The Diocesan Museum of Bari
Illuminations and Exultations

Image © Andrea Jemolo

Bari, Italy


As a major strategic port on the Adriatic coast, Bari has been a center of trade since ancient times. Its cathedral dates from the 12th century and is an architectural gem in the region’s Apulian Romanesque style. The cathedral is also home to a museum – the Museo Diocesano di Bari, which can be found on the first floor of the Episcopio.

There, visitors can discover a collection of historical objects that tell us about the Christian cultural heritage of Bari’s people. Goppion first collaborated with the museum in 2015, providing showcases of various sizes for sacred vestments. In 2023, we returned to help protect three very special artifacts. They are the Exultet: long, wide rolls of illuminated parchment, made between the 10th and 12th century AD.

Each is an exquisitely detailed work of art that contains the text and music of the liturgical chant that announced Christ's resurrection during the Easter Vigil: Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum (‘Exult the angelic turba of heaven’).

It is thought that just 28 Exultet still exist today, and three of these are preserved at Bari. Goppion had previously made the showcases for two other surviving Exultet, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Pisa, so we were familiar with the particular requirements when taking on the commission at Bari.

Each Exultet roll requires its own very long horizontal tabletop showcase (4,600x700x900h, 5,900x700x900h and 3,720x700x900h respectively). These were designed with a hydraulic opening system that raises the hood for access to the interior of the case. All the opening systems are carefully concealed behind back-painted side strips.

High airtightness was also a key requirement, necessary to protect the fragile parchments held within each case. Equally, all three required very precise relative humidity stabilization, which is met by a Peltier System thermal control module.

Goppion also provided other exhibit furnishing for the project, such as suspended mirrored ceilings over the showcases and furniture for reception, ticket office and bookshop.

Needless to say, creating and installing such large showcases presents a particular set of logistical challenges. Not least of these was the location of the Museum, in the old town district of Bari Vecchia. Access from the street and inside the building itself was limited and very difficult. For this reason we engineered the cases so that they could be delivered in pieces and then assembled once safely on-site.

Importantly, the showcases are all positioned freestanding to allow maximum mobility while viewing the fine detail on each Exultet parchment. Visitors to Bari can now admire these little-known treasures up close, each one a masterpiece of devotional artistry that still speaks to us across the centuries.

Architecture by FèRiMa studio – Fernando Russo.