Hildegard was a woman who did everything she never was supposed to do and made no apologies for it. She was an abbess, although never officially given the title, composer, prophet, scientist, preacher, author and so many other things. Hildegard came to my attention in music history class when listening to the music of the Medieval Period. Imagine my surprise when a piece of music played turned out to be beautiful and was written by a woman. This was indeed rare as any other student of music history can attest. Even after a few years this woman still had my interest so I decided to read a biographies about her.
Hildegard’s life in many ways is unknown to us, but it is generally accepted that she entered religious life at the age of 8 when she entered the monastery with her mentor Jutta. Hildegard, fascinatingly enough, did not do most of the work that she will be remembered for till she reached middle age. Therefore not much is known about her before she became known for her visions. She had denied her visions earlier in her life thinking that they would be seen as something horrifying rather than a gift from God. So she kept silent about them until she couldn’t anymore. Researchers have proposed that her visions might have been side effects from migraines. She wrote several books that detailed the content of her visions for the consumption of others. Personally what I love about Hildegard is that she was not afraid to speak her mind. She decided that she needed to leave the original monastery that she had entered and so she did, despite the disagreements from the monks. It was illegal for women to preach but she did that too. She wrote letters of advice and criticism to monarchs (Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as others) and church officials. Not only was Hildegard a writer and a religious visionary, she was also a scientist who collected information on the effectiveness of plants for the treatment of various different ailments and some are still used today in homeopathic cures. Hildegard composed beautiful music although, there is some doubt that she was actually the composer. She may have also been an artist, and may have drawn the illuminations on the illustrated versions of her books. She was definitely a woman of many many talents.