by Isabel del Rio
Hildegard of Bingen was born in Bermersheim (Rhineland-Palatinate) in September 16, 1098, and died in the monastery of Rupertsberg (Bingen) in September 17, 1179.
She was the tenth child of a noble family and her parents felt that they had to give her daughter to God as “tithing.” Thus, she entered in Disibodenberg monastery with 14. It was a convent for men which had a small section for women (the separation of the sexes was not too severe at that time). The Abbess Jutta taught her Latin and music, and Hildegard succeeded Jutta in office after her death in 1136.
Today, historians say that she suffered migraines but in the twelfth century, people say they were mystical attacks. In any case, her ‘visions’ were the visions of a great writer and the Pope Eugenio III liked her writings (specially her first book: Scivias) and ordered her to keep on spreading her experiences. Hildegard became an active preacher and, therefore, a traveler (the closure was neither very severe in the High Middle Ages).
The visions were a fantastic thing, since she could justify that God had commanded her to open a new convent with its growing community of nuns in Rupertsberg. The monks of Disibodenberg objected, but the Pope and the Archbishop of Mainz supported her (it is not easy to resist the commands of God). In her new convent, with secretaries and scriptorium, Hildegard wrote Physica (a medical book) and a collection of songs: Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum, among other books and an extensive correspondence.
In 1165 (being famous for her sermons and writings), she founded a second convent in Eibingen without resorting to visions (when a person is famous, it could save the esoteric justifications). From then, she will spend half of the week in Rupertsberg and the other half in Eibingen, and among trips and fervently discussions of interesting themes for that time: what to do with the Cathar heretics or how and where to bury them … (In her honor, we must say that she will always opted to defend people and only to condemn their faults, and she always interceded to prevent death or torture). She became ‘the Sibyl of the Rhine.’
In the Liber Divinorum Operum (The Book of Divine Works, 1163-1174), Hildegard included beautiful paintings because she liked all of the arts.
She was an exceptional woman. A true humanist three centuries before the word became fashionable. A brave person who faced the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and his anti-popes. A traveler, thinker, scientist, writer, musician and painter … It is not surprising, because the rigidity of view and behaviors never formed part of the adjectives which can describe her biography.