Hildegard von Bingen: Biography of the Greatest Scholar of Medieval Times

Hildegard von Bingen was an abbess of the twelfth century with an exceptional career. Philosopher, theologian, composer, naturalist, scientist, poet…

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Hildegard von Bingen was an abbess of the twelfth century with an exceptional career. Philosopher, theologian, composer, naturalist, scientist, poet… It is said that she was the precursor of the opera, which established the foundations of sexology and that, if there is a figure that we often neglect in the history of science, it is undoubtedly , this woman who shined with her own light in the Middle Ages.

She was known as the Sibyl of the Rhine. Already as a child she demonstrated an uncommon passion for knowledge and all kinds of knowledge. His mind, his curiosity, comparable almost to that of Leonardo da Vinci, always put his focus on understanding nature. It should also be noted that Hildegard von Bingen always had the favor of political and religious elites to perform their work as a scholar. Something unusual not only for its gender, but for the time in which he lived.

Although it was given to the Church very early on by her parents, she found in this scenario the best resources to cultivate her intelligence, to promote her thoughts, visions and those mystical messages that she received throughout her life . He wrote works of medicine, natural science, physiology …

The legacy he left us was incalculable. It is a clear example of how women, despite the clear impediments they have always encountered in society, have also managed to promote the advancement of our modern science.

“In the same vision, I understood the writings of the prophets, the Gospels and the other saints and some philosophers. I did it without having received instruction from anyone. I exposed certain things based on them, although I had little literary knowledge, having educated me as a poorly educated woman… “.

-H von Bingen-

Hildegard von Bingen, biography of a dazzling medieval scholar

Hildegard was born in 1908 on the banks of the Nahe River in Bermersheim, Germany. Her family was noble and they already had nine children when she came into the world. In this way, and as was the custom at that time, the tenth child was to be delivered to the Church. And that is how his private and destiny began.

From early childhood he showed a delicate health. During her first years she was attended by an abbess, Jutta von Spanheim, who transmitted her love for music and taught her to read Latin, but not to write. Something that Hildegar von Bingen ended up learning for herself.

Likewise, there are written documents, such as those written by the monk Teoderico de Echternach, in which we talk about the mystical visions and experiences that the girl already had with eight or nine years. He never lost his senses or went into ecstasy, what he experienced were very intense visual and auditory hallucinations, which would be repeated throughout his life in many other ways.

At present, it is thought that perhaps Hildegar von Bingen suffered from migraines.

A vision that changed everything

When Hildegar von Bingen reached adulthood, her ailments disappeared. It was an awakening, because in that moment when she finally stopped being captive of her own body, she had the opportunity to focus her mind on what she was passionate about: knowledge.

It was fortunate that as a Benedictine nun from a German monastery, it was common for abundant books on Greek cosmologies to be translated. At his reach he had volumes of science, of natural history … Submerging himself in those universes of knowledge allowed him two things. The first to be educated, the second to develop a scientific vision.

Also, even though their illnesses had subsided, the same did not happen with their visions. They intensified. However, only the abbess Jutta and her mentor, the monk Volmar of Disobodenberg knew those experiences. It was when he turned 38 when he had his biggest revelation. In one of those visions she saw herself wrapped in lights. An inner voice then told him what his plan should be: write, transmit knowledge to the world.

Abbess Disobodenberg, a scholar with the papal favor

Shortly after that vision, the abbess Jutta passed away and Hildegard von Bingen took office. In turn, the Pope was finally informed of the mystical experiences he had had.

Hildegard wrote his first book in 1141. It was Liber Scivias, where he spoke of a type of cosmology based on the Greek tradition. The Earth was a sphere composed of four elements: wind, fire, air and water. In turn, this celestial body was surrounded by different layers of air and water. All very striking at the same time revealing, as we can guess.

It should also be noted that by having the papal permission to draft these treaties, she could undoubtedly escape being accused of heresy. The Abbess Hildegard von Bingen was for many, the voice of God. In a society still guided by superstition, she had an exceptional opportunity that others lacked and that she undoubtedly took advantage of.

The birth of the Sibyl of the Rhine

Having the favor of the Catholic Church undoubtedly contributed to the work carried out by Hildegard von Bingen being appreciated throughout Europe. In such a way that his fame spread in a short time to the point of being known as the “Sibyl of the Rhine”. Now, his craving for knowledge and his need to transmit them did not end there.

She was a woman of character with very clear ideas about what she wanted. He aspired to leave the monastery of Disobodenberg and create his own. In such a way, that such determination became, finally, in reality, when raising the benedictine convent of Mount St. Rupert, located near Bingen, Germany.

From 1150 Hildegard von Bingen deepens in the study of natural medicine and becomes a healer. At the age of fifty, he begins to travel through Europe with a noble and elevated goal: to defend peace and, in turn, to spread his ideas about science and medicine.

The first sexologist in history

His most notable work was undoubtedly Physica (Liber Simplicis Medicinae). In this encyclopaedia it details a wide information about diseases and medical applications of the plants. It describes, in turn, the importance of boiling water when it comes to treating ailments, cleaning the body and wounds.

It was also one of the first historical references where sexuality is openly discussed. The orgasm is described as something beautiful, sublime and ardent of what both men and women should enjoy. In her medical books such as Causa et curae, she offers, in turn, information about menstruation and conditions such as amenorrhea, where poor diet could affect women.

Prophetess and Saint

Hildegard von Bingen died at the age of 81, having covered a widely used quota of life. She was a protest woman, defending even people who had been excommunicated by the Church and who did not hesitate to defend or even to bury in holy camps. However, he always had the approval and admiration of popes, kings, nobles, as well as the humblest people.

In fact, in 2010, Pope Benedict referred to her as the prophetess and saint Hildegar von Bingen, to the point that later, she would be given the title of doctor of the Church. A figure as we see of great significance that well deserves to be remembered.