The German abbess, visionary, mystic poet, composer, and healer Hildegard von Bingen has become a symbol to many disparate groups, including feminists, theologians, musicologists and new-age medicine practitioners.
Her fame rests not only on the beauty of her work, but on her extraordinary life story and the fact that she is the first composer to whose work we can put a name.
Sshe was born in 1098 in Bermersheim, and throughout her life, Hildegard had experienced visions, beginning at the age of 3. At age 42, she had a powerful experience that radically changed her life. She described this moment in her writings:
"And it came to pass ... when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books..."
Overwhelmed, and fearful of writing down her visions because of doubt and a low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, she nonetheless found encouragement from leaders in the church to write and circulate her theological work.
With papal imprimatur, Hildegard was able to finish her first visionary work Scivias - Know the Ways of the Lord - and her fame began to spread through Germany.
Soon after, she relocated her convent to Bingen, and began an incredibly productive period in the last few decades of her life.