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Hildegardplastik Bingen

Saint Hildegard of Bingen

Abbess, theologian, visionary, counsellor, and naturalist healer

Hildegard of Bingen is one of the most important women of the Middle Ages. Apart from her significance as a theologian, she is considered to have been visionary and a naturopath. The exact date and place of her birth are unknown, but she was probably born in the summer of 1098 in the Rupertsberg monastery near Bingen on the Rhine. As the tenth child, she was destined to devote her life to the church. She joined the Disibodenberg convent at an early age.

Throughout her entire life, Hildegard suffered under health limitations. Nonetheless, she also described visions which she experienced from an early age and that she dictated to a monk and a nun to be put in writing in 1141. She herself was neither able to speak nor write Latin. Her most important religious work is the "Liber Scivias Domini" ("Know the ways of the Lord"), of which the original has been missing since World War II.

Easing of strict ascetic rules of life

Towards the end of the 40's of the 12th century and despite resistance by the Disibodenberg monastery, Hildegard founded a convent for noblewomen on the Rupertsberg near Bingen. In no time it became a powerful abbey, due only to the fact that Hildegard had important advocates in the clergy. The strict monastery rules foresaw that one would remain in the monastery of entry. Even earlier Hildegard had begun to loosen the harsh ascetic rules of life in her nearer surroundings. The accounts of her visions fascinated her contemporaries and Hildegard went on four preaching tours, which was highly unusual for a woman of her time. Before long, she decided to build a second monastery near the town Eibingen on the other side of the Rhine River. Up to a very old age, Hildegard visited this monastery twice weekly to fulfil her duties as abbess.

For those days, Hildegard was a very influential woman. She corresponded with the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, advised him at the Reichtag in Ingelheim and did not even hesitate to criticize him for establishing an antipope. When she allowed the burial of an excommunicated nobleman in sacred ground on the Rupertsberg though the situation escalated to an "interdict", the prohibiting of sacraments, by the Bishop of Mainz. After two long years, the interdict was finally lifted, but the relationship with her close confidant Richardis von Stade had become very conflictual. Hildegard was supposed to become the new abbess of the Bassum monastery in Northern Germany, but she refused to release the sister of the Archbishop of Bremen. Her intervention with the pope remained unsuccessful.

Others openly criticized Hildegard's principle of accepting only noblewomen in the monastery, the donations from these families provided a comfortable financial cushion for the monastery. Although according to contemporary reports, this could not be substantiated by any impressive buildings.

A polymath

Hildegard was interested in religious music, drama and medicine. After 1150 she composed "Causae et Curae" - (cause and effect) a book about the origin and cure of various diseases.

Hildegard died on 17 September 1179 at the age 82 and was buried on the Rupertsberg. Soon after her death her process of canonization began, and came to a provisional peak at the end of 2012 with her inclusion in the general calendar of saints and her being named Doctor of the Church by Benedikt XVI.  

Discover the Disibodenberg and the Home of Hildegard!

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