"Exultet" is the first word in the praeconium paschale (annunciation of Easter), the liturgical song sung on Easter Saturday by the deacon, who announces to the community of priests and the lay worshippers the Mystery of Redemption, while at the same time carrying out the ritual of lighting and offering the paschal candle.
Read from the tall ambo, the scroll was considered the most suitable means of helping the faithful to understand better the meaning of the liturgy: therefore, in most of these scrolls the illuminations were placed upside down with respect to the text and the deacon who was reading it.
As he unfolded the scroll and let it fall from the ambo, the scenes could be easily seen by the worshippers rightside up.
Among the scrolls that have survived the ravages of time, the Exultet in the Casanatense Library in Rome, produced at Benevento or Montecassino in the 12th century, is one of the most extraordinary in terms of visual impact thanks to the grandiosity of the iconographic cycle, the refinement of the draughtmanship and the elegance of the colour schemes.
The scroll, written in lower-case Beneventan script, is illustrated with scenes – to mention only the most important ones – from the Old and New Testament (The Parting of the Red Sea, the Crucifixion), celestial and terrestrial allegories (Turba Angelica, the Earth), and the liturgy itself (The Lighting and Consecration of the Candle, the Deacon's Prayer).
This scroll, kept in the Casanatense Library of Rome and dating from the 12th century, is now divided into ten sections, whose base measures 23 cm and whose height is respectively 90, 60, 70, 68, 69, 60, 96, 89, 49.5, and 34 cm; the total length is about seven metres.