Hildegard of Bingen

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  • Topic: Hildegard of Bingen, Volmar, Nun
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Hildegard of Bingen

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Hildegard of Bingen date of birth is uncertain; it was concluded that she may have been was born in 1098 at Bermersheim bei Alzey (Bockelheim, Germany) in the diocese of Mainz. She was raised in a family of free noble; her parents were Hildebert and Mechtilide who came from a Germany education. Hildegard was born the tenth child (a tithe) to a noble family. As was customary with the tenth child, whom the family could not count on feeding, she was dedicated at birth to the church to serve the church, to be a medieval prophet, a healer, an artist and a composer. (Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen - Santé Fe: Bear and Company, 1985)

Hildegard explains that from a very young age she had experienced visions. At the age of eight Hildegard was sent to a convent and was raised and educated at Disibodenberg. Some scholars speculate that because of her visions, she was placed in the care of Jutta, the daughter of Count Stephan II of Sponheim. Hildegard says that she first saw “The Shade of the Living Light” at the age of three and by the age five she began to understand that she was experiencing visions. In Hildegard’s youth, she referred to her visionary gift as her viso. She explained that she saw all things in the light of God through the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Hildegard was hesitant to share her visions, confiding only to Jutta, who in turn told Volmar Hildegard's tutor and, later, secretary. During the twenty four years when Jutta and Hildegard were in the convent together, there is no written record of what happened during these times. It is possible that Hildegard could have been a chantress and a worker in the herbarium.

Hildegard also tells us that Jutta taught her to read and write, but that she was unlearned and therefore incapable of teaching Hildegard Biblical interpretation. Hildegard and Jutta most likely prayed, meditated, read scriptures such as the Psalter, and did some sort of handwork during the hours of the Divine Office. This also might have been a time when Hildegard learned how to play the ten-stringed psaltery. Volmar, a frequent visitor, may have taught Hildegard simple psalm notation. The time she studied music could also have been the beginnings of the compositions she would later create. (Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen - Santé Fe: Bear and Company, 1985)

Upon Jutta's death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected as "magistra" of her sister community by her fellow nuns. Abbot Kuno, the Abbot of Disibodenberg, also asked Hildegard to be Prioress. Hildegard, however, wanted more independence for herself and her nuns and asked Abbot Kuno to allow them to move to Rupertsberg. When the abbot declined Hildegard's proposition, Hildegard went over his head and received the approval of Archbishop Henry I of Mainz. Abbot Kuno did not relent, however, until Hildegard was stricken by an illness that kept her paralyzed and unable to move from her bed, an event that she attributed to God's unhappiness at her not following his orders to move her nuns to Rupertsberg. It was only when the Abbot himself could not move Hildegard that he decided to grant the nuns their own monastery. Hildegard and about twenty nuns thus moved to the St. Rupertsberg monastery in 1150, where Volmar served as provost, as well as Hildegard's confessor and scribe. In 1165 Hildegard founded a second convent for her nuns at Eibingen. (Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen - Santé Fe: Bear and Company, 1985)

Hildegard did not manifest the visions until when she was in her early forties. The church did not allow women to sing; however, women were permitted to compose music for convents. Hildegard of Bingen was one such woman who wrote sacred music for choirs in convents. Not only did Hildegard compose music for church choirs, but she also wrote pieces of music that could be performed outside of the...
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