The language of prophetic revelation has always been associated with a form of artistic synesthaesia, simultaneous perception of the written and the spoken, that makes music one of the preferred vehicles for the transmission of oracles. In Christian iconography, the Sibyls and the Prophets are traditionally represented side by side. So it is no mere coincidence that the Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Sibylline Prophecies) and the Novem Lectiones Sacrae ex libris Hiob (Nine Sacred Readings from the Prophet Job) by Roland de Lassus (1550/52-1594) are found together in a manuscript belonging to the Austrian National Library in Vienna (Mus. ms. 18.744). This volume, copied out by Lassus himself and decorated with miniatures showing the twelve Sibyls painted by Hans Mielich who, like Lassus, was in the service of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in Munich, for whom the manuscript was intended. The book also contains a portrait of the composer at the age of twenty-eight, enabling us to date it to 1558 or 1560.

 

The Prophetiae were not published until 1600 by Roland's son Rudoph de Lassus. The Lectiones were extensively revised and published in 1582 with a dedication to Julius Echter, Bishop of Wiirzburg.

 

According to Heraclitus, the Sibyl,

"speaking with raving mouth, utters solemn, unadorned and unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice because of the god within her."

ORACULA, ROLAND DE LASSUS

Spiritus meus attenuabitur

Quare de vulva eduxisti me ?

 

Sibylla Europea

Sibylla Erythraea