Hildegard was an extraordinary 12th century Benedictine abbess,
mystic, visionary, prophet and polymath known for her work as a writer,
philosopher, composer, poet, playwright, linguist, scientist,
physician and more.
Born: 1098 Bermersheim, Germany
Parents: Hildebert and Mechtilde (Matilda), an aristocratic family
Siblings: She was the 10th and last child
Partners: none - she was a celibate nun
Died: 17 September 1179
Cause of death: old age
Grave: Parish church, Eibingen, Hessen, Germany
She was a prolific writer and wrote many books on a variety of subjects including theology, poetry, music, medicine, nature and science.
Her best known work is 'Scivias' (Know the Ways of God) based on her visions and which took her 10 years to write.
Her writings earned her the nickname 'Sybil of the Rhine'
Unusually for a woman she was an active preacher and embarked on various preaching tours of the country. Reform of the clergy was one of her main aims.
An essay by Sabina Flanagan describes her works here
Music is an important part of convent life and she was an accomplished musician. She composed 77 chants and the first musical play in history.
There is an interesting explanation of the importance of her music here
As a child she was sickly and of poor health. From an early age she experienced visions which deeply affected her. Some modern theories attribute these to intense migraine attacks.
In later life she was very dynamic and had a prolific output of work.
She became a celebrity and her advice was sought by the rich and powerful as well as by common folk.
"All the arts serving human desires and needs are derived from the breath that God sent into the human body."
"Sometimes when we hear a song we breathe deeply and sigh. This reminds the prophet that the soul arises from heavenly harmony. In thinking about this, he was aware that the soul itself has something in itself of this music..."
- Being a 10th child she was given over to the church (tithed) as was the custom at that time.
- So at 8 years old she was put into the care of Jutta, a relative who was abbess of a convent of Benedictine nuns.
- She took her vows to become a num while still a teenager.
- 1136 (age 38) Jutta died and Hildegard was appointed abbess.
- Age 49, her writings came to the attention of Pope Eugenius III who approved of her work and instructed her to continue.
- Age 57 she began a series of four preaching tours around Europe promoting Catholicism and her theories of medicine and science.
- She became known as the Sybil of the Rhine.
At last she has been canonised, in May 2012, which makes her the record holder for the longest canonisation process in history! She was also made a 'Doctor of the Church' - a rare honour for a woman.
She had been known though as 'Saint Hildegard' for a long time before this official confirmation.
Answers.com various reference sites including Wikipedia
Biography and family history at classical-composers.org
More links at hildegard.org
Artwork by Hildegard
Biography by Norma Gentile
An article by Leroy Huizenga
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Hildegard postage stamp and other gifts available from
BBC documentary available from Amazon UK