Lesson #9: Hildegard von Bingen, Abbess of Disibodenburg (1098–1179)
At age eight, she was dedicated to God as an anchorite at the monastery of Disibodenburg
in Germany. Despite being confined to her tiny cell, she displayed precocious spiritual
and intellectual gifts in reading, writing, music, and Latin, to such an extent that
by the time she was in her teens, other monastics were clamoring to study with her.
Elected abbess of her convent, Hildegard wielded as much earthly power as many a
secular ruler. She pursued a remarkable career as administrator, herbalist, mystic,
composer, and playwright, always stressing God's goodness and mercy. By the end of
her long life she was famed far beyond her convent walls, advising (and sometimes
chastising) popes, princes, and potentates. Both her music and her writings are enjoying
renewed popularity today.
[I might add that I have my own collection of Hildegard von Bingen music CDs, some
of the best Gregorian chant and choral music pieces for women ever written. Hildegard
was one of the first composers of medieval sacred music actually to write down her
songs in a musical format which is still decipherable today, so we know what they
sounded like. - HAC]