Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book – Reichert Verlag – Clm 935 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)

Bingen and Worms area (Germany) β€” Ca. 1175–1180 or first half of the 13th century

Decorated with 72 Romanesque miniatures depicting the stories of the Old and New Testament: the personal prayer book of the famous abbess, writer, philosopher, and mystic Hildegard von Bingen

  1. Abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a famous polymath of the High Middle Ages

  2. She is celebrated inter alia as a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, and visionary

  3. 72 Romanesque miniatures illustrated the texts of both the Old and New Testaments

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

Among medieval prayer books, the Liber precatorius of the Bavarian State Library, which was produced in the Middle Rhine region ca. 1175, is distinguished both by the abundance of its illuminations and for their extraordinary quality and iconographic specificity. 72 gorgeous miniatures accompany the individual prayers: while some depict Old Testament scenes from the Creation story to the Ten Commandments, and others relate to New Testament events, an image of the Last Judgment forms the culminating conclusion. Aside from the importance of the prayers and the unique image sequence related to them, the manuscript is distinguished for supposedly being the personal prayer book of the famous abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and botanist Hildegard von Bingen.

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

This precious manuscript from the Bavarian State Library is believed to have been the personal possession of one of the most famous women of the entire Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179). Written mainly in Latin, the sumptuous design and selection of prayers indicates that the Liber precatorius was intended for a high-ranking woman and was likely created by a Cistercian monk who collaborated with a miniaturist familiar with both older theological traditions and the new ideas of the 12th century, a time of reform and innovation in the church.

An Unusual Prayer Book

This manuscript is unusual and only one other surviving work shares its image program and salvation-historical perspective, the structure of which expresses more than just the intention to convey a biblical completeness but allows the reader to reflect on the course of the world and their own existence in it. The 72 miniatures chronologically traces the history of piety from Genesis to the Last Judgement including a detailed depiction of Christ's ministry. It is designed to allow the reader to contemplate the salvific events and create a meditative relationship with them. For example, the miniature on the theme of the carrying of the cross shows Christ embracing a heavy, large cross standing on the ground, but it is not the actual carrying of the cross that is emphasized, but rather Christ's willingness to take up the cross and begin the path of suffering. It thus shifts the emphasis from the historical event to the inner process of the action. The cross is also associated with the tree of life, especially in the depiction of the Last Judgement.

Origins of the Manuscript

Judging by the iconography, the manuscript probably originated in Trier, perhaps in the monastery of St. Eucharius, which Hildegard would have had regular contact with. German texts were added sometime in the first half of the 13th century to explain the illustrations accompanying two of the Marian prayers, one of which was crossed out with ink by a later hand, which has been a considerable obstacle for researchers. Nonetheless, a linguistic analysis indicates that the notes were written in an Alemannic dialect, i.e. the southwestern linguistic German area. It is thus believed that these notes were added by nuns from the region of Bingen-Worms, which is not far from the convent founded by Hildegard at Rupertsberg.


Alternative Titles
Gebetbuch der Hildegard von Bingen
Series precum ad singula Dei et Christi opera, quae figuris pictis repraesentantur, se referentium
Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book
Book of Hours of Hildegard von Bingen
Size / Format
144 pages / 17.0 Γ— 11.5 cm
Ca. 1175–1180 or first half of the 13th century
72 fulll-page miniatures; decorated initals
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book – Reichert Verlag – Clm 935 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1982
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

The Temptation of Christ

After his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went to the Judean Desert to fast for 40 days and nights, during which time he was tempted by Satan three times. The lower register of this page shows the temptation on the pinnacle of the temple, assumed to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Seated on a tile roof over the entrance, Jesus maintains his integrity in the face of Satan’s challenges, saying: β€œIt is written again, β€˜You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” (Matt. 4:7)

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book – Reichert Verlag – Clm 935 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Single Page

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book

Entry into Jerusalem

Commemorated today on Palm Sunday, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the Passion cycle. Accompanied by his Disciples, Christ is depicted riding on a donkey, which symbolizes peace in contrast to a horse, and giving the sign of the benediction while dressed in flowing garments.

The citizens of Jerusalem have come out to meet him on the road, some lay their clothes on the ground while others climb a palm tree to retrieve branches. They are depicted as being small and childlike in comparison to the figures in the oncoming procession but are depicted with natural bodies and expressive faces: e.g., the figure dressed in red climbing the tree looks frustrated or perhaps impatient to get a glimpse of the Son of God.

Saint Hildegard's Prayer Book – Reichert Verlag – Clm 935 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Hildegard-Gebetbuch

Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1982

Publisher: Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1982
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: Gold stamped linen binding
Commentary: 1 volume (260 pages) by Ludwig Reichert, Hermann Hauke, Gerhard Achten, Karin Schneider, and Elisabeth Klemm
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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