Hildegard von Bingen

Composer

Hildegard von Bingen was a Franciscan Benedictine nun, a woman of letters and a composer. She was canonised and made a Doctor of the Church, the highest Catholic accolade, in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Hildegard von Bingen was a 12th century Rhineland Abbess and a major figure of the Middle Ages. At the age of eight, she entered the convent of the Benedictine nuns of Disibodenberg on the Rhine. Here she was instructed by Jutta de Sponheim. She made her perpetual vows and at the age of fourteen received the monastic veil from Bishop Othon of Bamberg. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard was elected Abbess of Disibodenberg at the age of 38.

Hildegard engaged with literary activity, encouraged by Pope Eugene III. She also tried to express her visions through music. Her religious compositions, including more than 70 hymns, make rich use of sound, as well as new musical effects. Between 1151 and 1158, Hildegard wrote and compiled her musical compositions to be sung by the sisters of the convent during ceremonies and other occasions. Hildegard von Bingen composed more than seventy liturgical monodic songs, hymns and melismatic sequences. All these songs make up the collection Symphonia harmoniae celestium revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations), a title that indicates they are of divine inspiration and that the music is the highest form of any human activity. She also composed a liturgical drama entitled Ordo virtutum (The Game of Virtues), which includes eighty-two melodies depicting the struggle of the soul being torn between the devil and virtues.

As an Abbess in the 12th century, Hildegard von Bingen benefitted from a high profile position. However, this control and authority was gradually given to the Father Superior, with the nuns taking refuge in the more individual path of mysticism. Despite her rich and innovative music, Hildegard von Bingen was largely erased from history. Thanks to recent, extensive musicological research this singular figure of medieval music has finally been esteemed for her musical work.

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Hildegard von Bingen 

1106 : Entered the Benedictines Convent in Disibodenberg
1112 : Took holy orders under the tutelage of the Mother Superior Jutta de Sponheim
1136 : Became the Abbess (Mother Superior)
1151 : Received approval from Pope Eugene III, and composed her liturgical drama Ordo virtutum
 1151 : Started her Symphoniae harmoniae celestium revelationum
 2012 : Was canonised and made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benoît XVI