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HSC Christianity Significant People Hildegard of Bingen

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1 HSC Christianity Significant People Hildegard of Bingen
German visionary, theologian & polymath (1098 – 1179)

2 Hildegard in a nutshell
Hildegard von Bingen ( ) was called the ‘Sibyl of the Rhine’. She was a 12th century abbess who won a remarkable reputation as a visionary, writer and diplomat. In a time when women were rarely consulted about anything, she advised bishops, kings and the Pope himself. She wrote major treatises on theology, natural history and the healing power of plants and animals, and was revered as a natural healer and for her many visions. Her musical legacy, consisting of original monophonic settings of her religious poetry, usually in honour of saints and the Virgin Mary, still has the power to move those who hear it.

3 Hildegard – an abridged timeline
1098 – born Bokelheim (in present West Germany); 10th child (promised to the Church) 1106ff – raised by the anchoress Jutta in a hermitage that later became a Benedictine monastery 1113 – takes vows as a nun 1136 – elected head of Disibodenberg convent 1130 – begins to receive visions 1138ff – writes down visions in Scivias etc 1150 – moves to new monastery at Bingen, on banks of the Rhine River 1171 – last of 4 preaching tours ends 1179 – dies aged 81 1300s – her name begins to appear in martyrologies 1324 – John XXII allows her cult Today – title ‘Blessed’; efforts still ongoing to achieve her canonisation Each year on 17 September – Hildegard’s feast day; she is celebrated as a saint in the Rhineland Remains of Disibodenberg convent – see 1136 C.E.

4 Hildegard’s writings – a key contribution to Christianity
Scivias (1151) Symphonia, collection of religious songs (1158) The Book of Life’s Merits (c.1163) The Book of Divine Works (c.1173); also lives of local saints, various musical, scientific & medical works The Unknown Language, & The Unknown Alphabet (both by 1158) written in a private language she had invented By c.1158 became known as the ‘Sibyl of the Rhine’; and undertook preaching tours; her sermons had great impact but are unrecorded

5 Hildegard – life of ‘connected knowing’ Hildegard’s contributions in a Venn diagram

6 Hildegard’s contribution to Christianity? (1)
explain the contribution to the development and expression of Christianity of Hildegard of Bingen Explain = relates cause and effect, the relationship between aspects of something, the why and how behind it

7 Hildegard’s contribution – development and expression (2)
HER EFFECT ON D’MENT & EXPRESSION OF CHRISTIANITY Women as mystics and interpreters of Christianity Spawned imitators such as Brigitte of Sweden, Mechtild of Magdeburg Some trace roots of modern feminism back to Hildegard & her life Her involvement and talents, plus these writing themes challenge and inspire those today seeking deeper spirituality Female mystical writings taken seriously and not dismissed as ‘experiential’ or ‘hysterical’ or probably written by a man? HILDEGARD’S CONTRIBUTION The visions and revelations she began to receive at the age of 32 Visionary writings, prophecy, leadership roles Expanded role of some women in medieval society Writings and practice on medicine, plays, poetry, music and founding of two nunneries; plus themes of humility, obedience, & discretion Before Hildegard, women’s visionary experiences were dismissed as linked to neurosis or disease (e.g. migraine, hysteria, anorexia nervosa, and so on

8 Hildegard’s contribution – development and expression (3)
Hildegard’s life and contributions come to light in 1950s; some accessible treatments in 1980s, and are studied closely (Bynum, in Hart & Bishop, p.1) Hildegard’s poetry, chants and dramas (Ibid, pp.1-2) H. concerned about order, the abuse of authority; she did not call for radical change (Newman, in Hart & Bishop, p.20) H. zealous for orthodoxy and deeply troubled about hierarchy’s failure to act against Cathars (Ibid, pp.20-21) HER EFFECT ON D’MENT & EXPRESSION OF CHR’TY Renewed academic interest & credibility for women’s history & for women’s piety & theological writings These works by H. now performed in colleges & churches worldwide Many of her observations still relevant despite different time As above, many observations still relevant re. when hierarchy acts and does not act; learning the lessons of history

9 Hildegard’s contribution – development and expression (4)
H. treatment of apocalyptic; she did not envisage a near Second Coming; she was deeply concerned with the whole of salvation history Her main work Scivias [vias Domini] (Know the ways of the Lord) is divided into three sections – creation, redemption, santification HER EFFECT ON D’MENT & EXPRESSION OF CHR’TY Her interpretations still relevant; looking at all the biblical evidence These cycles and her reflections still influential today

10 Vision One – God enthroned: the great mountain of iron
‘I saw a great mountain the colour of iron, and enthroned on it One of such great glory that it blinded my sight…[the mountain] symbolises the strength and stability of the eternal Kingdom of God, which no fluctuation of mutability can destroy, and the One enthroned upon it of such great glory that it blinds your sight is the One in the Kingdom of Beatitude who rules the world with celestial divinity in the brilliance of unfading serenity, but it is incomprehensible to human minds’

11 Hildegard’s contribution
WE FIND THE SAINT THAT SUITS OUR ERA …our own era has distorted the image of Hildegard the feminist, the liberationist, the ‘creation-centred mystic’, the holistic health practitioner, the prophet of ecological justice This model has proven useful and inspiring to many, but it contains a grain (but only a grain) of historical truth. The image of a saint is a work in progress and one of synergy. “A saintly life is the joint creation of the era that produces the saint and the era that venerates him or her’

12 Hildegard’s contribution
Projection of our own agendas – we do not enter their world but project our own concerns on to them e.g. they weren’t radical enough, feminist enough Concerning Hildegard, it is important to realise that her aim was not to eliminate the church or its authorities but to challenge sin and vice Reductionism – not recognising the complexities of the world in which, e.g. Hildegard lived (not monochrome) Missing the point – e.g. Hildegard refers to herself as ‘filth and ashes’; is her medieval viewpoint, not low self esteem or reflection of misogyny Over-Psychologising – applying Freud in a pre-Freudian, medieval era; their focus on sin and damnation cannot be dismissed as a psychological hang-up, but an essential part of their medieval worldview (refer to Venn chart, slide 11) .

13 The impact of Hildegard on Christianity? (1)
analyse the impact of Hildegard on Christianity Analyse = identify components and the relationship between components; draw out and relate implications Looks at the relationship between Hildegard and Christianity, including her impact on Christianity

14 Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity
Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity? Paradox & ambivalence (2) Sense of inferiority as a female, yet fierce castigation of clergy Women prohibited from holding priestly office, & usually forbidden to preach or act as a spiritual counsellor. Also cut off from new scholastic education of the time; yet H. preached on long tours (begun when she was 60) and advised Popes H very free in her artistic expression yet limited in her acceptance of wealthy women into her convent (class restrictions) H’s writings are not devotional; in reading them we do not feel but ‘see’; she uses her visions as exegetical or teaching tools

15 Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity
Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity? Paradox & ambivalence (4) Occupies a central place at the crossroads of twelfth century religious & secular culture Rich heritage reflected in her writings still continues to inspire – Bible, liturgy, Benedictine Rule, Church Fathers, plus rich oral tradition Influence of classical Benedictine theology and her ‘unique voice’ – prophetic mission, original poetic gifts, and her feminine self-awareness

16 Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity
Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity? Paradox & ambivalence (5) Finally, Hildegard was the classical ‘twelfth-century Renaissance woman before the Renaissance’ Her greatest impact was her systematic review of Christian doctrine, scientific & cosmological interests, her deep learning, her unique still, her brilliant use of symbols, her artistic gifts in poetry, music and drama In short, it is the complexity, variety and sheer intellectual difficulty of H’s opus that marks her uniqueness

17 Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity
Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity? Paradox & ambivalence (6) THEOLOGY OF HOLY SPIRIT Holy Spirit, giving life to all life, moving all creatures, root of all things, washing them clean, wiping out their mistakes, healing their wounds, you are our true life, luminous, wonderful, awakening the heart from its ancient sleep Wrote Physica (Natural Sciences), the first book by a women which discusses plants, trees and herbs in relation to their medicinal properties

18 Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity
Hildegard’s (long term) impact on Christianity? Paradox & ambivalence (7) DERMATOLOGY Probably the first woman to write about skin diseases and their therapies. Her book Causae et curae (Holistic healing) covers forms of leprosy, scabies, lice, insect bites, burns, etc Healing through the skin also plays an important role – e.g. remedies for diseases; uses rubbings, baths, warming, sauna, cupping, etc Vineyards on the hillside of Bingen

19 One key artwork or illumination from Hildegard (1)
Book Two, Vision Two Trinity (Man in Sapphire Blue) ‘Then I saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the colour of a sapphire, which was all blazing with a gentle glowing fire. And that bright light bathed the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathed the bright light; and the bright light and glowing fire poured over the whole human figure, so that the three were one light in one power of potential’

20 One key artwork or illumination from Hildegard (2)
Book Two, Vision Two Trinity (Man in Sapphire Blue) Blue = compassion, colour of water flowing through a compassionate cosmos ‘Blue Christ’ = entrance of Compassion into our world, revelation of ‘maternal love of the embracing God’ Hands = extended in compassion, healing, assisting Body within circles of energy Opening at top of man’s head and the flow of energy Pulsating energy = rope, waves, energy/fire of Holy Spirit binding all creation (Marie Farrell, CIS notes; Hickam & Griffin, p.64ff; Hart & Bishop, p.161ff)

21 One key artwork or illumination from Hildegard (3)
Book Two, Vision Two Trinity (Man in Sapphire Blue) Mandala = Holy Trinity: ‘Just as a circle embraces all within it, so does the Godhead embrace all’; Bright light = Father; Blue figure = Son; glowing fire = Holy Spirit ‘God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God’ Blue trinitarian figure symbolises both Wisdom and Compassion Challenges us to be transformed to become other Christs, to personify compassion

22 Key musical compositions from Hildegard (1)
O viridissima virga (Hail, greenest stem) Hail, greenest stem, which in the windy breeze of the prayers of the saints was brought forth. Since the time has come when you flourished amongst your fronds, hail, hail to you

23 Key musical compositions from Hildegard (2)
Laus Trinitati Praise to the Trinity which is the character, life, and creator of all living things. And which is the praise of the crowd of angels and the wondrous splendour of secrets unknown to humanity, and which is life to all (Revelations, 2001, Track 4)

24 Some key passages from the writings of Hildegard (1)
HER FIRST VISION / ILLUMINATION ‘And it came to pass…when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame. Not burning but warming…and suddenly I understood the meaning and expression of the books [religious texts that she had been reading] (Scivias – ‘the one who knows the ways of the Lord’)

25 Hildegard – key passages (2)
VIRIDITY* (GREENESS) O, most noble viridity, You who have root in the sun, You shine in the limpid brightness, In the movement of a wheel Which escapes human intelligence. You, viridity, are enveloped In the force of the heavenly mysteries. You redden like the dawn, You blaze in the ardor of the sun, O, most noble viridity. (Scivias III,vis.13, c,7,CM43; cited in Brunn & Epiney-Burgard, p.36) * Viriditas = a germinative, creative force, found at all levels of divine and earthly life; the radiant splendour of God sustaining all things in being.

26 Hildegard – key passages (4)
DIVINE PROVIDENCE & PROPHECY ‘I am but a feather upon the breath of God’ Hildegard called her voice ‘a small sound of the trumpet from the living Light’ ‘The living light says: the paths of the scriptures lead directly to the high mountain…’

27 Hildegard setback - ‘Did you know?’ (1)
‘When the University of Paris (the first university in the world) opened its doors in 1150, Hildegard travelled there in order to bequeath her books and manuscripts to the university. They were rejected because she was a woman’

28 Hildegard setback - ‘Did you know?’ (2)
‘For the first 42 years of her life ( ), Hildegard led a sheltered existence, much of it within the walls of a monastery.’ In 1148 (aged 50) after the Synod of Trier, her visions were encouraged and she began more actively to write, preach, counsel, and record her visions. She completed her final preaching tour in 1171 (aged 73) (Atherton, xiii-xv)

29 Hildegard setback - ‘Did you know?’ (3)
In Hildegard’s time most women were considered illiterate (couldn’t write or read Latin). Hildegard broke the stereotype of women not writing and merely adopting a prophetic role. She expanded in all [new] areas of endeavour (cf. Atherton, p.xxii)

30 Hildegard setback - ‘Did you know?’ (4)
Hildegard the writer of parables ‘Listen now, a king sat on his throne, high pillars before him…[the pillars] showed the king’s vestments in great honour everywhere. Then the king chose to lift a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly just as the king himself wishes. But a feather does not fly of its own accord; it is borne up by the air. So too I am not imbued with human doctrine or strong powers. Nor do I desire good bodily health. Rather, I depend entirely on God’s help’ (Atherton, p.xxvi; re. ‘feather’ see also Slide 39)

31 Goodbye Hildegard

32 Additional Hildegard images

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