Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. lat. 4922

Vita Mathildis Facsimile Edition

Our price

More Buying Choices

Request Info

Vita Mathildis, translated as the Life of Matilda, also named Acta Comitissae Mathildis is a biography in Latin written by the Benedectine monk Donizo, abbot of the monastery of Saint Apollonius, Canossa. Complied in the years 1110-1115, the biography is a celebratory text recording the life and acts of the Great Countess Matilda of Tuscany.

The life of Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115) became the subject of illuminated manuscripts because of her political power. The Great Countess was able to bring prestige to her dynasty and had a pivotal role in the investiture controversy between the Pope and the empire. In 1077, it was at Matilda's castle that Pope Gregory VII forgave the emperor Henry IV.

By donating possessions to the Church, Matilda strengthened the Papacy, but also helped north Italian cities in their struggle for independence from the empire. Matilda was promoter of the Italian city-state ("comune").

The Manuscript of Donizo's Vita Mathildis in the Vatican Library

Preserved in the Vatican Library, the magnificent manuscript is composed of two sections. The first consists of a dedication, two prologues and twenty chapters recounting the events of the Canossa family, from the forefather Adalbert Atto of Canossa up to the death of Beatrice of Lorraine, mother of Matilda. The second part of the codex continues the narrative describing the Pope Gregory VII and the Emperor Henry IV traveling to Lombardy. Donizo emphasizes Matilda's religious piety.

The biography concludes with a poem on the death of the Great Countess Matilda and Donizo exhorting Matilda to welcome the new emperor Henry V. In chapter twenty, the author signed the work by writing his name, Donizo, in the form of acrostic.

Illuminating the Life of Matilda of Canossa

Written in hexameters, the manuscript is embellished with full-page illuminations revealing political messages. The dedication page (fol. 7v) shows Matilda between her spiritual and secular protectors: her chaplain Donizo, presenting the book, and her sword-bearer. The enthroned Matilda reminds of the iconography of the imperial ruler as found for example in Carolingian and Ottonian miniatures.

Throughout the book, the illuminations provide important visual evidence of Matilda's political position especially as a mediator between Henry IV and the Pope Gregory VII (fol. 49r).

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Vita Mathildis": Vita der Mathilde von Canossa facsimile edition, published by Belser Verlag, 1984

Request Info / Price
Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
Please Read
International social justice movements and the debates that ensued prompted us to start considering the contents of our website from a critical point of view. This has led us to acknowledge that most of the texts in our database are Western-centered. We have asked the authors of our content to be aware of the underlying racial and cultural bias in many scholarly sources, and to try to keep in mind multiple points of view while describing the manuscripts. We also recognize that this is yet a small, first step towards fighting inequality.

If you notice any trace of racist or unjust narratives in our communications, please help us be part of the change by letting us know.

Vita der Mathilde von Canossa

Zurich: Belser Verlag, 1984

  • Commentary (German, Italian) by Janeck, AxeI; Fumagalli, Vito; Pernoud, Régine; Golinelli, Paolo
  • Limited Edition: 2000 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Vita Mathildis: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

Co-edition Zurich: Belser Verlag and Milan: Jaca Book, 1984.


The facsimile is bound in leather with blind tooling.

Our Price

More Buying Choices

Request Info