Hildegarde von Bingen: Feminist Ahead of Her Time

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As an abbess, composer, author, and herbalist, Hildegarde of Bingen made her mark on the art, music, and theology of the 12th century – a time when women were rarely able to rise to positions of respect or artistic authority.

Born in Germany in 1098, she was the tenth child in her family, so tradition mandated that she would be destined for the Church. Hildegarde was sent into a harsh religious life at the tender age of eight, but she rose from that difficult beginning to become an artist, composer, healer, and visionary whose works were celebrated during her lifetime and continue to be heralded today.

Also known as “Saint Hildegarde,” “Sybil of the Rhine,” and “Hildegarde von Bingen,” she rose to influence within the German Benedictine Church, widely famed for her musical compositions and medical writings. Hildegarde was also a scientist and philosopher, consulted by popes and elected into power by the nuns of her abbey.

Among her many accomplishments were her religious illuminations (illustrations to accompany religious text), which were inspired by powerful visions that began during her childhood. Hildegarde believed her visions were sent by God, and used them as the inspiration for her art and other works.

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