Liber scivias

Original manuscript lost

Alternate Titles:

Rupertsberger KodexLiber scivias von Hildegard von Bingen

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Alternate Titles

Rupertsberger KodexLiber scivias von Hildegard von Bingen

Extent / Format

242 pages / 32.5 x 23.5 cm

Around 1175The lost original manuscript was copied by hand between 1927 and 1933 by nuns in Abbey of St. Hildegard

35 miniatures with gold and silver (16 full-page, 15 half-page, 4 quarter-page miniatures); 27 superb initials with gold and silver parts

Former owners

Abbey of St. Hildegard in Rüdesheim
State Library in Wiesbaden

Short description

Hildegard von Bingen is one of the most interesting figures of the Middle Ages, and was probably the most prolific female author of the period, writing on topics ranging from theology to botany. The Liber Scivias – “Know the Way” – is the first theological-cosmological work by Hildegard and it continues to provide us with prophetic guidance today. Hildegard began having visions at a young age and became one of the most famous medieval Christian mystics. She spent more than ten years recording these visions in a book, at the heart of which is the inseparable oneness of the Universe (macrocosm) and man (microcosm). Although many manuscripts of this work were made during and after Hildegard's lifetime, the Rupertsberg SCIVIAS-Codex from 1175 is undoubtedly the most splendidly illuminated. Although the original was lost in the chaos of World War II, it just so happens that an exact copy of it had been painstakingly made by nuns from the same cloister as Hildegard between 1927 and 1933.

Facsimile editions available


No Typical Medieval Lady

Almost no woman in the history of the Middle Ages has been so received, appreciated, and adored throughout time right up to the present day as cloister-founder Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) and more than 900 years later, her charisma continues to shine through the ages. Liber Scivias – “Know the Way” – is the first theological-cosmological work of Hildegard and it continues to provide us with prophetic guidance today. The book deals with the inseparable oneness of the Universe (macrocosm) and man (microcosm); showing the way of salvation – not only of man but also the world and cosmos as a whole - from the creation of the world and man to his redemption through Christ and the church up to the end of time. This book, which Hildegard worked on for over ten years and has been presented throughout history in the form of various manuscripts, is a testimony to her reputation as prophet, teacher, writer, and Christian mystic. Visions were nothing new for Hildegard, who began at the age of 3 to have what she called extraordinary perceptions termed “visio”. These came “not from a dream, nor in sleep or mental confusion, not by way of the naked eye or the audible ear, but rather I received them in a waking state, of sound mind and body, through the eyes and ears of inner man in the most isolated of places, as God had intended.” At the beginning of each section is a “vision” of striking presence and at the same time, soft eloquence, which creates a relationship of man to God, his renunciation and subsequent return to his creator. Through the richly colored forms contained in each “visio”, the invisible is becomes visualized.

A Manuscript Worthy of Hildegard's Visions

However, only one manuscript of the many made can be truly considered luxurious and richly illuminated: the famous Rupertsberg SCIVIAS-Codex from 1175; created during Hildegard’s lifetime in the monastery of Rupertsberg and decorated with 35 magnificent miniatures. It is as though she has created a window to the heavens and to transcendence in this codex – with a neologism: “fenestraliter”, which constitutes a prophetic faithful existence man still deeply longs for today. We owe the fact that the Rupertsberg SCIVIAS was not lost during the confusion of the times to the deceased nun in question: the Abbess Regentrudis Sauter, the 36th such and successor of Hildegard, wanted to dedicate it to the Golden anniversary of the order. During the years 1927 – 1933, the codex was taken out of the State Library in Wiesbaden and transferred to the abbey where four nuns took six years to write the text in exact accordance with the original and copy the miniatures by hand. No one could have known at the time that this authentic, true to the original, and extremely valued copy would become the only remaining codex – the original having been lost during the turmoil of the Second World War in 1945. This invaluable treasure is consequently guarded and kept in safe-keeping with great pride and diligence.

The Facsimile of “Liber Scivias”

To produce a facsimile edition of a missing manuscript presents many uncommon and trying challenges: many details can only be verified on the basis of descriptions and second-hand sources, thus making the volume Liber Scivias even the more valuable. The nuns provided there own timely version of the cover, however, this did not reflect the actual state of the cover at the time of its disappearance. According to records from the year 1931, a detailed description is given of the original volume of the codex lost during the war: the number of existing embossments and fittings, as well as the remaining clasps on the leather volume. As well, we know that the singular stamp used on the Liber Scivias is the same as the one on the so- called Giant Codex of Hildegard of Bingen (Hs.2). A further piece of helpful information was available to us: the Liber Scivias was completely photographed in 1920. Even though the quality of these 90 year-old black-and-white photos is not in accordance with today’s standards, the comparison of the photos of the original missing codex with that of the existing Giant Codex allows us to, as exactly as is possible, reconstruct the original volume of the “Liber Scivias”.

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