Hildegard of Bingen
17th of September
Hildegard was born into a family of the minor aristocracy around the year 1098. From her infancy she was destined to be a nun by her parents' wishes, and for a period of her life she was actually enclosed within her cloister as a kind of hermit living within a community. She was a sickly child and subject to ill-health all her life, although she lived to the age of 82.
Hildegard’s spiritual and mental life were anything but confined. Her life is a demonstration of what it was possible for a woman to achieve in the twelfth century and it is perhaps chastening to think that after her time opportunities for women in many ways closed down in a way that did not allow for such comprehensive impact on the intellectual world of their time until the nineteenth century.
Hildegard was interested in everything. She wrote about the natural world, about plants and animals, and from this interest arose a lively pre-occupation in sickness, health, and medicine. She took an intelligent interest in the life of the wider church throughout Western Europe and was the correspondent of bishops, popes, and saints.
From the age of three Hildegard experienced a number of visions, she seemed sometimes to see the world around her with colour and sound interleaved together; it also seemed that for her the spiritual world and the material world fused. She described these visions in pictures and above all else in music, and her music has a haunting clarity which seems to take the human voice almost into an abstract place. Her music is widely available to listen to today. Try it, it puts us in touch with one of the most original minds that have ever existed.