“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” the magi ask as they arrive in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2). As illustrated in the illumination above, from the 11th-century Codex Aureus of Echternach, Herod summons before him his chief priests and scribes (center) and the magi (at left) and asks about the appearance of the star, feigning innocent interest while plotting to track the magi to the newborn king. “And when you have found him,” Herod instructs the magi, “bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage” (Matthew 2:8).
Completed around 1040 in the scriptorium of Echternach Abbey, the Codex Aureus remained in the abbey until 1794, when armies from the French Revolution arrived in the town. The abbey’s librarian fled, taking with him several of the abbey’s priceless manuscripts, including the Codex Aureus. Later sold, the Aureus now resides in the German National Museum in Nürnberg.