Born at Böckelheim on the Nahe, 1098; died on the Rupertsberg near Bingen, 1179; feast 17 September. The family name is unknown of this great seeress and prophetess, called the Sibyl of the Rhine. The early biographers give the first names of her parents as Hildebert and Mechtildis (or Mathilda), speak of their nobility and riches, but give no particulars of their lives. Later writers call the saint Hildegard of Böckelheim, of Rupertsberg, or of Bingen. Legends would make her a Countess of Spanheim. J. May (Katholik. XXXVII, 143) shows from letters and other documents that she probably belonged to the illustrious family of Stein, whose descendants are the present Princes of Salm. Her father was a soldier in the service of Meginhard, Count of Spanheim. Hildegard was a weak and sickly child, and in consequence received but little education at home. Her parents, though much engaged in worldly pursuits, had a religious disposition and had promised the child to the service of God. At the age of eight she was placed under the care of Jutta, sister of Count Meginhard, who lived as a recluse on the Disenberg (or Disibodenberg, Mount of St. Disibod) in the Diocese of Speyer. Here also Hildegard was given but little instruction since she was much afflicted with sickness, being frequently scarcely able to walk and often deprived even of the use of her eyes. She was taught to read and sing the Latin psalms, sufficient for the chanting of the Divine Office, but never learned to write. Eventually she was invested with the habit of St. Benedict and made her religious profession. Jutta died in 1136, and Hildegard was appointed superior. Numbers of aspirants flocked to the community and she decided to go to another locality, impelled also, as she says, by a Divine command. She chose Rupertsberg near Bingen on the left bank of the Rhine, about fifteen miles from Disenberg. After overcoming many difficulties and obtaining the permission of the lord of the place, Count Bernard of Hildesheim, she settled in her new home with eighteen sisters in 1147 or 1148 (1149 or 1150 according to Delehaye). Probably in 1165 she founded another convent at Eibingen on the right side of the Rhine, where a community had already been established in 1148, which, however, had no success.
The life of Hildegard as child, religious, and superioress was an extraordinary one. Left much to herself on account of her ill health, she led an interior life, trying to make use of everything for her own sanctification. From her earliest years she was favoured with visions. She says of herself:
Up to my fifteenth year I saw much, and related some of the things seen to others, who would inquire with astonishment, whence such things might come. I also wondered and during my sickness I asked one of my nurses whether she also saw similar things. When she answered no, a great fear befell me. Frequently, in my conversation, I would relate future things, which I saw as if present, but, noting the amazement of my listeners, I became more reticent.
This condition continued to the end of her life. Jutta had noticed her gifts
and made them known to a monk of the neighbouring abbey, but, it seems, nothing
was done at the time. When about forty years of age Hildegard received a command
to publish to the world what she saw and heard. She hesitated, dreading what
people might think or say, though she herself was fully convinced of the Divine
character of the revelations. But, continually urged, rebuked, and threatened by
the inner voice, she manifested all to her spiritual director, and through him
to the abbot under whose jurisdiction her community was placed. Then a monk was
ordered to put in writing whatever she related; some of her nuns also frequently
assisted her. The writings were submitted to the bishop (Henry, 1145-53) and
clergy of Mainz, who pronounced them as coming from God. The matter was also
brought to the notice of Eugene II (1145-53) who was at Trier in 1147. Albero of
Chiny, Bishop of Verdun, was commissioned to investigate and made a favourable
report. Hildegard continued her writings. Crowds of people flocked to her from
the neighbourhood and from all parts of Germany and Gaul, to hear words of
wisdom from her lips, and to receive advice and help in corporal and spiritual
ailments. These were not only from the common people, but men and women of note
in Church and State were drawn by tbe report of her wisdom and sanctity. Thus we
read that Archbishop Heinrich of Mainz, Archbishop Eberhard of Salzburg and
Abbot Ludwig of St. Eucharius at Trier, paid her visits. St. Elizabeth of
Schönau was an intimate friend and frequent visitor. Trithemius in his
Chronicle speaks of a visit of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, but this probably was
not correct. Not only at home did she give counsel, but also abroad. Many
persons of all stations of life wrote to her and received answers, so that her
correspondence is quite extensive. Her great love for the Church and its
interests caused her to make many journeys; she visited at intervals the houses
of Disenberg and Eibingen; on invitation she came to Ingelheim to see Emperor
Frederick; she travelled to Würzburg, Bamberg, and the vicinity of Ulm, Cologne,
Werden, Trier, and Metz. It is not true, however, that she saw Paris or the
grave of St. Martin at Tours.
In the last year of her life Hildegard had to undergo a very severe trial. In the cemetery adjoining her convent a young man was buried who had once been under excommunication. The ecclesiastical authorities of Mainz demanded that she have the body removed. She did not consider herself bound to obey since the young man had received the last sacraments and was therefore supposed to have been reconciled to the Church. Sentence of interdict was placed on her convent by the chapter of Mainz, and the sentence was confirmed by the bishop, Christian (V) Buch, then in Italy. After much worry and correspondence she succeeded in having the interdict removed. She died a holy death and was buried in the church of Rupertsberg.
Hildegard was greatly venerated in life and after death. Her biographer, Theodoric, calls her saint, and many miracles are said to have been wrought through her intercession. Gregory IX (1227-41) and Innocent IV (1243-54) ordered a process of information which was repeated by Clement V (1305-14) and John XXII (1316-34). No formal canonization has ever taken place, but her name is in the Roman Martyrology and her feast is celebrated in the Dioceses of Speyer, Mainz, Trier, and Limburg, also in the Abbey of Solesmes, where a proper office is said (Brev. Monast. Tornac., 18 Sept.). When the convent on the Rupertsberg was destroyed in 1632 the relics of the saint were brought to Cologne and then to Eibingen. At the secularization of this convent they were placed in the parish church of the place. In 1857 an official recognition was made by the Bishop of Limburg and the relics were placed on an altar specially built. At this occasion the town of Eibingen chose her as patron. On 2 July, 1900, the cornerstone was here laid for a new convent of St. Hildegard. The work was begun and completed through the munificence of Prince Karl of Löwenstein and Benedictine nuns from St. Gabriel's at Prague entered the new home (17 Sept., 1904).
All the manuscripts found in the convent at Eibingen were in 1814 transferred
to the state library at Wiesbaden. Of this collection the first and greatest
work of St. Hildegard is called
Scivias (Scire or vias Domini, or vias lucis),
parts of which had been shown to the Archbishop of Mainz. She began it in 1141
and worked at it for ten years. It is an extraordinary production and hard to
understand, prophetic throughout and admonitory after the manner of Ezechiel and
the Apocalypse. In the introduction she speaks of herself and describes the
nature of her visions. Then follow three books, the first containing six visions,
the second giving seven visions, and about double the size of the first; the
third, equal in size to both the others, has thirteen visions. The
represents God on His Holy Mountain with mankind at its base; tells of the
original condition of man, his fall and redemption, the human soul and its
struggles, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the times to come, the son of
perdition and the end of the world. The visions are interspersed with salutary
admonitions to live in the fear of the Lord. Manuscripts of the
also at Cues and Oxford. It was printed for the first time at Paris (1513) in a
book which contains also the writings of several other persons. It was again
printed at Cologne in 1628, and reproduced in Migne, PL 197. The
meritorum written between 1158 and 1163, is a picturesque description of a
Christian's life of virtue and its opposite. It was printed for the first time
Analecta Sacra, VIII (Monte Cassino, 1882). The
operum (1163-70) is a contemplation of all nature in the light of faith. Sun,
moon, and stars, the planets, the winds, animals, and man, are in her visions
expressive of something supernatural and spiritual, and as they come from God
should lead back to Him (Migne, loc. cit.). Mansi, in
Baluzii Missell. (Lucca,
1761), II, 337, gives it from a manuscript lost since then. Her
Letter to the
Prelates of Mainz in regard to the interdict placed upon her convent is placed
here among her works by the Wiesbaden manuscript; in others it is bound among
her letters. To it the Wiesbaden manuscript annexes nine small essays: on the
Creation and fall of man; God's treatment of the renegade; on the priesthood and
the Holy Eucharist; on the covenant between Christ and the Church; on the
Creation and Redemption; on the duties of secular judges; on the praises of God
with intermingled prayers.
Liber Epistolarum et Orationum; the Wiesbaden
manuscript contains letters to and from Eugene III, Anastasius IV, Adrian IV,
and Alexander III, King Conrad III, Emperor Frederick, St. Bernard, ten
archbishops, nine bishops, forty-nine abbots and provosts of monasteries or
chapters, twenty-three abbesses, many priests, teachers, monks, nuns, and
religious communities (P. L., loc. cit.). Pitra has many additions; L. Clarus
edited them in a German translation (Ratisbon, 1854).
Vita S. Disibodi and
Vita S. Ruperti; these
Vitae, which Hildegard claims also to be revelations,
were probably made up from local traditions and, especially for St. Rupert, the
sources being very meagre, have only legendary value.
fifty HomilieEine Homilie (von griech.„ὁμιλεῖν”, „vertraut miteinander reden”) ist eine Art von Predigt. Während eine Predigt die Großtaten Gottes preist (lat. „praedicare”, „preisen”) und Menschen für den Glauben begeistern will, hat die Homilie lehrhaften Charakter. s in allegory (Pitra, loc. cit.).
Lingua Ignota; the manuscript,
in eleven folios ves a list of nine hundred words of an unknown language, mostly
nouns and only a few adjectives, a Latin, and in a few cases a German,
explanation, together with an unknown alphabet of twenty-three letters printed
in Pitra. A collection of seventy hymns and their melodies. A manuscript of this
is also at Afflighem, printed in Roth (Wiesbaden, 1880) and in Pitra. Not only
in this work, but elsewhere Hildegard exhibits high poetical gifts, transfigured
by her intimate persuasion of a Divine mission.
Liber Simplicis Medicinae and
Liber Compositae Medicinae; the first was edited in 1533 by Schott at
Physica S Hildegardis, Dr. Jessen (1858) found a manuscript of it
in the library of Wolfenbuttel. It consists of nine books treating of plants,
elements, trees, stones, fishes, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, metals, printed in
Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Libri Novem. In I859, Jessen
succeeded in obtaining from Copenhagen a manuscript entitled
et Causae, and on examination felt satisfied that it was the second medical
work of the saint. It is in five books and treats of the general divisions of
created things, of the human body and its ailments, of the causes, symptoms, and
treatment of diseases.
38 Solutiones Quaestionum are answers to questions
proposed by the monks of Villars through Gilbert of Gembloux on several texts of
Scripture (P. L., loc. cit.).
Explanatio Regulae S. Benedicti, also called a
revelation, exhibits the rule as understood and applied in those days by an
intelligent and mild superior.
Explanatio Symboli S. Athanasii, an exhortation
addressed to her sisters in religion. The
Revelatio Hildegardis de Fratribus
Quatuor Ordinum Mendicantium, and the other prophecies against the Mendicants,
etc., are forgeries. The
Speculum futurorum temporum is a free adaptation of
texts culled from her writings by Gebeno, prior of Eberbach (Pentachronicon,
1220). Some would impugn the genuineness of her writings, among others Preger in
Gesch. der deutchen Mystik, 1874, but without sufficient reason. (See
Kirchengesch. Deutschl., IV,398 sqq.). Her correspondence is to be
read with caution; three letters from popes have been proved spurious by Von
Neue Archiv, XXVII, 297.
The first biography of St. Hildegard was written by the contemporary monks Gottfried and Theodoric. Guibert of Gembloux commenced another.
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