Hildegard von Bingen, also known as Hildegard of Bingen is described as a remarkable and talented woman. She was well versed in philosophy, theology, wrote poetry and botanical literature, and composed music. Throughout her life she influenced many and was dedicated to sharing her knowledge, which made a major contribution to humanity.
The Early Years
Hildegard von Bingen lived from 1098-1179. She was the tenth child born into a noble family living in Bermersheim, Germany. As was customary in her culture, as the tenth child, she was dedicated to the Monastery of St. Disibodenberg when she was 7 years old. There, she was cared for by the well-respected anchoress, and head of the order, Jutta von Sponheim.
Unlike Hildegard, Jutta’s life at the monastery was of her own accord. Jutta was only six years older than Hildegard, and the two of them grew up together and became close friends. Jutta taught Hildegard to read and write, helped her memorize and recite prayers, and play instruments.
From a very young age, Hildegard had suffered from illnesses including migraines. Her migraines often resulted in visions from god. She shared her experience with Jutta, who immediately advised her to consult Volmar, a monk at the monastery. Volmar encouraged Hildegard to trust the visions and even write about them, which she did.
Her Works and Inspiration
In 1141, one of her visions empowered her to comprehend the religious texts and expositions, of which she described in her book entitled “Scivias,” translated “Know the Ways of the Lord.” Her visions were at the center of her life, as well as her literary and musical creations.
She often spoke of the saints and the virgin Mary. Hildegard had also described the scriptural account of the fall of Adam and how prior to the Fall, Adam and the angels would sing their praises in simplistic, pure voices of unison. In her portrayal of the story, she explained that following the fall of Adam, instruments were constructed in an effort to recreate those lost sounds of wholesomeness and harmony.
In her own music compositions, Hildegard often incorporated the sounds of nature, background noises of daily life similar to Gregorian chants, or singular vocal tunes that resembled angelic voices. Although she had access to a variety of musical instruments, she opted for a simplistic style that relayed her visions and teachings that became her life’s work.
Hildegard von Bingen earned the title as “The First Known Composer in History,” with her music compositions lining the chamber walls of the Abbey for more than a half a millennium before Beethoven. The quality and uniqueness of her work became known worldwide; perhaps having had influence on the first school of polyphony, Notre-Dame.
Today her music is becoming even more popular, as people embrace the vibrant tunes that celebrate life and the natural wonders of the work without imbuing faith or religion.