Salerno Exultet Roll

Salerno Exultet Roll Facsimile Edition

Benevento or Salerno (Italy) — Late 12th century – first half of the 13th century

The Easter message without words in an Exultet scroll from the 13th century: fascinating miniatures as a pictorial echo to the hymn of praise from the Easter Vigil

  1. Exultet scrolls were designed so that the images could be seen by the congregation as they were unrolled

  2. Two artists working in the Byzantine style created this specimen in Salerno ca. 1225–27

  3. It includes a portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194–1250), sovereign of Southern Italy

Salerno Exultet Roll

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  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Salerno Exultet Roll

Beginning in the 4th century, scrolls gradually began to be replaced by codices, partially because they were preferred by Christians. Nonetheless, they continued to be used for certain purposes by the Byzantines in the East and in Southern Italy, which was heavily influenced by Byzantine art and culture long after Constantinople ceased to wield power over the region. Exultet scrolls were created for the purpose of celebrating the Easter Vigil, which occurred on the night before Easter Sunday, and were designed to be read and slowly unfurled to display the miniatures to the congregation. The 13th century Salerno Exultet was created almost entirely without text and is considered to be one of the finest specimens of this rare genre of illuminated manuscript.

Salerno Exultet Roll

Easter Sunday lies at the center of the liturgical year just as the Resurrection of Christ lies at the center of Christianity. The Easter Vigil, which occurs the previous night of Holy Saturday, is celebrated by reciting the Easter Proclamation, also known as the Exultet. Written in the 4th century, it is read next to the Easter candle, which represents the idea of Christ as light of the world. Although codices had replaced scrolls as the preferred format for books centuries earlier, scrolls continued to be used for special purposes. Exultet scrolls were designed so that text alternated with the images painted upside down so that the congregation see them as the scroll it was read aloud and unrolled. The 13th century Salerno Exultet is considered to be an outstanding example of the 28 surviving illuminated scrolls.

A Splendid Scroll

The scroll was created in Salerno between 1225 and 1227 by two artists working in the heavily Byzantine-influenced style of southern Italian art and was designed entirely without text except for the opening proclamation, which also serves as a title. Rather than being read and gradually unrolled, the deacon would read from a missal as the scroll hung down from the ambo, a raised position for a speaker that was replaced by the pulpit in later church construction and was unique to Italian church design. Each section is adorned with two biblical scenes with dark blue backgrounds that have golden frames with red and blue rhomboids. Aside from magnificently illustrating the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the Salerno Exultet also contains a portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The work was commissioned by Giovanni da Procida, a nobleman from Salerno and high-ranking member of the imperial court.

Controversy: Separation and Conservation

Numerous attempts have been made over the centuries to preserve this delicate treasure. Early attempts sought to preserve its original structure and functionality by sewing canvas on the back of the parchment in an attempt, but it was decided in 1917 to separate the scroll into its individual sheets in order to preserve it as a whole. This was done by unstitching or separating glued parts and then pasting parchment supports to the back of the eleven original sheets. This was a controversial decision because it robbed the manuscript of its original purpose. On the other hand, it undeniably preserved the Salerno Exultet as a work of art because if it had continued to be used for its original purpose then it would certainly be in a far more deteriorated condition today. In 1989, it was removed from the walnut box that had housed it since 1917 and each section was pasted onto a card and placed inside glass and metal covers after additional cleaning and restoration work of the parchment was completed.


Alternative Titles
Rotolo Salernitano dell'Exultet
Salerno Exultet Rotulus
L’Exultet di Salerno
Salerno Exultet-Rolle
Size / Format
1 scroll / 57.5 x 92.5 cm
Late 12th century – first half of the 13th century
Gothic Majuscules
Easter Proclamation; hymns for the Easter Vigil's celebration

Available facsimile editions:
Salerno Exultet Roll – Museo Diocesano (Salerno, Italy)  Facsimile Edition
Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 1993
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 L'Exultet di Salerno

Publisher: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 1993
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: The facsimile consists of 11 sheets (57.5 × 92.5 cm) presented in a canvas folder.
Commentary: 1 volume by Giuseppe Zampino, Guglielmo Cavallo, and Antonia D'Aniello
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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