Hymns for the Easter Vigil: The oldest surviving copy in the world of an "Exultet" role

Exultet Roll

Benevento (Italy) — 981–987

Exultet Roll

Exultet Roll

Benevento (Italy) — 981–987

  1. A magnificently illuminated scroll for the celebration of Easter, now kept in the Vatican

  2. Gifted masters created a work that is a true synthesis of eastern, western, classical, and Christian motifs

  3. The strong Byzantine influence in southern Italy is likely why they chose the outdated form of a scroll

Exultet Rolle

Exultet Roll

Lamb of God and Evangelist Symbols

This fine miniature is a variation of the common “Christ in Majesty” – an image of an enthroned Christ in a mandorla (an almond-shaped frame) usually holding a codex, giving the sign of benediction, and surrounded by the Evangelist Symbols, which represent the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Represented by winged animals (a man, lion, ox, and eagle respectively), they are instead shown surrounding a white horse, which Christ rides to victory in the Book of Revelation.

Exultet Roll

Alternative Titles:
  • Exultet Rolle
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Although scrolls were the preferred book form during antiquity, beginning in the 4th century, the codex triumphed and slowly but steadily replaced the scroll. Even though early Christians preferred the codex, they continued to be portrayed in art with scrolls in order to maintain the connection to antiquity. The Exultet Scroll was used in Latin liturgy on the eve of Easter, and the Vatican manuscript constitutes the oldest surviving Exultet Scroll in the world, which was made in the southern Italian city of Benevento, a cultural center in the Early Middle Ages. The Exultet Scroll comprises both text and melody, as well as a picture cycle illustrating the song and Neume notation. The work is a true synthesis of eastern, western, classical, and Christian motifs and reflects the tremendous skill and imagination of the artists who worked on them.

Exultet Scroll

The Exultet Scroll was used in Latin liturgy on the eve of Easter, when the deacon dressed in white sang the "Exultet" from it (named after the incipit exultet iam angelica turba caelorum … "now the heavenly crowd of angels shout for joy"). The Vatican manuscript constitutes the oldest surviving Exultet Scroll in the world and was made in the southern Italian city of Benevento, a cultural center in the early Middle Ages. The Exultet Scroll comprises both text and melody, as well as a picture cycle illustrating the song. These pictures and their wealth of styles bear splendid testimony to the creative power and great tradition of the schools of Benevento. The artists are distinguished by their high technical ability and skill as well as their imaginative eclecticism. They arranged stylistic, decorative, and iconographic elements in order to form an ensemble, using elements which are rooted both in classical antiquity and in Christian sources, integrating not only indigenous but also eastern and western motifs.

The Scroll: the First Book Form

As we know from many testimonies in art and literature, scrolls were used throughout antiquity instead of the bound book. Beginning in the 4th century, the codex triumphed and slowly but steadily replaced the scroll. In Christian literature, however, the codex was the preferred form right from the beginning. The scroll, in contrast, was only present following classical models, for the depiction of apostles, evangelists, prophets and saints. In liturgy, the scroll had not fallen into complete oblivion, as we learn from the Exultet Scroll inter alia. The reason might be the influence of Byzantium, as the Greek oriental Church had always been familiar with the scroll. As southern Italy and particularly Benevento were in regular contact with Byzantium on political and cultural levels, a certain inspiration to this effect seems possible. This development, however, remained limited to the region of Benevento where one appreciated the advantages of the scroll. By unrolling it in front of a wide public, everyone could clearly see in picture what was announced, in a poetic wording and an artfully composed melody, as the highlight of the liturgy on the eve of Easter.

The Adornment

The melody appears in Neume notation above each line of the sacred text, to guide the deacon in his song of praise. The images are artful pen drawings colored by one master in a multitude of colors and glittering gold. They show great love of detail and are surrounded throughout by decorative frames. Numerous motifs, such as jewels, pearls, interlace, palmettes, rosettes, and arcades imaginatively enliven the solemn system of frames.

Documenting the Early Medieval Easter Ceremony

The pictures accompanying the Exultet illustrate the song text according to the symbolical and metaphorical tradition of early Christendom. Some depictions display the Christian interpretation of pagan rites, for example when the resurrection of Christ in the annual Easter feast is associated with the coming of new life on earth thanks to Sol, the pagan God of the Sun. Nature celebrates the resurrection together with Jesus who is depicted in a splendid bright gloriole representing the light of the world, the sun of resurrection and salvation. Some pictures present a lively impression of the liturgical proceedings, reproducing it in complete detail. The Exultet Scroll is thus of essential importance for the history of liturgy and dogma, not the least for the documentary value of its illustrations.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Exultet Rolle
Size / Format
1 roll / 708.0 x 27.0 cm
Date
981–987
Language
Illustrations
14 miniatures with ornamental stripes, several great initial letters
Exultet Rolle

Exultet Roll

Seraphim and other Angels

The seraphim are angels belonging to the highest of the angelic choirs in heaven and described by the prophet Isaiah as surrounding God’s throne: “Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’” (Isa. 6:2–3)

This miniature shows two seraphim hovering above a host of angels dressed in rich robes trimmed in gold leaf, their bright blue colors faded by a millennium. In the center of the page, one of the angels raises up a trumpet and blows as though announcing the arrival of these divine beings while the others raise their hands in praise.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Exultet Roll“

Exultet Rolle
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Exultet Roll – Cod. Vat. lat. 9820 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
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Exultet Rolle

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1974
Commentary
1 volume (126 pages) by H. Douteil and F. Vongrey
Language: German

The facsimile edition comes with a comprehensive scholarly commentary volume. Herbert Douteil provides a codicological analysis of the manuscript and places it in the context of the history of literature. Felix Vongrey explains the pictures in great detail and analyses them from an iconographic and art historical angle. The commentary volume is complete with an extensive bibliography and numerous comparative figures, making it a valuable companion to the manuscript.

Codicological and liturgy historical description by H. Douteil, Köln. Iconographical and art historical description by F. Vongrey, Lilienfeld. 126 pp. text, 1 fold-out plate and 53 illustrations on 32 plates.
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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