Scivias

Scivias

Scivias

Scivias

Synopsis

This work contains the 26 visions of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), who was the first of the great German mystics, as well as a poet and a prophet, a physician and a political moralist.

Excerpt

Hildegard (1098-1179), founder and first abbess of the Benedictine community at Bingen, is one of the most fascinating spiritual figures of the twelfth century. The bearer of a unique and elusive visionary charism, she was also a prophet in the Old Testament tradition—the first in a long line of prophetically and politically active women—yet at the same time a representative of the German Benedictine aristocracy in its heyday. Proudly aware of belonging to a social and spiritual elite, she was profoundly humble before God, awed by the audacity of her own mission, and by turns diffident and strident about her gifts.

Measured in purely external terms her achievements are staggering. Although she did not begin to write until her forty-third year, Hildegard was the author of a massive trilogy that combines Christian doctrine and ethics with cosmology; a compendious encyclopedia of medicine and natural science; a correspondence comprising several hundred letters to people in every stratum of society; two saints' lives; several occasional writings; and, not least, a body of exquisite music that includes seventy liturgical songs and the first known morality play. Although other women had written before her, their works had fallen back into silence; the names of Perpetua, Egeria, Baudonivia, Dhuoda and Hrotsvitha were unknown to her. Nor was she aware of her great French contemporary, Heloise. We must not underestimate the courage she needed as the first woman, to the best of her knowledge, to take up wax tablets and stylus in the name of God. Even greater, perhaps, was the daring required to embark on her career as a public preacher of monastic and clerical reform. This mission led her to undertake four prolonged preaching tours, beginning at the age of sixty; she spoke mainly to monastic communities, but on occasion addressed clergy and laity together in the public squares. In the meantime she continued to guide and administer the two nunneries she had founded, the first despite strong opposition from . . .

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