The Trinity Sarcophagus

Trinity Sarcophagus (detail), circa 320−350 C.E. Marble, Vatican Museums, Rome.

The Trinity (or Dogmatic) Sarcophagus is one of the most important examples of Roman sculpture from the early Christian era. The sarcophagus is organized in two registers—upper and lower, depicting narrative stories from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, including Adam and Eve, the resurrection of Lazarus, Daniel in the lion’s den, and, in the detail shown here, the adoration of the magi. In this high-relief carving, Mary is seen holding the infant Jesus on her lap as the three magi bring him gifts of gold, frankincense (perfume), and myrrh (incense). The sarcophagus, which was created between 320 and 250 C.E., was dated in part by the unique male hairstyle seen on several of the figures and popular during that time period. It is one of the earliest known depictions of the adoration of the magi.


God as expressed in three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

A resin or oil from certain small trees found in many regions of the world that is used as a perfume or incense and also medicinally.

A written, spoken, or recorded story.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

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