men brought the Christ child gifts: “Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2:11). Since three gifts were given, this has commonly been interpreted as three wise men. Various traditions and legends affirm this. Among Western Christians, the names of the wise men are commonly understood to be Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. Regarded as saints, their relics are enshrined in the cathedral at Cologne, Germany.

Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael.