Totenrotel: The word "Rotel" stems from the Latin and means "Roll". Originally it was understood as every wisdom printed on a pergament scroll. The special form "Totenrotel" developed out of a popular contract of praying assistance between monasteries of a holy order.
The most important news to medieval monks was news about the death of a brother. This kind of news was distributed on a special scroll called "Totenrotel". Whenever a monk passed away his name was registered on the scroll to let other monasteries know for whom to pray. The scroll was taped to a round wooden stick and carried by a "Rotelbote" from monastery to monastery. The scrolls could be rather long, some have been as long as ten meters.
The arrival of a "Rotelbote" was always a very special moment for the monks. It ment news, suspense and a pleasant change of the daily routine. The messenger was happily given food, wine and a place to sleep.
The ritual: After everybody was set at the big table, the abbot of the monastery would invite the "Rotelbote" to let them know who had died at the brotherly monasteries and whose souls needed their praying assistence. The messenger would stand up, silence the audience, open the pergament scroll and start reading the names of the dead. He would tell details about their character and their life and death as monks. Everytime he was finished with a dead brother the monks would start a collective prayer for the soul of the passed away. This ritual could go on for quite a while depending on the number of dead monks on the "Totenrotel".
When all the naming and praying was done, the messenger closed the scroll and gave it to the abbot. The abbot would then register his own dead monks on the pergament scroll and write down name and arrival date of the "Rotelbote". Finally, on one of the following days the messenger would move on to the next monastery and there the ritual was repeated.
"Rotelboten" were not members of an holy order, they were secular people. No monk could be considered to work as a messenger beause their holy orders forced them to live secluded from the unholy" world and never to leave the monastery. "Rotelboten" went on foot, by horse or coach.
For more about "Totenroteln" see:
"Totenroteln, Rotelboten, Rotelbilder des Benediktinerklosters zum heiligen Kreuz in Scheyern" Konrektor i. R. Werner Vitzthum, Singenbach Archiv fr Postgeschichte in Bayern, Deutschland