HILDEGARD VON BINGEN

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The history of Hildegard of Bingen is inspirational

Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century Christian mystic who acknowledged a relationship with nature.  She saw the flow of the seasons as “sensible and beautiful,”  evidence of God’s presence in creation.  Hildegard believed that all parts of the whole had their appropriate path or cycle and none should trespass on the other.  Hildegard is quoted as writing: Everything that lives “on earth has a fundamental urge to embrace some other in love.  All nature is available to humanity and willingly offers people its benefits in loving service.”  

Statie of St Hildegard at Rudesheim Abbey

Hildegard recognized the relationship of the earth to the individual.  She wrote, “God has built the human form according to the structure of the world, of the cosmos, just as an artist creates his vessel according to certain patterns.”  Hildegard believed in the language of symbols and images that connect our ordinary awareness with the archetypal patterns of nature. The metaphor of the soul as the sap of the tree that is the body is one of the nature-based analogies that characterize Hildegard’s theology.

Wall mural in church at St. Hildegard abbey at Rudesheim

On May 10, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI formally recognized Hildegard von Bingen as a saint.

Hildegard is admired by many for her strength and the boldness with which she forced her way on the church patriarchy of her time. Alternative health advocates are drawn to her study of herbal medicine and botany and her insistence on recording this female wisdom in print. Mystics are moved by her visions, which she recorded in three volumes. Lovers of sacred choral music and liturgical drama are swept up by her compositions, including what is considered the first morality play, Ordo Virtutum, from 1151.

Gift from St. Hildegard

I visited Guantanamo Bay in 2004 to train some Soldiers stationed at the base.  I spent my spare time visiting the island beaches.  While out walking along a road that led to a rocky outcrop that overlooked the bay I found a large feather.  I picked it up, placed it in a safe place and continued on my walk.  Shortly after I returned hom to San Antonio I received a phone call from my friend Julie.   She and I had visited Bingen together and were both fascinated by Hildegard.  She told me that she has seen Hildegard handing me a feather on a rocky road by the sea.  My gift from Hildegard.  Hildegard wrote:

"Listen: There once was a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from ...
the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself, but because the air bore it along. Thus am I..,a feather on the breath of God."

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

 

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

 To me this face respresents the Great God Pan. 

Statue of St Hildegard in musuem at Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen received visions relating to the natural world.  She is quoted by Schipperges (1998) as having written, “All elements served human beings voluntarily because they saw that humans possessed life.  They cooperated with their enterprises and worked with them, as humans did with them.”  Hildegard saw the element fire as relating to heat and sight, the element earth relating to firm tissue and upright posture, the element water relating to blood and motion and the element air related to breath and hearing.  She believed a human was healthy when all elements were in balance in the earth and in the physical body.  

Wall mural in church at St. Hildegaard abbey at Rudesheim 2

The Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard is located in Rudesheim.  Extensive murals adorn the walls of the abbey.  Rudesheim is located just across the Rhein River from Bingen. 

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

St. Martin Basilica in central Bingen am Rhein, is the main historical building in the town. It was originally built as a collegiate church in the 15th century. This was later extended, with a twin-aisled building known as the Barbarabau added to the end for use as a parish church. Previously, an 11th century church sat on the spot. Inside, you will find various original furnishings, statues and works of art. The crypt of this building still exists under the present church.

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

These faces grace many of the columns in the Basilica.  I believe that this youthful male face and the face of the woman below were a couple. I imagine them as lovers immortalized on the walls of the church.

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

Another guardian of the church. Many of these remind me of the Celtic Greenman, who also is evident in German architecture. 

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

 

Face from Basilica of St. Martin in Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was an incredible woman. She confronted the Pope and secular leader of the time for their decisions.  When few women were accorded respect, she wasalso  consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and king s. She was known as "Sybil of the Rhine", and wrote major works of theology and visionary writings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion.

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