The Travels of Marco Polo, Book 1, Chapter 14

How the Three Kings Returned to their Own Country

In Persia, is the city of Saveh, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ, and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And about them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with hair and beard remaining. One of these was called Jaspar, the second Melchoior, and the third Balthasar. Messer Marco Polo asked a great many questions for the people of that city as to those three Magi but never one could he find that knew aught of the matter, except that these were three kings who were buried there in days of old. However at a place three days' journey distant he heard of what I am going to tell you, He found a village there by the name Cala Ataperistan, which is to say, 'The Castle of the Fire Worshippers.' And the name is rightly applied for the people there do worship fire, and I will tell you why. They relate that, in old times, three kings of that country went away to worship a prophet that was born, and they carried with them three manner of offerings. Gold Frankincense and Myrrh; in order to ascertain whether that prophet were God, or an earthly King, or a physician, For said they, if he take the Gold, then he is an earthly King; if he take the incense then he is God; if he takes Myrrh he is a Physician.

So it came to pass when they had come to the place where the Child was born, the youngest of the Three Kings went in first, and found the Child apparently just of his own age; so he went forth again marvelling greatly. The middle one entered next, and like the first he found the Child seemingly of his own age; so he also went forth again and marvelled greatly. Lastly, the eldest went in, and as it had befallen the other two, so it befell him. And he went forth very pensive. And when the three had rejoined one another, each told what he had seen; and then they all marvelled the more. So they agreed to go in all three together, and on doing so they beheld the Child with the appearance of its actual age, to wit, some thirteen days. Then they adored, and presented their Gold and Incense and Myrrh. And the Child took all the three offerings, and then gave them a small closed box; whereupon the Kings departed to return into their own land.

And when they had ridden many days they said they would see what the Child had given them.
So they opened the little box, and inside it they found a stone. On seeing this they began to wonder what this might be that the Child had given them, and what was the import thereof. Now the signification was this: when they presented their offerings, the Child had accepted all three, and when they saw that, they had said within themselves that He was the True God, and the True King, and the True Physician. And what the gift of the stone implied was that this Faith which had begun in them should abide firm as a rock. For He well knew what was in their thoughts.

Howbeit, they had no understanding at all of this signification of the gift of the stone; so they cast it into a well. Then straightway a fire from Heaven descended into that well wherein the stone had been cast.

And when the Three Kings beheld this marvel they were sore amazed, and it greatly repented them that they had cast away the stone; for well they then perceived that it had a great and holy meaning. So they took of that fire, and carried it into their own country, and placed it in a rich and beautiful church. And there the people keep it continually burning, and worshiped it as a god, and all the sacrifices they offer are kindled with that fire. And if ever the fire becomes extinct they go to other cities round about where the same faith is held, and obtain of that fire from them, and carry it to the church. And this is the reason why the people of this country worship fire. They will often go ten days' journey to get of that fire.

Such then was the story told by the people of that Castle to Messer Marco Polo; they declared to him for a truth that such was their history, and that one of the three kings was of the city called SABA, and the second of AVA, and the third of that very Castle where they still worship fire, with the people of all the country round about.


All Rights Reserved--2007-2024