Lituus (musical instrument)

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Etruscan lituus

The lituus ( lat. ) Is an originally Etruscan brass instrument that was used by the Romans until the 4th century. In modern times, the word denotes different wind instruments.


The name comes from the official sign Lituus , a crook . The instrument had a long, conically shaped, more or less curved tube that ended in an upwardly curved bell and was made of bronze using the lost wax technique. Sometimes it had a bell made from an animal horn . The sound is bright and penetrating. The instrument was mainly used in the military, where it was used as a signaling instrument. Other areas of application were festivities and the cult of the dead.

Detector inspections revealed small, flattened bronze figures with headdresses and wind instruments in Melle and Ostercappeln in the district of Osnabrück and in Cloppenburg . The finds are so similar that they could have come from the same mold. The high headdress could be interpreted as a helmet, the instrument as an Etruscan lituus. The wind player rests his left arm on his hip and holds his instrument with his right hand. This consists of a long tube with a bent end and is held almost horizontally to the right.

Modern times

According to Ignaz Franz Xaver Kurzinger , the word describes a trumpet or a horn . Johann Sebastian Bach uses Litui in both versions (1736/37 and 1746/47) of his motet BWV 118 O Jesu Christ, mein Leben Licht . The use of the word lituus in Baroque sources is inconsistent. It could refer to krummhorn , shawm , hunting horn , french horn , zinc, and perhaps also trumpet. A research report by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis supports the thesis that Bach is a kind of alphorn . For this, reference was also made to the name lituus alpinus (for the distribution of the wooden trumpets used in European folk music, see: Bazuna ).

Individual evidence

  1. Jana Esther Fries: On the way to the wind ensemble. In: Archeology in Germany, issue 3/2015, p. 46
  2. ^ Ignatz Franz Xaver Kurzinger: Faithful lessons on singing with manners and playing the violin , Augsburg 1763, p. 84
  3. This is how Bach's Alphorn Spiegel sounds online, July 22, 2009
  4. The baroque “Lituus” and its use in Johann Sebastian Bach's motet “O Jesus Christ, my life's light” (BWV 118) ( Memento from June 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Research project of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (last accessed on September 11 2019)