September 17 – Hildegard of Bingen

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), person of prayer

Hildegard of Bingen, renowned for her spirituality in her day, was a German Benedictine abbess of the twelfth century. She was a poet, theologian, composer, artist, playwright, healer, visionary and advisor to eminent church authorities.  Hildegard was the tenth child of a noble family who, at age eight, went to live with the reclusive Jutta von Spanheim, at the monastery of Saint Disibod in Disibodenberg. She took her vows at 15 and on Jutta’s death in 1136 became leader of the convent.

Hildegard achieved fame when her remarkable work, Scivias, a record of her visions, was approved by Pope Eugenius who publicised it widely. Between 1147 and 1150, over the objections of the officials at Disibodenberg, Hildegard moved her community to Ruperstberg, near Bingen on the Rhine. In 1165, she founded a second convent at Eibingen.

Hildegard, despite frequent attacks of ill health, possessed extraordinary energy. During her long life she produced three books of visionary theology, several collections of writings on natural history and medicine, 77 songs and Ordo Vitutum the earliest surviving liturgical morality play. Hildegard is of contemporary interest with her appreciation of the feminine, her emphasis on the relationship between soul, mind and body.  Her inspirational music has been widely recorded—especially by the group Sequentia.

Since the fifteenth century, when her name was incorporated into the Roman Martyrology, she has been remembered on 17 September. 

Contributed by Carolyn Craig-Emilsen