Barberini Exultet Roll

Barb. lat. 592 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Barberini Exultet-Rolle

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Barberini Exultet-Rolle

Extent / Format

5 parts of scroll / 29.0 x 64.0 - 86.0 cm

Around 1058

Abbot Desiderius (1058-1087)


10 miniatures and 23 initials

Short description

The Barberini Exultet Roll was created in 1058 at the commission of the Abbot Desiderius in Southern Italy. The rare scroll is considered to be among the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the Romanesque period. The work contains the text and melody of the exultet, a ceremonial doxology for the Easter Mass. Golden decorative initials and colored illustrations with gold inlay adorn the manuscript.

Facsimile editions available


Barberini Exultet Roll

The exultet is the ceremonial doxology sung in the Christian liturgy during the celebration of the Easter Vigil, during which Christ is lauded as the Light of the World and his resurrection is placed in association with the plan of salvation laid out in the Old Testament. Some of the extremely rare scrolls, which contain the text and the melody of the exultet, arose between the 10th and 13th centuries. An especially valuable example thereof is the Barberini Exultet Roll. The work arose from the commission of Abbot Desiderius (1058-1087), under whose chairmanship the monastery of Monte Cassino became a leading cultural center of Italy. Ten attractive miniatures illustrate the doxology. The script was embellished with 23 golden decorative initials.

Rare Documents

The exultet rolls originate from Southern Italy, most of which were written and illustrated at the monastery of Monte Cassino. The format of a scroll was intentionally chosen, although codices had become the predominant form for holding manuscripts since the 4th century. The exultet was to be read from the so-called Ambon, a special feature of Italian church architecture. The Ambon was a raised position for the speaker, which was replaced by the pulpit in later church construction. The priests could read the exultet from their position and lower it down from the Abon so that the visitors to the mass could see the beautifully decorated scroll.

A Masterwork of its Time

The Barberini Exultet Roll contains one of the most beautiful miniatures of the Romanesque period. The fresh and unadulterated depictions show influences from Byzantine and Ottonian book illumination. Vivid colors and the application of the finest gold lend expressive power to the pictures. The scenes, which were to be sung in the ceremonial Easter Mass, were illustrated in impressive simplicity. One of the most important feasts of the Christian church was appropriately appreciated with this valuable document.

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