HILDEGARD
of
BINGEN
 

 

HILDEGARD of BINGEN (1098–1179), Benedictine Abbess of Rupertsberg, near Bingen. Born of a noble family in Bermersheim, near Alzey, she was apparently subject to supernatural religious experiences from early childhood. At the age of 8 she was entrusted to the care of Bl. Jutta, a recluse attached to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg (near the convergence of the Rivers Glan and Nahe), and on Jutta’s death in 1136 she succeeded her as Abbess of the community which had gathered round her.

   Under the direction of her confessor, in 1141 she began to record some of her visions. Having won the approval of the Abp. of Mainz, between 1141 and 1151 she dictated her Scivias (prob. intended as an abbreviation of ‘scito vias [viventis luminis])’. Meanwhile Eugenius III, under the influence of St Bernard of Clairvaux, gave his guarded approbation of sections of that work and permission to continue writing (1147/8). Sometime between 1147 and 1152 she moved her community to Rupertsberg, near Bingen, where a large convent was built. Thence she undertook many journeys in the Rhineland and, prob. in 1165, founded a daughter house at Eibingen, near Rüdesheim. Towards the end of her life she had difficulty with the Chapter of Mainz, and for a short time the convent was placed under an interdict.

Hildegard seems to have exerted a wide influence, numbering the Emp. Frederick Barbarossa and various kings, prelates, and saints among her correspondents. The basis of her writings was an awareness of her divinely appointed office as prophetess, in the conception of which she was indebted to Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite and John Scottus Erigena. Her Scivias, divided into three books containing 26 visions, combines insights into the nature of man and the world with her vision of salvation-history leading to the Last Judgement, a theme which is also taken up in her letters. It was followed by the Liber vitae meritorum in six books (1158–63), which is devoted to the disputation of the virtues and vices before the Divine Man and her visions of the joys and torments with which they are rewarded in the afterlife. Her third major work, the Liber divinorum operum in three books (1163–1173/4), contains visions of the cosmos, the earth, and created things. This work, like the Scivias, was provided with remarkable illustrations. An important element in the Scivias is a body of dramatic songs, also used in her musical play, the Ordo virtutum. Her remaining works include musical compositions (77 carmina), letters, theological treatises, and two important medical texts, the Physica and the Causae et curae, which reflect a degree of scientific observation unusual at the time. In later times various anticlerical prophecies came to be associated with her name. Miracles, already reported during her life, multiplied at her tomb after her death. Various efforts to secure her canonization during the 13th and 14th cents. were unsuccessful; but from the 15th cent. she is called a saint in the Roman Martyrology. Feast day, 17 Sept. (observed in several German dioceses).


A number of her works are collected in J. P. Migne, PL 197 (incl. the Scivias, Liber divinorum operum, the Physica, and letters, but the text is very corrupt); further works (notably the Liber vitae meritorum, Expositiones evangeliorum and additional letters) ed. J. B. Pitra, Analecta sacra, 8 (Paris, 1882; repr. Farnborough, 1966). Scivias, ed. J. Faber Stapulensis, Liber trium virorum et trium spiritualium virginum (Paris, 1513), fols. 28-118v; crit. edn. by A. Führkötter, OSB, and A. Carlevaris, OSB (CCCM 43-43A; 1978); Liber vitae meritorum, ed. A. Carlevaris, OSB (ibid. 90; 1995); Liber divinorum operum, ed. A. Derolez and P. Dronke (ibid. 92; 1996); Carmina, ed., with Ger. tr., P. Barth and others (Salzburg [1969]); Sequences and Hymns, selected and ed., with Eng. tr., C. Page (Newton Abbot [1982]); Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, ed., with Eng. tr. and comm. (but without the music), by B. Newman (1988); Ordo virtutum, ed. [E.] P. [M.] Dronke, Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1970), pp. 180–92, 202–31; Causae et curae (Liber compositae medicinae), ed. P. Kaiser (Teub., 1903); Epistolarium, ed. L. Van Acker and M. Klaes-Heckmöller (CCCM 91, 91A, 91B; 1991–2001). Eng. trs. of Scivias by C. Hart and J. Bishop (Classics of Western Spirituality [1990]); of Liber divinorum operum with letters and songs by M. Fox (Santa Fe, NM [1987]); of Ordo virtutum by [E.] P. [M.] Dronke, Nine Medieval Latin Plays (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 147–84 (incl. introd., notes, and Latin text); of Liber vitae meritorum (Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 89B; New York, etc., 1994); of selections from Causae et curae by M. Berger (Library of Medieval Women, Cambridge, 1999); and of letter book by J. L. Baird and R. K. Ehrmann (3 vols., New York and Oxford, 1994–2004). Ger. tr. of letters by A. Führkötter, OSB (Salzburg [1965]).

The contemporary Life by Godefridus, cont. by Theodericus, pr. in AASS, Sept. 5 (1755), pp. 629–701 (repr. J. P. Migne, PL 197. 91–140); crit. edn. by M. Klaes (CCCM 126; 1993); repr., with Ger. tr. by id. (Fontes Christiani; 29; Freiburg, etc. [1998]). Acta inquisitionis de virtutibus et miraculis S. Hildegardis, ed. P. Bruder, Anal. Boll. 2 (1883), pp. 116–29. H. Liebeschütz, Das allegorische Weltbild der heiligen Hildegard von Bingen (Leipzig and Berlin, 1930; repr. Darmstadt 1964). [E.] P. [M.] Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 144–201. B. Newman, Sister of Wisdom: St Hildegard’s theology of the feminine (Aldershot, 1987). S. Flanagan, Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179: A Visionary Life (1989). L. Moulinier, Le Manuscrit perdu à Strasbourg: Enquête sur l’œuvre scientifique de Hildegarde (Publications de la Sorbonne, Série Histoire Ancienne et Médiévale, 35; 1995). Ä. Bäumer, Wisse die Wege: Leben und Werk Hildegards von Bingen (Frankfurt a. Main [1998]). C. Burnett and P. Dronke (eds.), Hildegard of Bingen: The Context of her Thought and Art (Warburg Institute Colloquia, 4; 1998). M. B. McInerney (ed.), Hildegard of Bingen: A Book of Essays (Garland reference library of the humanities, 2037; New York and London, 1998). L. E. Saurma-Jeltsch, Die Miniaturen imLiber scivias der Hildegard von Bingen (Wiesbaden, 1998). M.-A. Aris and others (eds.), Hildegard von Bingen: Internationale wissenschaftliche Bibliographie (Mainz, 1998). M. Schrader, OSB, in Dict. Sp. 7 (pt. 1; 1969), cols. 505–21; C. Meier in Verfasserlexikon (2nd edn.), 3 (1981), cols. 1257–80, with suppl. by M. Embach, ibid. 11 (‘2003’), cols. 658–70.


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