Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of the Incarnation of our Lord

Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of the Incarnation of our Lord



A certain king was remarkable for three qualities. Firstly, he was braver than all men; secondly, he was wiser; and lastly, more beautiful. He lived a long time unmarried; and his counsellors would persuade him to take a wife. "My friends," said he, "it is clear to you that I am rich and powerful enough; and therefore want not wealth. Go, then, through town and country, and seek me out a beautiful and wise virgin; and if ye can find such a one, however poor she may be, I will marry her." The command was obeyed; they proceeded on their search, until at last they discovered a lady of royal extraction with the qualifications desired. But the king was not so easily satisfied, and determined to put her wisdom to the test. He sent to the lady by a herald a piece of linen cloth, three inches square; and bade her contrive to make for him a shirt exactly fitted to his body. "Then," added he, "she shall be my wife." The messenger, thus commissioned, departed on his errand, and respectfully presented the cloth, with the request of the king. "How can I comply with it," exclaimed the lady, "when the cloth is but three inches square? It is impossible to make a shirt of that; but bring me a vessel in which I may work, and I promise to make the shirt long enough for the body." The messenger returned with the reply of the virgin, and the king immediately sent a sumptuous vessel, by means of which she extended the cloth to the required size, and completed the shirt. Whereupon the wise king married her.


My beloved, the king is God; the virgin, the mother of Christ; who was also the chosen vessel. By the messenger, is meant Gabriel. The cloth, is the Grace of God, which, by proper care and labour, is made sufficient for man's salvation.