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 our monastery founder Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and more than 900 years later, her charisma continues to shine through the ages.
SCIVIAS – “Know the Way” – is the first theological-cosmological work of Hildegard and it continues to provide us today with prophetic guidance. 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 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 these visible colour-rich forms contained in each “visio”, the invisible is becomes visualized.
However, only one manuscript can be termed a luxurious and richly illuminated manuscript: 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 in this codex, a window to the heavens and to transcendence – with a neologism: “fenestraliter”, which constitutes a prophetic faithful existence man still deeply longs for today.
The fact that the Rupertsberg SCIVIAS was not lost during the confusion of the times, we owe to the deceased nun of our convent: the abbess Regentrudis Sauter the 36th and successor of Hildegard, who wanted to dedicate it to the Golden anniversary of the order. In 1927 – 1933 the codex was taken out of the State Library in Wiesbaden and transferred to our 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 hand-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 therefore guarded and kept in safe-keeping with great pride and diligence.
The Facsimile Volume “Liber Scivias”
To produce a facsimile edition of a missing manuscript presents many uncommon and appealing challenges: many details can only be verified on the basis of descriptions and second-hand sources 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”.