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Hildegard of Bingen Timeline

Hildegard of Bingen Timeline

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  • 1098 - 1179

  • c. 1100

    Hildegard of Bingen begins to receive her visions around the age of three.

  • 1105

    Hildegard of Bingen enters the convent at Disibodenberg at the age of seven.

  • 1136

    Hildegard of Bingen becomes Abbess of Disibodenberg.

  • c. 1142 - 1151

    Hildegard of Bingen's first major theological work Scivias composed.

  • 1150

    Hildegard of Bingen founds convent at Rupertsberg and moves her order there.

  • 1150 - 1158

    Hildegard of Bingen writes her Liber Subtilatum, a work on medicine and holistic health.

  • 1151

    Hildegard of Bingen writes her musical morality play Ordo Virtutum.

  • 1158 - 1163

    Hildegard of Bingen writes her second major theological work Liber Vitae Meritorum.

  • 1164 - 1174

    Hildegard of Bingen writes her third major theological work, Liber Divinorum Operum.

Hildegard von Bingen

In the summer of 1098, a child was born to noble parents in Bermersheim, near Alzey, in modern-day Rheinhessen, and was christened Hildegard. By her own account, she was having visions at the age of five her parents placed her in the care of a small nunnery when she was eight. Over an 81-year life-span, this remarkable woman would go on to lead the Abbey at Disibodenberg, and found two further convents of her own she wrote three major theological works and a number of shorter treatises on natural history, herbalism, and healing, as well as the first surviving morality play and a large number of hymns and sequences. Her correspondence gave counsel and advice to many of the most prominent figures of her time, even to Frederick Barbarossa himself. She performed healings and a celebrated exorcism, and -- an extremely rare privilege for a woman -- took several officially sanctioned public preaching tours.

Hildebert and Mechtild, her parents, had promised this (their tenth child) to the Church's service, and gave the precocious 8-year-old as novice to Jutta of Spanheim, who led a small cell of nuns attached to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg, near Bingen and the cathedral town of Mainz. Hildegard took her vows at the age of 15, and on Jutta's death in 1136 succeeded her as prioress of the small eremitic community. In 1141, God granted her a vision of flaming tongues descending upon her from heaven, and she devoted her life to following this mystic vision. Pope Eugenius III officially validated her religious visions at the Synod of Trier in 1148, and gave her permission to record them in written form. In addition to her writings, she began to attract further women to her community, and, between 1147 and 1150, she founded (against the wishes of her male superiors at Disibodenberg) a new abbey at Rupertsberg in the Rhine valley. Her ministry thrived and she established a daughter abbey at Eibingen around 1165. Four times in the 1160s she took preaching tours through the German lands, and after her death in 1179, Popes Gregory IX and Innocent IV proposed her canonization, followed by Clement V and John XXII, to no avail.

With the aid and encouragement of her monastic secretary Volmar, Hildegard began in 1141 to record her revelations twenty-six visions comprise her first work, the Scivias, compiled over a ten-year period. Her prophetic and apocalyptic writings would later include the Liber vite meritorum (1158-63) and Liber divinorum operum (1163-70). In the interval between these volumes, Hildegard wrote two works on natural history (Physica) and medicine (Cause et cure), a commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, lives of two saints, and a number of surviving sermons on sundry topics. Her interest in devotional poetry first shows up in the Scivias. In the early 1150s, she collected a large number of liturgical and devotional poems, each with associated music, such as the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, which also included her liturgical drama the Ordo virtutem. This work she continued to enlarge and embellish through her life. The "Sybil of the Rhine" also left a voluminous correspondence -- some three hundred surviving letters -- sending advice, prayers, teachings, encouragements, and often chastisement to popes, emperors, kings, archbishops, abbots and abbesses throughout Europe.


Hildegard of Bingen was a writer in the 12th century. She was born about 1098 in Germany. Hildegard came from an upper-class family. She was one of ten children. When she was 15 Hildegard became a Benedictine nun. In 1136 when she was about 38 Hildegard became the abbess.

Hildegard claimed that she had visions from the time she was a child. What caused them is uncertain.

Her first book was called Scito vias domini or Know the Ways of God. Hildegard completed it in 1151. It covered a huge number of theological subjects including the Church, angels, the Trinity, and the end of the world. Hildegard also wrote a morality play called Ordo Virtutum (order of the virtues).

Meanwhile in 1148 Hildegard announced that God had told her and the other nuns to move to a new location at Rupertsberg near Bingen. They moved about 1150.

Hildegard the Scholar n As well as theology Hildegard was also interested in the natural world. Hildegard also wrote two famous books about medicine called Physica and Causae et Curae.

As well as being a great writer Hildegard was also a composer. She composed a cycle of songs called the Symposia. Hildegard was also an abbess and she had to cope with the day-to-day running of a convent. However, Hildegard only allowed girls from noble families to join her convent. In her view, it was unnatural for the different classes of society to mix.

Hildegard died on 17 September 1179. She was aged about 81 (very old age in those days). In the Middle Ages Hildegard of Bingen was an influential woman. Even today Hildegard is remembered as a great scholar and mystic.

St. Hildegard

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St. Hildegard, also called Hildegard of Bingen or Hildegard von Bingen, byname Sibyl of the Rhine, (born 1098, Böckelheim, West Franconia [Germany]—died September 17, 1179, Rupertsberg, near Bingen canonized May 10, 2012 feast day September 17), German abbess, visionary mystic, and composer.

Who is St. Hildegard?

St. Hildegard was a Benedictine abbess, writer, poet, and composer who lived in 12th-century Germany. She had numerous prophetic and mystical visions during her life and is said to have been a miracle worker.

What was St. Hildegard’s childhood like?

Hildegard was born to noble parents in Böckelheim, West Franconia (Germany). She was a sickly child but was able to receive an education at a nearby Benedictine cloister. She experienced her first religious visions at a young age and joined the nuns at age 15.

Why is St. Hildegard famous?

St. Hildegard is one of the few prominent women in medieval church history. In fact, she is one of only four women who were named a doctor of the church, meaning that her doctrinal writings have special authority in Roman Catholicism. She is considered by many to be a patron saint of musicians and writers.

Hildegard was born of noble parents and was educated at the Benedictine cloister of Disibodenberg by Jutta, an anchorite (religious recluse) and sister of the count of Spanheim. Hildegard was 15 years old when she began wearing the Benedictine habit and pursuing a religious life. She succeeded Jutta as prioress in 1136. Having experienced visions since she was a child, at age 43 she consulted her confessor, who in turn reported the matter to the archbishop of Mainz. A committee of theologians subsequently confirmed the authenticity of Hildegard’s visions, and a monk was appointed to help her record them in writing. The finished work, Scivias (1141–52), consists of 26 visions that are prophetic and apocalyptic in form and in their treatment of such topics as the church, the relationship between God and humanity, and redemption. About 1147 Hildegard left Disibodenberg with several nuns to found a new convent at Rupertsberg, where she continued to exercise the gift of prophecy and to record her visions in writing.

A talented poet and composer, Hildegard collected 77 of her lyric poems, each with a musical setting composed by her, in Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum. Her numerous other writings included lives of saints two treatises on medicine and natural history, reflecting a quality of scientific observation rare at that period and extensive correspondence, in which are to be found further prophecies and allegorical treatises. She also for amusement contrived her own language. She traveled widely throughout Germany, evangelizing to large groups of people about her visions and religious insights.

Her earliest biographer proclaimed her a saint, and miracles were reported during her life and at her tomb. However, she was not formally canonized until 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI declared her to be a saint through the process of “ equivalent canonization,” a papal proclamation of canonization based on a standing tradition of popular veneration. Later that year Benedict proclaimed Hildegard a doctor of the church, one of only four women to have been so named. She is considered a patron saint of musicians and writers.

As one of the few prominent women in medieval church history, Hildegard became the subject of increasing interest in the latter half of the 20th century. Her writings were widely translated into English several recordings of her music were made available and works of fiction, including Barbara Lachman’s The Journal of Hildegard of Bingen (1993) and Joan Ohanneson’s Scarlet Music: A Life of Hildegard of Bingen (1997), were published.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor.

Hildegard's Favorite

Richardis or Ricardis von Stade, one of the convent's nuns who was a personal assistant to Hildegard of Bingen, was a special favorite of Hildegard. Richardis' brother was an archbishop, and he arranged for his sister to head another convent. Hildegard tried to persuade Richardis to stay and wrote insulting letters to the brother and even wrote to the pope, hoping to stop the move. But Richardis left and died after she decided to return to Rupertsberg but before she could do so.

Hildegard of Bingen Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Throughout the ages, the mystics have kept alive the awareness of our union with God and thus with everything. What some now call creation spirituality, deep salvation, or the holistic Gospel was voiced long ago by the Desert Fathers and Mothers, some Eastern Fathers, in the spirituality of the ancient Celts, by many of the Rhineland mystics, and surely by Francis of Assisi. [1] Many women mystics were not even noticed, I am sorry to say. Julian of Norwich (c. 1343–c. 1416) and Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) would be two major exceptions (though even they have often been overlooked).

Hildegard of Bingen communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias: “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [2]

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s view of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with the macrocosm, which many of us would call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation is the end of all loneliness because it erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.

Hildegard spoke often of viriditas, the greening of things from within, analogous to what we now call photosynthesis. She saw that there was a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She recognized that there is also an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into inner energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or “whole-making instinct.”

Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard says, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [3] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

[1] See a timeline of Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers throughout history (PDF).
[2] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias 1.2.29. Translation supplied by Avis Clendenen, “Hildegard: ‘Trumpet of God’ and ‘Living Light’” in Chicago Theological Seminary Register 89 (2), Spring 1999, 25.
[3] Hildegard of Bingen, Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, ed. Gabriele Uhlein (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1982), 41.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (Franciscan Media: 2001), 135 and unpublished “Rhine” talks (2015).

Reconstructing the Lost Scivias Manuscript

Fortunately, for posterity, in 1925 photographs of the original Scivias manuscript were taken as part of a series of exhibitions in Cologne. In addition, in 1933, a duplicate manuscript was created and stored safely at the Abbey of St. Hildegard in Eibingen. Today, the duplicate remains at the abbey, the same place where four Benedictine nuns inspired by Hildegard dutifully produced it.

Beginning in 1927, three of the sisters edited the text, leaving the paintings to their colleague, Josepha Knips. Sister Josepha who died in 1976 at the age of 96, worked tirelessly to recreate the thumbnail images using medieval painting techniques involving layers of vibrant colors.

Like so many others who have been inspired by Hildegard, the four nuns at Eibingen selflessly spent six years recreating the original Scivias manuscript. Though perhaps some of the vitality of the original images was compromised in the duplication process, the recreated thumbnails represent accurate impressions of the originals, particularly in upholding the vibrant colors.

During Hildegard’s time, creating illustrations, such as those contained in the original Scivias manuscript would have represented a time-consuming and expensive process. Access to produce and even view such work was typically reserved for nobles and clergy. Thus the value of the original Scivias manuscript as a historical relic had been appreciated since its painstaking creation.

Origin of Hildegard’s Thumbnail Illustrations

There are no conclusive studies on the origin and nature of the thumbnail illustrations contained in the original Scivias manuscript. Experts generally acknowledge the timing of the original manuscript corresponding with the latter years of Hildegard’s life. Recent research, however, supports the assertion that the Scivias manuscript was completed shortly after Hildegard’s death.

Hildegard of Bingen shrine in Eibingen, Germany

The 35 images contained in the Scivias manuscript are instrumental in memorializing Hildegard’s beliefs, art and spirituality. They serve as signposts, illuminating imagery capturing the essence of Hildegard’s dense descriptions of her visions. The thumbnails do more than simply illustrate Hildegard’s visions they serve as an original expression of creativity, arguably one of the most essential tenets of Hildegard’s faith.

Appreciating the Thumbnail Illustrations

A thoughtful examination of the thumbnail images contained in Scivias yields an appreciation for their role in accompanying the descriptions of Hildegard’s visions, as well as original, works of art in their own merit. The thumbnails help to interpret the text and provide visual stimulus. In fact, the images tie so closely with the narrative of Scivias that historians credit Hildegard with their creation, insofar as the standard of authorship can be applied, given the standards of the medieval period.

Not only does the combination of illustration with narrative represent a new creative form for the medieval era, but also the individual thumbnails represent a unique deviation from the traditional iconography of that time.

The thumbnails contribute to a vision, theological interpretation, and creative presentation that demand a holistic appreciation from its readers and viewers. The combination of reading, looking, watching, and thinking together lead to a deeper understanding of her work. The images are presented in varying sizes and lay-outs. In some cases, the thumbnail images span across columns of narrative, in other cases they occupy full pages, breaking from the traditional format of the period.

The thumbnail illustrations contained within Scivias do more than interpret the accompanying text they retell the stories of Hildegard’s visions, using a wholly separate medium. Thus they serve an essential role in the presentation of Scivias.

The description of Hildegard’s visions, taken together with theological interpretation and creative artwork, presents a complete, holistic perspective, as the combination of reading, looking, watching, and thinking lead to a deeper understanding of her work.

Image One: “The Visionary”

The first thumbnail contained in the Rupertsberg Scivias-Codex illustrates Hildegard at work, recording her visions, while overwhelmed by fiery flames, with her loyal assistant, Volmar documenting the experience visions. This thumbnail accompanies the preface to the narrative, and illustrates Hildegard’s calling from God to serve him as a prophet. The event matches Hildegard’s description in the preface of Scivias of her visions in 1141, accompanying her 43 rd year of life.

Image Two: “The Radiant”

The exceedingly bright light that floods over Hildegard, while she assumes her Protestificatio (“Declaration”), takes a concrete shape in this first vision. The accompanying thumbnail illustrates a richness, a distinguishing attribute of Hildegard’s visions.

Image Three: “The Fall of Sins”

After illustrating Hildegard’s divine vision of God’s kingdom in the opening vision, pages from Holy Scripture appear as uniquely appealing images. This vision, “the Fall of Sins”, revolves around three themes, including (i) the beginning of evil (ii) relationship between man and woman and (iii) redemption or salvation.

Image Four: “The Universe”

This image illustrates the universe, surrounded by the symbolic divine voice. The entire universe points to an almighty and incomprehensible God. The outermost layer of the fire represents God’s duality, on the one hand he takes fiery revenge on the unfaithful, and on the other hand, he offers deep comfort to those who believe.

One may also be struck by the feminine qualities of this image of universe, reflecting on divine feminine. Hundreds of years after Scivias, Joseph Campbell, in his study of mythology suggested that myth universally represents the masculine as “master of the universe”, and the feminine is portrayed as the universe itself.

Image Five: “The Soul and Your Pavilion”

This vision (Scivias I. 4. 9) traces man’s path from initial stirrings, in the mother’s womb, all the way through separation of spirit from the body. The rich ideas portrayed in this vision are captured in three total thumbnails.

Image Six: “Fidelity in Temptation”

“God, have you not created me? Behold, common ground oppresses me!” (Scivias I. 4.4.)

Hildegard speaks in her visions of a bullet, which penetrates many storms. In this thumbnail, the artist captures the reality behind Hildegard’s visionary images: the man who falls to temptation begs for God’s help.

Image Seven: “Extract the Soul from the Pavilion”

This accompanies Image Five, which shows the beginning of human life on earth. On the other hand, this miniature thumbnail illustrates the last moments of a human life on Earth, with departure from the human form, and arrival in the afterlife.

Image Eight: “The Synagogue”

“The mother of incarnation of the son of God” (Scivias. 5.1.)

In this thumbnail we are confronted with the visage of a sad woman, representing the synagogue in medieval depiction. In contrast to the more common medieval representation of synagogue as a woman with a blindfold and broken scepter, Scivias illustrates a striking beauty with honor and self-worth.

The relationship between Christians and Jews had been growing hostile since the emergence of Christianity. Hildegard’s vision expresses solidarity and hope for the synagogue, in light of the Jewish persecution of 1096 and the first two crusades (1096-99, 1147-49). In this vision, Hildegard openly expressed her support of the Jewish faith.

Image Nine: “The Choirs of Angels”

This mandala image illustrates the nine choirs of angels, who deliver prayers to God and God’s answers to man. The angels serve the glory of God and the salvation of man. Each type of angel protects in a unique manner. This vision informs by introducing the individual choirs presented in Scivias.

Image 10: “The Redeemer”

This thumbnail illustrates several themes, including the creation and fall of man. In addition, we see representations of our world’s incarnation, salvation, and glory. In the upper half of the image, we see life emerges from the blue center sphere, surrounded by the brightly shining border of an almighty God. A flame strikes down from the ball of light and life to fill a sphere of emptiness with God’s creation. Each of God’s six days of creation illuminate the otherwise empty sphere beneath the source of life and spirit.

Image 11: “True Trinity in Unity”

This thumbnail is among the more famous images, having emerged from the original Scivias Codex manuscript. It illustrates the unity of divine trinity, using basic images of a sapphire-blue human form, surrounded by multi-gold-colored circles, in the midst of a broad background and border. Light flows from the background to emphasize the contrast.

Scivias-Codex Plate Eleven

Image 12: “Motherhood from the Spirit and Water”

These images describe the realization of salvation in the Church and its sacraments. The thumbnail shows the nature of the Church and the sacrament of baptism in partial representations.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twelve

Image 13: “Anointed with the Holy Spirit”

This thumbnail is characterized by an imposing female figure in front of a large white tower made of stone. The female archetype represents the Church, occupied by patrons. The white tower symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in its luminous clarity, encircling all living creatures. Bright lights emerge from three windows in the tower. Just as the Church is guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, so too shall the baptized be fulfilled.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirteen

Image 14: “The Mystical Body”

This thumbnail illustrates the Church as a mystical body, formed by estates of the secular, clergy, and religious bodies.

Scivias-Codex Plate Fourteen

Image 15: “The Sacrifice of Christ and the Church”

This vision captures the origin of the Church. Themes of the celebration of Holy Mass, and sacrament of the Eucharist play prominently through the middle of Scivias, including the book’s second part. This thumbnail image portrays the Church as Christ’s bride, under the cross. The Church receives the flesh and blood of Christ as a gift from her bridegroom and calls for this dowry in the Holy Mass before God.

Scivias-Codex Plate Fifteen

Image 16: “The food of life”

This thumbnail must be seen along with the previous thumbnail image.

With true devotion, the faithful should eat and drink the flesh and blood of their Savior who suffered for them and sacrificed his life on earth.

Scivias-Codex Plate Sixteen

Image 17: “The Enemy Bound”

This theme represents the last vision of the second part of Scivias, and is represented in two miniatures. It surrounds the devil’s work, along with his vices, and the struggles that believers encounter when faced with evil.

Scivias-Codex Plate Seventeen

Image 18: “The Tempter”

This thumbnail shows Satan’s works in two images.

Scivias-Codex Plate Eighteen

Image 19: “The Ruler of All”

Unfortunately, this thumbnail appears incomplete and offers only a mere glimpse at the richness and depth of the record of these visions. Eastwardly, Hildegard saw an immense iron-colored shrouded in a shiny white cloud. A royal throne was placed upon the boulder, whereupon sat a living being of radiant glory.

Scivias-Codex Plate Nineteen

Image 20: “Extinct Stars”

This thumbnail shows the fallen angels, Lucifer along with those who accompany him.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty

Image 21: “The Building of Salvation”

In this thumbnail, Hildegard’s vision of building strong foundations and setting solid cornerstones helps to illustrate her belief in the basic partnership between God and man, which is implicit in all human undertaking and enterprise.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-One

Image 22: “The Tower of Council”

In the tower of divine council, Hildegard sees five figures, heavenly powers, or virtues. Each one stands independently, under its own gateway arch. No virtue consists of its own power, exclusively. Instead these virtues divine from a bright luminous glow, shining forth from God in man’s works.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Two

Image 23: “God’s Five Forces in the Tower of Council”

This thumbnail shows details of the five virtues in the tower of divine council.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Three

Image 24: “The Pillar of the Word of God”

Beyond the divine council is the pillar of the word of God. The pillar of the word of God is built on the luminous wall and its proportions exceed man’s ability to perceive it with the human eye.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Four

Image 25: “The Recognition of God”

Within the sanctuary, a brightly illuminated figure stands on the pavement before the pillar of the word of God.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Five

Image 26: “The Zeal of God”

After the mystery of the word of God has been “revealed in the pillar of the word of God “was revealed, the zeal God’s love appears openly in this thumbnail. The three wings represent the power of retribution directed against the devil and evil.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Six

Image 27: “The Triple Wall”

In the image of the wall, God ordains his people through the rule of law. Thus, the government has been established for the benefit of the living, through the Holy Spirit.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Seven

Image 28: ‘The Pillar of the True Trinity’

In the western corner of the sanctuary, Hildegard saw a wonderful, mysterious and extremely powerful column of dark red color. It stands for the triune God. Father, Word, and Holy Spirit are one God in the Trinity.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Eight

Image 29: “The Pillar of the Humanity of the Savior”

Hildegard describes the humanity of the savior, who was born of the Holy Spirit, conceived by the Virgin Mary, and born as the highest son.

Scivias-Codex Plate Twenty-Nine

Image 30: “The Tower of the Church”

This tower, which can be seen both inside and outside the building, has not yet been completed. Numerous workers are seen tirelessly continuing to build it. At its peak, sit seven strong defenses, representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and no enemy can destroy them.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirty

Image 31: “The Son of God”

At the highest point of the sanctuary, where the two walls unite, stands a throne on seven steps, on which a young man sits, the son of God.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirty-One

Image 32: “The End of Times”

This thumbnail concerns the theme of judgment when God permits the coming of the anti-Christ preceded by the five kingdoms represented in five animal forms. In the events leading to the end of times, God leads man and Church to its fulfillment. This image has deeper meaning, and some suggest a more gruesome tale of rape of the Church by the anti-Christ, represented in gruesome animal form.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirty-Two

Image 33: “The Day of the Great Revelation”

In this thumbnail God reveals to Hildegard von Bingen the end of the world, where the son of God returns for the final judgment. The end of the world corresponds with the death of the man.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirty-Three

Image 34: “The New Heaven and the New Earth”

After the judgment has been carried out, a great calm and silence emerges. The elements radiate in cheerful clarity as if the grime had been stripped away from them. The air is pure, the water is clear. All heavenly bodies shine with full force and beauty.

Scivias-Codex Plate Thirty-Four

Image 35: “The Choirs of the Blessed”

This thumbnail continues the worship of God and the saints under the patronage of Mary. In this image, Mary sits enthroned above the choirs of angels, who stand above the apostles, patriarchs and prophets, virgins, confessors and martyrs.

Timeline 003: Hildegard Of Bingen And Her ‘Play Of Virtues’

Hildegard of Bingen was a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, abbess, polymath and a literal visionary of the 12th Century.

She was born in 1098 to a noble family in the Rhine land. As a child she was often sickly and bed ridden, and from the time she was very young she experienced compelling visions that often frightened her. Perhaps due to these visions, her parents offered her to the church at the age of 8. She became a nun and though her visions continued, she quickly learned to keep them to herself.

In 1136, she was elected by her fellow sisters to be the magistra, the head mother, of her Benedictine order. Not long after, against the wishes of the abbot, she founded an independent convent in Bingen. However, the same illnesses and visions that she experienced as a child were haunting her even now as a grown woman.

The visions and illnesses became something entirely different in 1141, when Hildegard of Bingen was 43-years-old.

She says in her writing that she received a verbal call from God to write down everything she saw and heard. She then believed that her visions were messages from God and from that point on she wrote many theological treatises as well as musical compositions.

Her most famous work is The Play of Virtues, a musical morality play in which intangible concepts like mercy, peace and love are personified. It’s a dramatic musical work presented on a stage without sets or costumes, much like an early oratorio.

The Play of Virtues is unique in that it written for only female voices at a time when male voices dominated almost every aspect of the church. The one male role in the work is the part of the devil, who is not even allowed to sing due to his corrupt nature. This play is believed to be an inspiration, a precursor, of what we now call opera.


Hildegard was born around the year 1098, although the exact date is uncertain. Her parents were Mechtild of Merxheim-Nahet and Hildebert of Bermersheim, a family of the free lower nobility in the service of the Count Meginhard of Sponheim. [9] Sickly from birth, Hildegard is traditionally considered their youngest and tenth child, [10] although there are records of only seven older siblings. [11] [12] In her Vita, Hildegard states that from a very young age she had experienced visions. [13]

Spirituality Edit

From early childhood, long before she undertook her public mission or even her monastic vows, Hildegard's spiritual awareness was grounded in what she called the umbra viventis lucis, the reflection of the living Light. Her letter to Guibert of Gembloux, which she wrote at the age of seventy-seven, describes her experience of this light with admirable precision:

From my early childhood, before my bones, nerves and veins were fully strengthened, I have always seen this vision in my soul, even to the present time when I am more than seventy years old. In this vision my soul, as God would have it, rises up high into the vault of heaven and into the changing sky and spreads itself out among different peoples, although they are far away from me in distant lands and places. And because I see them this way in my soul, I observe them in accord with the shifting of clouds and other created things. I do not hear them with my outward ears, nor do I perceive them by the thoughts of my own heart or by any combination of my five senses, but in my soul alone, while my outward eyes are open. So I have never fallen prey to ecstasy in the visions, but I see them wide awake, day and night. And I am constantly fettered by sickness, and often in the grip of pain so intense that it threatens to kill me, but God has sustained me until now. The light which I see thus is not spatial, but it is far, far brighter than a cloud which carries the sun. I can measure neither height, nor length, nor breadth in it and I call it "the reflection of the living Light." And as the sun, the moon, and the stars appear in water, so writings, sermons, virtues, and certain human actions take form for me and gleam. [14]

Monastic life Edit

Perhaps because of Hildegard's visions, or as a method of political positioning (or both), Hildegard's parents offered her as an oblate to the Benedictine monastery at the Disibodenberg, which had been recently reformed in the Palatinate Forest. The date of Hildegard's enclosure at the monastery is the subject of debate. Her Vita says she was professed with an older woman, Jutta, the daughter of Count Stephan II of Sponheim, at the age of eight. [15] However, Jutta's date of enclosure is known to have been in 1112, when Hildegard would have been fourteen. [16] Their vows were received by Bishop Otto Bamberg on All Saints' Day, 1112. Some scholars speculate that Hildegard was placed in the care of Jutta at the age of eight, and the two women were then enclosed together six years later. [17]

In any case, Hildegard and Jutta were enclosed together at the Disibodenberg, and formed the core of a growing community of women attached to the male monastery. Jutta was also a visionary and thus attracted many followers who came to visit her at the cloister. Hildegard tells us that Jutta taught her to read and write, but that she was unlearned and therefore incapable of teaching Hildegard sound biblical interpretation. [18] The written record of the Life of Jutta indicates that Hildegard probably assisted her in reciting the psalms, working in the garden and other handiwork, and tending to the sick. [19] This might have been a time when Hildegard learned how to play the ten-stringed psaltery. Volmar, a frequent visitor, may have taught Hildegard simple psalm notation. The time she studied music could have been the beginning of the compositions she would later create. [20]

Upon Jutta's death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected as magistra of the community by her fellow nuns. [21] Abbot Kuno of Disibodenberg asked Hildegard to be Prioress, which would be under his authority. Hildegard, however, wanted more independence for herself and her nuns and asked Abbot Kuno to allow them to move to Rupertsberg. [22] This was to be a move towards poverty, from a stone complex that was well established to a temporary dwelling place. When the abbot declined Hildegard's proposition, Hildegard went over his head and received the approval of Archbishop Henry I of Mainz. Abbot Kuno did not relent until Hildegard was stricken by an illness that kept her paralyzed and unable to move from her bed, an event that she attributed to God's unhappiness at her not following his orders to move her nuns to a new location in Rupertsberg. It was only when the Abbot himself could not move Hildegard that he decided to grant the nuns their own monastery. [23] Hildegard and about twenty nuns thus moved to the St. Rupertsberg monastery in 1150, where Volmar served as provost, as well as Hildegard's confessor and scribe. In 1165 Hildegard founded a second monastery for her nuns at Eibingen. [24]

Before Hildegard's death, a problem arose with the clergy of Mainz. A man buried in Rupertsberg had died after excommunication from the Catholic Church. Therefore, the clergy wanted to remove his body from the sacred ground. Hildegard did not accept this idea, replying that it was a sin and that the man had been reconciled to the church at the time of his death. [25]

Visions Edit

Hildegard said that she first saw "The Shade of the Living Light" at the age of three, and by the age of five she began to understand that she was experiencing visions. [26] She used the term 'visio' (the Latin for "vision") to describe this feature of her experience and recognized that it was a gift that she could not explain to others. Hildegard explained that she saw all things in the light of God through the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. [27] Hildegard was hesitant to share her visions, confiding only to Jutta, who in turn told Volmar, Hildegard's tutor and, later, secretary. [28] Throughout her life, she continued to have many visions, and in 1141, at the age of 42, Hildegard received a vision she believed to be an instruction from God, to "write down that which you see and hear." [29] Still hesitant to record her visions, Hildegard became physically ill. The illustrations recorded in the book of Scivias were visions that Hildegard experienced, causing her great suffering and tribulations. [30] In her first theological text, Scivias ("Know the Ways"), Hildegard describes her struggle within:

But I, though I saw and heard these things, refused to write for a long time through doubt and bad opinion and the diversity of human words, not with stubbornness but in the exercise of humility, until, laid low by the scourge of God, I fell upon a bed of sickness then, compelled at last by many illnesses, and by the witness of a certain noble maiden of good conduct [the nun Richardis von Stade] and of that man whom I had secretly sought and found, as mentioned above, I set my hand to the writing. While I was doing it, I sensed, as I mentioned before, the deep profundity of scriptural exposition and, raising myself from illness by the strength I received, I brought this work to a close – though just barely – in ten years. […] And I spoke and wrote these things not by the invention of my heart or that of any other person, but as by the secret mysteries of God I heard and received them in the heavenly places. And again I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, 'Cry out, therefore, and write thus!' [31]

It was between November 1147 and February 1148 at the synod in Trier that Pope Eugenius heard about Hildegard's writings. It was from this that she received Papal approval to document her visions as revelations from the Holy Spirit, giving her instant credence. [32]

On 17 September 1179, when Hildegard died, her sisters claimed they saw two streams of light appear in the skies and cross over the room where she was dying. [33]

Vita Sanctae Hildegardis Edit

Hildegard's hagiography, Vita Sanctae Hildegardis, was compiled by the monk Theoderic of Echternach after Hildegard's death. [34] He included the hagiographical work Libellus or "Little Book" begun by Godfrey of Disibodenberg. [35] Godfrey had died before he was able to complete his work. Guibert of Gembloux was invited to finish the work however, he had to return to his monastery with the project unfinished. [36] Theoderic utilized sources Guibert had left behind to complete the Vita.

Hildegard's works include three great volumes of visionary theology [37] a variety of musical compositions for use in liturgy, as well as the musical morality play Ordo Virtutum one of the largest bodies of letters (nearly 400) to survive from the Middle Ages, addressed to correspondents ranging from popes to emperors to abbots and abbesses, and including records of many of the sermons she preached in the 1160s and 1170s [38] two volumes of material on natural medicine and cures [39] [40] an invented language called the Lingua ignota ("unknown language") [41] and various minor works, including a gospel commentary and two works of hagiography. [42]

Several manuscripts of her works were produced during her lifetime, including the illustrated Rupertsberg manuscript of her first major work, Scivias (lost since 1945) the Dendermonde Codex, which contains one version of her musical works and the Ghent manuscript, which was the first fair-copy made for editing of her final theological work, the Liber Divinorum Operum. At the end of her life, and probably under her initial guidance, all of her works were edited and gathered into the single Riesenkodex manuscript. [43]

Visionary theology Edit

Hildegard's most significant works were her three volumes of visionary theology: Scivias ("Know the Ways", composed 1142–1151), Liber Vitae Meritorum ("Book of Life's Merits" or "Book of the Rewards of Life", composed 1158–1163) and Liber Divinorum Operum ("Book of Divine Works", also known as De operatione Dei, "On God's Activity", composed 1163/4–1172 or 1174). In these volumes, the last of which was completed when she was well into her seventies, Hildegard first describes each vision, whose details are often strange and enigmatic, and then interprets their theological contents in the words of the "voice of the Living Light." [44]

Scivias Edit

With permission from Abbot Kuno of Disibodenberg, she began journaling visions she had (which is the basis for Scivias). Scivias is a contraction of Sci vias Domini (Know the Ways of the Lord), and it was Hildegard's first major visionary work, and one of the biggest milestones in her life. Perceiving a divine command to "write down what you see and hear," [45] Hildegard began to record and interpret her visionary experiences. In total, 26 visionary experiences were captured in this compilation. [32]

Scivias is structured into three parts of unequal length. The first part (six visions) chronicles the order of God's creation: the Creation and Fall of Adam and Eve, the structure of the universe (famously described as the shape of an "egg"), the relationship between body and soul, God's relationship to his people through the Synagogue, and the choirs of angels. The second part (seven visions) describes the order of redemption: the coming of Christ the Redeemer, the Trinity, the church as the Bride of Christ and the Mother of the Faithful in baptism and confirmation, the orders of the church, Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the Eucharist, and the fight against the devil. Finally, the third part (thirteen visions) recapitulates the history of salvation told in the first two parts, symbolized as a building adorned with various allegorical figures and virtues. It concludes with the Symphony of Heaven, an early version of Hildegard's musical compositions. [46]

In early 1148, a commission was sent by the Pope to Disibodenberg to find out more about Hildegard and her writings. The commission found that the visions were authentic and returned to the Pope, with a portion of the Scivias. Portions of the uncompleted work were read aloud to Pope Eugenius III at the Synod of Trier in 1148, after which he sent Hildegard a letter with his blessing. [47] This blessing was later construed as papal approval for all of Hildegard's wide-ranging theological activities. [48] Towards the end of her life, Hildegard commissioned a richly decorated manuscript of Scivias (the Rupertsberg Codex) although the original has been lost since its evacuation to Dresden for safekeeping in 1945, its images are preserved in a hand-painted facsimile from the 1920s. [5]

Liber Vitae Meritorum Edit

In her second volume of visionary theology, composed between 1158 and 1163, after she had moved her community of nuns into independence at the Rupertsberg in Bingen, Hildegard tackled the moral life in the form of dramatic confrontations between the virtues and the vices. She had already explored this area in her musical morality play, Ordo Virtutum, and the "Book of the Rewards of Life" takes up that play's characteristic themes. Each vice, although ultimately depicted as ugly and grotesque, nevertheless offers alluring, seductive speeches that attempt to entice the unwary soul into their clutches. Standing in our defence, however, are the sober voices of the Virtues, powerfully confronting every vicious deception. [49]

Amongst the work's innovations is one of the earliest descriptions of purgatory as the place where each soul would have to work off its debts after death before entering heaven. [50] Hildegard's descriptions of the possible punishments there are often gruesome and grotesque, which emphasize the work's moral and pastoral purpose as a practical guide to the life of true penance and proper virtue. [51]

Liber Divinorum Operum Edit

Hildegard's last and grandest visionary work had its genesis in one of the few times she experienced something like an ecstatic loss of consciousness. As she described it in an autobiographical passage included in her Vita, sometime in about 1163, she received "an extraordinary mystical vision" in which was revealed the "sprinkling drops of sweet rain" that John the Evangelist experienced when he wrote, "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). Hildegard perceived that this Word was the key to the "Work of God", of which humankind is the pinnacle. The Book of Divine Works, therefore, became in many ways an extended explication of the Prologue to John's Gospel. [53]

The ten visions of this work's three parts are cosmic in scale, to illustrate various ways of understanding the relationship between God and his creation. Often, that relationship is established by grand allegorical female figures representing Divine Love (Caritas) or Wisdom (Sapientia). The first vision opens the work with a salvo of poetic and visionary images, swirling about to characterize God's dynamic activity within the scope of his work within the history of salvation. The remaining three visions of the first part introduce the famous image of a human being standing astride the spheres that make up the universe and detail the intricate relationships between the human as microcosm and the universe as macrocosm. This culminates in the final chapter of Part One, Vision Four with Hildegard's commentary on the Prologue to John's Gospel (John 1:1–14), a direct rumination on the meaning of "In the beginning was the Word" The single vision that constitutes the whole of Part Two stretches that rumination back to the opening of Genesis, and forms an extended commentary on the seven days of the creation of the world told in Genesis 1–2:3. This commentary interprets each day of creation in three ways: literal or cosmological allegorical or ecclesiological (i.e. related to the church's history) and moral or tropological (i.e. related to the soul's growth in virtue). Finally, the five visions of the third part take up again the building imagery of Scivias to describe the course of salvation history. The final vision (3.5) contains Hildegard's longest and most detailed prophetic program of the life of the church from her own days of "womanish weakness" through to the coming and ultimate downfall of the Antichrist. [54]

Music Edit

Attention in recent decades to women of the medieval Catholic Church has led to a great deal of popular interest in Hildegard's music. In addition to the Ordo Virtutum, sixty-nine musical compositions, each with its own original poetic text, survive, and at least four other texts are known, though their musical notation has been lost. [55] This is one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers.

One of her better-known works, Ordo Virtutum (Play of the Virtues), is a morality play. It is uncertain when some of Hildegard's compositions were composed, though the Ordo Virtutum is thought to have been composed as early as 1151. [56] It is an independent Latin morality play with music (82 songs) it does not supplement or pay homage to the Mass or the Office of a certain feast. It is, in fact, the earliest known surviving musical drama that is not attached to a liturgy. [6]

The Ordo virtutum would have been performed within Hildegard's monastery by and for her select community of noblewomen and nuns. It was probably performed as a manifestation of the theology Hildegard delineated in the Scivias. The play serves as an allegory of the Christian story of sin, confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Notably, it is the female Virtues who restore the fallen to the community of the faithful, not the male Patriarchs or Prophets. This would have been a significant message to the nuns in Hildegard's convent. Scholars assert that the role of the Devil would have been played by Volmar, while Hildegard's nuns would have played the parts of Anima (the human souls) and the Virtues. [57] The devil's part is entirely spoken or shouted, with no musical setting. All other characters sing in monophonic plainchant. This includes Patriarchs, Prophets, A Happy Soul, A Unhappy Soul and A Penitent Soul along with 16 female Virtues (including Mercy, Innocence, Chasity, Obedience, Hope, and Faith). [58]

In addition to the Ordo Virtutum, Hildegard composed many liturgical songs that were collected into a cycle called the Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum. The songs from the Symphonia are set to Hildegard's own text and range from antiphons, hymns, and sequences, to responsories. [59] Her music is monophonic, that is, consisting of exactly one melodic line. [60] Its style has been said to be characterized by soaring melodies that can push the boundaries of traditional Gregorian chant, and to stand outside the normal practices of monophonic monastic chant. [61] Researchers are also exploring ways in which it may be viewed in comparison with her contemporaries, such as Hermannus Contractus. [62] Another feature of Hildegard's music that both reflects twelfth-century evolution of chant, and pushes that evolution further, is that it is highly melismatic, often with recurrent melodic units. Scholars such as Margot Fassler, Marianne Richert Pfau, and Beverly Lomer also note the intimate relationship between music and text in Hildegard's compositions, whose rhetorical features are often more distinct than is common in twelfth-century chant. [63] As with all medieval chant notation, Hildegard's music lacks any indication of tempo or rhythm the surviving manuscripts employ late German style notation, which uses very ornamental neumes. [64] The reverence for the Virgin Mary reflected in music shows how deeply influenced and inspired Hildegard of Bingen and her community were by the Virgin Mary and the saints. [65]

Scientific and medicinal writings Edit

Hildegard's medicinal and scientific writings, though thematically complementary to her ideas about nature expressed in her visionary works, are different in focus and scope. Neither claim to be rooted in her visionary experience and its divine authority. Rather, they spring from her experience helping in and then leading the monastery's herbal garden and infirmary, as well as the theoretical information she likely gained through her wide-ranging reading in the monastery's library. [40] As she gained practical skills in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment, she combined physical treatment of physical diseases with holistic methods centered on "spiritual healing." [66] She became well known for her healing powers involving the practical application of tinctures, herbs, and precious stones. [67] She combined these elements with a theological notion ultimately derived from Genesis: all things put on earth are for the use of humans. [68] In addition to her hands-on experience, she also gained medical knowledge, including elements of her humoral theory, from traditional Latin texts. [66]

Hildegard catalogued both her theory and practice in two works. The first, Physica, contains nine books that describe the scientific and medicinal properties of various plants, stones, fish, reptiles, and animals. This document is also thought to contain the first recorded reference of the usage of hops in beer as a preservative. [69] [70] The second, Causae et Curae, is an exploration of the human body, its connections to the rest of the natural world, and the causes and cures of various diseases. [71] Hildegard documented various medical practices in these books, including the use of bleeding and home remedies for many common ailments. She also explains remedies for common agricultural injuries such as burns, fractures, dislocations, and cuts. [66] Hildegard may have used the books to teach assistants at the monastery. These books are historically significant because they show areas of medieval medicine that were not well documented because their practitioners (mainly women) rarely wrote in Latin. Her writings were commentated on by Mélanie Lipinska, a Polish scientist. [72]

In addition to its wealth of practical evidence, Causae et Curae is also noteworthy for its organizational scheme. Its first part sets the work within the context of the creation of the cosmos and then humanity as its summit, and the constant interplay of the human person as microcosm both physically and spiritually with the macrocosm of the universe informs all of Hildegard's approach. [40] Her hallmark is to emphasize the vital connection between the "green" health of the natural world and the holistic health of the human person. Viriditas, or greening power, was thought to sustain human beings and could be manipulated by adjusting the balance of elements within a person. [66] Thus, when she approached medicine as a type of gardening, it was not just as an analogy. Rather, Hildegard understood the plants and elements of the garden as direct counterparts to the humors and elements within the human body, whose imbalance led to illness and disease. [66]

Thus, the nearly three hundred chapters of the second book of Causae et Curae "explore the etiology, or causes, of disease as well as human sexuality, psychology, and physiology." [40] In this section, she gives specific instructions for bleeding based on various factors, including gender, the phase of the moon (bleeding is best done when the moon is waning), the place of disease (use veins near diseased organ or body part) or prevention (big veins in arms), and how much blood to take (described in imprecise measurements, like "the amount that a thirsty person can swallow in one gulp"). She even includes bleeding instructions for animals to keep them healthy. In the third and fourth sections, Hildegard describes treatments for malignant and minor problems and diseases according to the humoral theory, again including information on animal health. The fifth section is about diagnosis and prognosis, which includes instructions to check the patient's blood, pulse, urine and stool. [66] Finally, the sixth section documents a lunar horoscope to provide an additional means of prognosis for both disease and other medical conditions, such as conception and the outcome of pregnancy. [40] For example, she indicates that a waxing moon is good for human conception and is also good for sowing seeds for plants (sowing seeds is the plant equivalent of conception). [66] Elsewhere, Hildegard is even said to have stressed the value of boiling drinking water in an attempt to prevent infection. [73]

As Hildegard elaborates the medical and scientific relationship between the human microcosm and the macrocosm of the universe, she often focuses on interrelated patterns of four: "the four elements (fire, air, water, and earth), the four seasons, the four humors, the four zones of the earth, and the four major winds." [40] Although she inherited the basic framework of humoral theory from ancient medicine, Hildegard's conception of the hierarchical inter-balance of the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) was unique, based on their correspondence to "superior" and "inferior" elements—blood and phlegm corresponding to the "celestial" elements of fire and air, and the two biles corresponding to the "terrestrial" elements of water and earth. Hildegard understood the disease-causing imbalance of these humors to result from the improper dominance of the subordinate humors. This disharmony reflects that introduced by Adam and Eve in the Fall, which for Hildegard marked the indelible entrance of disease and humoral imbalance into humankind. [40] As she writes in Causae et Curae c. 42:

It happens that certain men suffer diverse illnesses. This comes from the phlegm which is superabundant within them. For if man had remained in paradise, he would not have had the flegmata within his body, from which many evils proceed, but his flesh would have been whole and without dark humor [livor]. However, because he consented to evil and relinquished good, he was made into a likeness of the earth, which produces good and useful herbs, as well as bad and useless ones, and which has in itself both good and evil moistures. From tasting evil, the blood of the sons of Adam was turned into the poison of semen, out of which the sons of man are begotten. And therefore their flesh is ulcerated and permeable [to disease]. These sores and openings create a certain storm and smoky moisture in men, from which the flegmata arise and coagulate, which then introduce diverse infirmities to the human body. All this arose from the first evil, which man began at the start, because if Adam had remained in paradise, he would have had the sweetest health, and the best dwelling-place, just as the strongest balsam emits the best odor but on the contrary, man now has within himself poison and phlegm and diverse illnesses. [74]

Lingua ignota and Litterae ignotae Edit

Hildegard also invented an alternative alphabet. Litterae ignotae (Alternate Alphabet) was another work and was more or less a secret code, or even an intellectual code – much like a modern crossword puzzle today.

Hildegard's Lingua ignota (Unknown Language) consisted of a series of invented words that corresponded to an eclectic list of nouns. The list is approximately 1000 nouns there are no other parts of speech. [75] The two most important sources for the Lingua ignota are the Wiesbaden, Hessische Landesbibliothek 2 (nicknamed the Riesenkodex) [75] and the Berlin MS. [41] In both manuscripts, medieval German and Latin glosses are written above Hildegard's invented words. The Berlin MS contains additional Latin and German glosses not found in the Riesenkodex. [41] The first two words of the Lingua as copied in the Berlin MS are: Aigonz (German, goth Latin, deus [English God) and Aleganz (German engel Latin angelus [English angel]). [76]

Barbara Newman believes that Hildegard used her Lingua Ignota to increase solidarity among her nuns. [77] Sarah Higley disagrees and notes that there is no evidence of Hildegard teaching the language to her nuns. She suggests that the language was not intended to remain a secret rather, the presence of words for mundane things may indicate that the language was for the whole abbey and perhaps the larger monastic world. [41] Higley believes that "the Lingua is a linguistic distillation of the philosophy expressed in her three prophetic books: it represents the cosmos of divine and human creation and the sins that flesh is air to." [41]

The text of her writing and compositions reveals Hildegard's use of this form of modified medieval Latin, encompassing many invented, conflated and abridged words. [13] Because of her inventions of words for her lyrics and use of a constructed script, many conlangers look upon her as a medieval precursor. [78]

During her lifetime Edit

Maddocks claims that it is likely Hildegard learned simple Latin and the tenets of the Christian faith but was not instructed in the Seven Liberal Arts, which formed the basis of all education for the learned classes in the Middle Ages: the Trivium of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric plus the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. [79] The correspondence she kept with the outside world, both spiritual and social, transcended the cloister as a space of spiritual confinement and served to document Hildegard's grand style and strict formatting of medieval letter writing. [80] [81]

Contributing to Christian European rhetorical traditions, Hildegard "authorized herself as a theologian" through alternative rhetorical arts. [80] Hildegard was creative in her interpretation of theology. She believed that her monastery should exclude novices who were not from the nobility because she did not want her community to be divided on the basis of social status. [82] She also stated that "woman may be made from man, but no man can be made without a woman." [33]

Because of church limitation on public, discursive rhetoric, the medieval rhetorical arts included preaching, letter writing, poetry, and the encyclopedic tradition. [83] Hildegard's participation in these arts speaks to her significance as a female rhetorician, transcending bans on women's social participation and interpretation of scripture. The acceptance of public preaching by a woman, even a well-connected abbess and acknowledged prophet, does not fit the stereotype of this time. Her preaching was not limited to the monasteries she preached publicly in 1160 in Germany. (New York: Routledge, 2001, 9). She conducted four preaching tours throughout Germany, speaking to both clergy and laity in chapter houses and in public, mainly denouncing clerical corruption and calling for reform. [84]

Many abbots and abbesses asked her for prayers and opinions on various matters. [1] She traveled widely during her four preaching tours. [85] She had several devoted followers, including Guibert of Gembloux, who wrote to her frequently and became her secretary after Volmar's death in 1173. Hildegard also influenced several monastic women, exchanging letters with Elisabeth of Schönau, a nearby visionary. [86]

Hildegard corresponded with popes such as Eugene III and Anastasius IV, statesmen such as Abbot Suger, German emperors such as Frederick I Barbarossa, and other notable figures such as Bernard of Clairvaux, who advanced her work, at the behest of her abbot, Kuno, at the Synod of Trier in 1147 and 1148. Hildegard of Bingen's correspondence is an important component of her literary output. [87]

Veneration Edit

Hildegard was one of the first persons for whom the Roman canonization process was officially applied, but the process took so long that four attempts at canonization were not completed and she remained at the level of her beatification. Her name was nonetheless taken up in the Roman Martyrology at the end of the 16th century. Her feast is 17 September. [88] Numerous popes have referred to Hildegard as a saint, including Pope John Paul II [89] and Pope Benedict XVI. [90] Hildegard's parish and pilgrimage church in Eibingen near Rüdesheim houses her relics. [91]

On 10 May 2012, Pope Benedict XVI extended the veneration of Saint Hildegard to the entire Catholic Church [92] in a process known as "equivalent canonization," [93] thus laying the groundwork for naming her a Doctor of the Church. [94] On 7 October 2012, the feast of the Holy Rosary, the pope named her a Doctor of the Church. [95] He called Hildegard "perennially relevant" and "an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music." [96]

Hildegard of Bingen also appears in the calendar of saints of various Anglican churches, such as that of the Church of England, in which she is commemorated on 17 September. [97] [98]

Modern interest Edit

In recent years, Hildegard has become of particular interest to feminist scholars. [99] They note her reference to herself as a member of the weaker sex and her rather constant belittling of women. Hildegard frequently referred to herself as an unlearned woman, completely incapable of Biblical exegesis. [100] Such a statement on her part, however, worked to her advantage because it made her statements that all of her writings and music came from visions of the Divine more believable, therefore giving Hildegard the authority to speak in a time and place where few women were permitted a voice. [101] Hildegard used her voice to amplify the church's condemnation of institutional corruption, in particular simony.

Hildegard has also become a figure of reverence within the contemporary New Age movement, mostly because of her holistic and natural view of healing, as well as her status as a mystic. Though her medical writings were long neglected, and then studied without reference to their context, [102] she was the inspiration for Dr. Gottfried Hertzka's "Hildegard-Medicine", and is the namesake for June Boyce-Tillman's Hildegard Network, a healing center that focuses on a holistic approach to wellness and brings together people interested in exploring the links between spirituality, the arts, and healing. [103] Her reputation as a medicinal writer and healer was also used by early feminists to argue for women's rights to attend medical schools. [102] Hildegard's reincarnation has been debated since 1924 when Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner lectured that a nun of her description was the past life of Russian poet-philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, [104] whose Sophianic visions are often compared to Hildegard's. [105] Sophiologist Robert Powell writes that hermetic astrology proves the match, [106] while mystical communities in Hildegard's lineage include that of artist Carl Schroeder [107] as studied by Columbia sociologist Courtney Bender [108] and supported by reincarnation researchers Walter Semkiw and Kevin Ryerson. [109]

Recordings and performances of Hildegard's music have gained critical praise and popularity since 1979. There is an extensive discography of her musical works.

The following modern musical works are directly linked to Hildegard and her music or texts:

    : Aus den Visionen der Hildegard von Bingen, for contra alto solo, after a text of Hildegard of Bingen, 1994. : Hildegard von Bingen, a musical in 10 scenes, text: Jutta Richter, 1997. : Alma Redemptoris Mater. : Monatsbilder (nach Hildegard von Bingen), twelve songs for mezzo-soprano, clarinet and piano, 1997. with Jocelyn Montgomery: Lux Vivens (Living Light): The Music of Hildegard Von Bingen, 1998. : Hildegard von Bingen, a liturgical play with texts and music by Hildegard of Bingen, 1998. : Rainbow Body, for orchestra (2000) [110] : De visione secunda for double choir and percussion, 2011. : O splendidissima gemma. 2012. For alto solo and organ, text: Hildegard of Bingen. Commissioned composition for the declaration of Hildegard of Bingen as Doctor of the Church. [111] : Für Hildegard von Bingen, single from the 2013 album Mala. [112] : The Trillion Souls quotes Hildegard's O Ignee Spiritus[113]

The artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Hildegard. [114]

In space, the minor planet 898 Hildegard is named for her. [115]

In film, Hildegard has been portrayed by Patricia Routledge in a BBC documentary called Hildegard of Bingen (1994), [116] by Ángela Molina in Barbarossa (2009) [117] and by Barbara Sukowa in the film Vision, directed by Margarethe von Trotta. [118]

Hildegard was the subject of a 2012 fictionalized biographic novel Illuminations by Mary Sharatt. [119]

The plant genus Hildegardia is named after her because of her contributions to herbal medicine. [120]

Hildegard makes an appearance in The Baby-Sitters Club #101: Claudia Kishi, Middle School Drop-Out by Ann M. Martin, when Anna Stevenson dresses as Hildegard for Halloween. [121]

A feature documentary film, The Unruly Mystic: Saint Hildegard, was released by American director Michael M. Conti in 2014. [122]

The off-Broadway musical In the Green, written by Grace McLean, followed Hildegard's story. [123]

A Medieval Woman's Companion

Hildegard was a supreme woman in Medieval Germany. A poet, artist, musician, playwright, theologian, scientist, and doctor of medicine, she changed the way we see both the world and a woman’s place in it. In addition to her incredible artistic and scientific accomplishments, Hildegard is important because her writings exemplify how it is possible to gain respect and credibility in the face of unjust prejudice. Barbara Newman, a renowned expert on Hildegard, notes that Hildegard embraced her inherent feminine qualities, rather than trying to imitate the powerful men who dominated her society. In other words, Hildegard had faith in her abilities and accepted herself for the strong woman that she was. Through Hildegard’s incredible accomplishments, she proved that anyone who struggles to achieve greatness in the face of prejudice can make remarkable contributions to any field of study.

Hildegard’s Music

To find out all about Hildegard’s music, see a beautiful site by composer Eric Chapelle, look here.

Plate Representing Hildegard.

Hildegard’s Philosophy

Hildegard had extremely progressive ideas of microcosm and macrocosm. Her visions suggested that similar patterns are reproduced on all levels of the cosmos. This video of fractals is a great visual representation of the concept of microcosm and macrocosm because it shows a series of images that are the same in the large and small scale.

Hildegard the Playwright

This play is the oldest morality play by far (more than 100 years). It is the only Medieval musical to survive with text and music.

Hildegard’s Holistic Medicine

Oats “provide a rich mind and clear intellect.” They also provide “good color and healthy flesh” For the person who is worn out, and suffering from a “split mind” or “empty thoughts,” they should take a hot bath and pour in the warm water that the oats were boiled in. If they do this often, they will “return to themselves and regain sanity.” (Hildegard, 7)

Peas make a person courageous (9).

Whoever suffers from pain in the internal organs should cook broad beans in water, add animal fat, or oil, separate the beans from the water and drink the water. If a person does this often it will heal them inwardly (11).

Hemp is “healthy for healthy people to eat it.” It “takes away the bad humors and makes the good humors strong”. However, if a person is “weak in the head” or has a” vacant mind”, they should not eat hemp because it can easily give them a headache (13).

“purifies the senses and brings a good disposition” Nutmeg has the capability to “calm all the bitterness of the heart and mind, open the heart and clouded senses, and make the mind joyful” (24).

For someone suffering from a loss of appetite, pepper can help them “put aside their loathing for food” (22).

Cumin can be useful for a person suffering from congestion (23).

Licorice can be “beneficial to the “insane” person if eaten often because it “exstinguishes the furor in a persons head” (24).

Cinnamon diminishes the bad humors, and brings good humours to whoever eats it often (24).

“Whoever suffers from such stuffiness in the head that it is as if they were deaf eat cloves often and the stuffiness will diminish” (28).

Thyme is good for someone afflicted with scabies or unhealthy flesh (32).

Parsley “generates seriousness in the mind” (68).

Celery induces good humors in a person when cooked, but also induces a “wandering mind” (71)

who have Onion is not good for “a sick and weak stomach, it creates suffering, either raw or cooked, because of its moisture” (78). (AKA it makes some people fart!)

THE POWER OF SCENT (Strehlow, 75)

For intelligence, concentration and wisdom: Lilly oil


To prevent viral infections and strengthen the immune system: Lavender oil

For depression: Rub fennel oil on temples, neck, or breast

For instructions on how to make cheap scented oils check out this site!

Strehlow, Wighard. Hildegard of Bingen’s Spiritual Remedies.

Rochester, VT: Healing Arts, 2002. Print.

Hildegard. Hildegard’s Healing Plants:. Boston: Beacon, 2001. Print.

Hildegard and the hidden power of Gemstones

Crystal therapy has been used in cultures around the world for thousands of years. The effectiveness of Crystal therapy is vouched for by former research chemist Dr. Wighard Strehlow, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than a decade. According to Dr. Wighard Strehlow, the healing energy of precious stones “absorbs the negative energy of abnormal thoughts and emotions,” such as anxiety, depression, distress, and other mental disorders.

Hildegard’s belief in the healing power of gemstones holds a logical foundation in the theory of the humors. In Medieval times, the body was viewed as a composition of the four elements, or four humors, and gemstones were seen as an effective treatment for illnesses caused by the imbalance of these humors because of the particular proportions of the elements of fire and water that arise in the stones during their formation.

Another advocate of crystal healing, Dr. Patrick B Massey, explains that the practice of rulers wearing crowns embedded with precious gemstones is rooted in the belief that these gemstones have healing capabilities.

Emeralds are effective against “all human weaknesses and infirmities”, because it is “brought forth by the sun” and springs from “the greenness of the air.” “For a pain in the heart, stomach or side, carry smaragdus about you to warm the flesh of your body, and it will feel better.”

“If illness strikes a person so suddenly that they can barely withstand its attack, then they should immediately put smaragdus in their mouth” and breathe in and out repeatedly.

For someone who is suffering from weakness of the eyes, hold hyacinth up to the sun, moisten it with saliva, and hold it over the eyes so that they are warmed by it. If this is done repeatedly the eyes will become clear and healthy.

Onyx “has great virtues against illnesses arising in the air.” “If you are oppressed with melancholy, focus your attention on the Onyx and then put it immediately into your mouth your mental depression will then cease.”

“Whoever keeps a piece of Beryl constantly about them, and frequently takes it in their hand and frequently focuses on it, will not easily argue with other people, nor will they be quarrelsome, but they will remain calm.”

Sardonyx can strengthen your intellect, knowledge, and “all the senses” of your body.

The effectiveness of crystal healing

“The effectiveness of the neurological influence of crystals and their tranquilizing effect on the brain can be observed in the electroencephalogram (EEG), which has been recorded under the influence of the Gold Topaz Prayer.” Despite the fact that the EEG might be influenced by the relaxing nature of the Gold Topaz Prayer experience, it is unlikely that the cross cultural tradition of gem therapy has been passed down for many generations without reason. As M.D, PHD, Patrick B. Massey explains: “Progress in medical therapy is not in a straight line. Discoveries that result in great improvements in medical care require a change in perception.”

The long tradition of gem cutting

The ancient art of gem cutting dates back to 70,000 BCE. To learn more about the history of gem cutting, click on the link below.

Strehlow, Wighard. Hildegard of Bingen’s Spiritual Remedies. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts, 2002. Print.

Selected Writings: Hildegard of Bingen. Mark Atherton, Trans. Penguin, 2001.

Watch the video: Hildegard von Bingen - Voice of the Blood (August 2022).