Neil MacGregor: A Church for Shepherds or for Kings?
According to the gospels of Luke and Matthew, the shepherds and the wise men are the first to be told the true identity of the infant Jesus. Both travel to see him, then disappear from the Gospel story. But their later histories in the church are very different. Their visits are often depicted in stained glass and painting, but the wise men are turned into kings, and become part of the rhetoric of western European power politics: the shepherds by contrast play a much less significant part in the visual narrative of the Church. Looking at this imagery raises the question of the Church's relationship, past and present, to the powerful, and to the poor.
Is this a church for the shepherds, or for the kings?
Neil MacGregor is an art historian, writer and broadcaster. He was lecturer at the University of Reading (1976-1981), Editor of the Burlington Magazine (1981-1987); Director of the National Gallery (1987-2002); Director of the British Museum (2002-2015); and Founding Director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin (2015-2018). His BBC radio broadcasts and books include A History of the World in 100 Objects; Germany, Memories of a Nation; and Living with the Gods.