St Hildegard was born around the year 1098. Her family were among the lower nobility in service of Count Meginhard of Sponheim.
From a very early age St Hildegard experienced visions and her parents offered her as an oblate to the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg.
The date is contested, but scholars do know that Hildegard was professed with an older woman known as Jutta and placed in her care when she
may have been as young as eight. The women formed the core of a growing female community attached to the male monastery. After Jutta’s death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected as magistra of the community by her fellow nuns.
Following an illness which left her temporarily paralysed, Hildegard asked Archbishop Henry I of Mainz if the nuns could move to Rupertsberg to form a more independent community. They were eventually granted their own monastery in 1150.
In 1165, Hildegard founded a second monastery in Eibingen.
Doctor of the Church
Hildegard was a prolific writer on medicine, theology and science as well as liturgical music. Her writings were often based on her visions, which initially she was reluctant to share.
In her first theological text, Scivias (“Know the Ways”), Hildegard described her dilemma: “I saw and heard these things, refused to write for a long time through doubt and bad opinion and the diversity of human words, not with stubbornness but in the exercise of humility, until, laid low by the scourge of God, I fell upon a bed of sickness.” After this illness she began to share her visions.
Hildegard died on September 17, 1179, aged 81. On October 7, 2012, the feast of the Holy Rosary, Hildegard was named a Doctor of the Church. Benedict XVI described her as “perennially relevant” and “an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music”.
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