Saint Caspar

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Saint Caspar along with St. Melchior and St. Balthasar - From the pictorial encyclopedia Hortus Deliciarum by Herrad of Landsberg as reproduced by Christian Maurice Engelhardt

Saint Caspar (otherwise known as St. Casper, St. Gaspar, St. Kaspar, St. Jaspar and other variations) along with St. Melchior and St. Balthasar, represent the three wise men (Biblical Magi) mentioned in the Bible in the Gospel of Matthew, verses 2:1-9. Although the Bible does not specify who or what the Magi were, since the seventh century, the Magi have been identified in the Western Church as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. St. Caspar and the other two are considered Saints by the Catholic Church.

Place of origin[edit]

The Magi visiting child Jesus - Dirk Bouts - 15th century

Just who the magi were is not specified in the Bible; there are only traditions. Since English translations of the Bible refer to them as "men who studied the stars", they are believed to have been astrologers, who could foresee the birth of a "Messiah" from their study of the stars. [1]

St. Caspar is often considered to be an Indian scholar. An old article in the 1913 Encyclopædia Britannica[2] states that "according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India." Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.

Some consider Caspar to be King Gondophares (AD 21 – c.AD 47) mentioned in the Acts of Thomas. Others consider him to have come from the southern parts of India where, according to tradition, Thomas the Apostle visited decades later. The town by name Piravom in Kerala State, Southern India has for long claimed that one of the three Biblical Magi went from there. The name Piravom in the local Malayalam language translates to "birth". It is believed that the name originated from a reference to the Nativity of Jesus. There is a concentration of three churches named after the Biblical Magi in and around Piravom, as against only another three so named in the rest of India.

hic rex caspar habitavit (here lived King Caspar), is inscribed over the Golden Chersonese (Malay Peninsula) on the mappemonde of Andreas Walsperger made in Constance around 1448.

The Magi are now not considered to have been kings, but the reference to "kings" is believed to have originated due to the reference in Psalms "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring him gifts: and all the kings of the earth shall adore him" Psalm 71:10.

Johannes Schöner on Gaspar magus, or Saint Caspar: "The region of Egrisilla, in which there are Brahman [i.e. Indian] Christians; there Gaspar the Magus held dominion," Luculentissima quaedam terrae totius descriptio.

Caspar’s kingdom was located in the region of Egrisilla in India Superior on the peninsula that forms the eastern side of the Sinus Magnus (Gulf of Thailand) by Johannes Schöner on his globe of 1515. On it can be seen Egrisilla Bragmanni ("Egrisilla of the Brahmans"), and in the explanatory treatise which accompanied the globe, Schöner noted: “The region of Egrisilla, in which there are Brahman [i.e. Indian] Christians; there Gaspar the Magus held dominion”. [3]

The homeland of King Caspar in the Aurea Cersonese, the Golden Peninsula, near Java in the Indian Ocean, on the map of Andreas Walsperger, c.448


Gift to Child Jesus[edit]

Matthew wrote that the Magi brought three gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts apparently have deeper significance, the gold signifying the regal status of Jesus, the frankincense his divinity, and the myrrh his human nature. Caspar is traditionally portrayed as young, beardless man who brought frankincense to the Child Jesus.[4]


According to tradition St. Caspar became a martyr. Some consider that the other two Magi also met with the same fate. The relics of the Magi were found in Persia by St. Helena. These were later brought to Constantinople and then to Milan in Italy. From there they reached Germany, where they are now housed in the Cologne Cathedral.[5]

The relics of the Magi kept in the Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral, Germany.


Though the feasts of the Magi are not celebrated liturgically, the Martyrology mentions St. Gaspar, on the first, St. Melchior, on the sixth, and St. Balthasar, on the eleventh of January.[1]

In some parishes it is traditional for to bless chalk for each family so that they may mark the first initial of each of the three Magi over their doors as a blessing for protection.


  1. ^ a b Drum, Walter. "Magi." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 2 May 2015
  2. ^
  3. ^ “Egrisilla regio in qua sunt christiani Bragmanni. ibi Gaspar magus fertur habuisse dominum”, Luculentissima quaedam terrae totius descriptio, Nuremberg, 1515, Tract.II, fol.54 [1]. Schöner’s 1515 globe is reproduced in Chet Van Duzer, Johann Schöner’s Globe of 1515: Transcription and Study, Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, Transactions, Volume 100.
  4. ^ Giffords, Gloria Fraser, Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light: The Churches of Northern New Spain, 1530-1821, University of Arizona Press, 2007, ISBN 9780816525898
  5. ^ "Concerning The Magi And Their Names", The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

External links[edit]