Monday, December 12, 2016

The Extraordinary Life of Hildegard of Bingen

Statue of Hildegard in Bingen’s Museum am Strom
(Photo credit: Bob Sessions)

Ashton Wooten
Grade 8

Hildegard of Bingen was a well-known female scientist and Christian mystic. She also was a Benedictine abbess and a prolific writer. She was born in 1098 in West Franconia in Germany to a noble family. Hildegard was the youngest of ten children.

When she was 8 years old, her parents offered her to the Benedictine monastery at the Disibodenburg. It was a custom that the tenth child to be offered as a tithe to God.

At the monastery her mentor was a wise woman named Jutta. She taught Hildegard how to read and write. Hildegard was with her until she was 18. Hildegard, Jutta, and some other women formed a Benedictine covenant.

When Jutta died in 1136 Hildegard became abbess. Her duties as abbess involved the spiritual formation and supervision of nuns, nursing, illuminating manuscripts, and travel in Germany and France. Benedict XVI proclaimed her a “doctor” of the church.

When she was the abbess, she decided to move the convent to Rupertsburg. She separated the women’s ministry from the men’s. The abbot opposed this decision, but the new convent was founded in 1150. The Rupertsburg convent grew to as much as 50 women. Most of the women came from very wealthy backgrounds.

She began having visions at age 3. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also had a remarkable vision when she was 42 years old. She wrote 3 great volumes of visionary theology: Dendermonde, Ghent, and Riesenkodex. All of these writings were later translated into English. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also wrote two treaties. They were called Physica and Causae et Curae. Another thing she wrote was The Book of the Merits of Life.

She also wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts. Also, she wrote 77 poems during her lifetime. She also wrote a musical morality play called Ordo Virtutum. Most of her hymns have been performed and recorded by Sequentia.

She rebuked church leaders for spiritual abuse. She criticized the abuses of the Roman Catholic church before Martin Luther. She did several controversial speaking tours around the Rhineland.

Hildegard died the day before her 81st birthday in 1179. She died in Rupertsburg. She was buried in her convent church. The convent church where she was buried was destroyed by the Swedes in 1632. There is a shrine dedicated to her in Einbigen, Hessen Germany.

People also have created a pilgrim trail in honor of Hildegard. Hildegard's legacy lives on in the nearby Hildegard Forum, founded by the Sisters of the Cross that sponsor workshops and classes inspired by Hildegard’s teachings.

Hildegard is considered to be the founder of scientific history in Germany. She was called Sybil of the Rhine. She was known for keeping records of experiments with herbs and other plants. She suffered from migraines and that is how she discovered the healing properties of many plants. She discovered the healing properties of many plants. She studied phyto-medicine which is medicine made from plants and herbs. She also discovered plants that calm the nerves such as lemon balm, passion flower, catnip, and valerian.

Even though she was a strong woman, Hildegard considered herself a poor weak woman. She was extremely humble. She should be remembered for all of her discoveries and her writings. She pioneered herbal medicines that laid the basis for some of the medicines that we have today.

Related reading: Hildegard von Bingen's Life of Service

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