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Title: Citole  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Medieval music, List of medieval musical instruments, Mandore (instrument), Early musical instruments, Cavalcade of Magi
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An angel (English, c. 1310) plays what would probably have been called a citole

Citole, also spelled Sytole, Cytiole, Gytolle, etc. (probably a French diminutive form of cithara, and not from Latin cista, a box), an archaic musical instrument, similar and a distant ancestor of the modern guitar of which the exact form is uncertain. It is generally shown as a four-string instrument, with a body generally referred to as "holly-leaf" shaped.

The citole is frequently mentioned by poets of the 13th to the 15th centuries, and is found in Wycliffe's Bible (1360) in 2 Samuel vi. 5: "Harpis and sitols and tympane". The Authorized Version has psaltiries, and the Vulgate lyrae. It has been supposed to be[1] another name for the psaltery, a box-shaped instrument often seen in the illuminated missals of the Middle Ages, and is also liable to confusion with the gittern; whether the terms overlapped in medieval usage has been the subject of modern controversy.

British Museum citole

There is a surviving instrument from Warwick Castle that was made around 1290-1300, that is now in the British Museum's collection.[2] At some point, probably in the sixteenth century, it was converted into a violin-type instrument with a tall bridge, 'f'-holes and angled fingerboard; thus, the instrument's top is not representative of its original appearance.

View from the top. 
View from the side. 
1776 engraving by Sir J. Hawkins

External links

  • Exhaustive research on the citole and its development. Comparisons to gittern and cittern.
  • Gittern


  1. ^ CITOLE1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6,
  2. ^ British Museum Highlights [2]

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