Ascension Sundays in Tropers: The Innovative Scenes in the Prüm and Canterbury Tropers
and Their Relationship to the Accompanying Texts
Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 6 (1989)
Tropes are additional lines of text and music interpolated within liturgical prayers. Tropers are manuscripts containing tropes and other variable material such as Sequence hymns. The two tropers I will discuss here also have painted illustrations for major feast days. They belong to a group of only four extant illustrated tropers and represent two completely different traditions of troper production. The earlier, German manuscript is dated ca. 1000 and located by a contemporary colophon at Prüm monastery at the western border of Germany. It is cataloged as MS. 9448 at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. It was an “in-house” product designed to record the Prüm monks’ celebration of the Mass throughout the Church calendar year. The Ascension scene from the temporale in the Prüm Troper is just one example of that community’s adaptation of recent pictorial traditions to fit a singular copying of the Sequence hymn from, like most of the material in the manuscript, St. Gall. The abbot, or whoever was in charge of the design of this manuscript, combined literary references with concepts of Christ’s Ascension in order to obtain a rare emphatic “leaping” version of the independent or Western iconographic type.