1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hildegard, St

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HILDEGARD, ST (1098–1179), German abbess and mystic, was born of noble parents at Böckelheim, in the countship of Sponheim, in 1098, and from her eighth year was educated at the Benedictine cloister of Disibodenberg by Jutta, sister of the count of Sponheim, whom she succeeded as abbess in 1136. From earliest childhood she was accustomed to see visions, which increased in frequency and vividness as she approached the age of womanhood; these, however, she for many years kept almost secret, nor was it until she had reached her forty-third year (1141) that she felt constrained to divulge them. Committed to writing by her intimate friend the monk Godefridus, they now form the first and most important of her printed works, entitled Scivias (probably an abbreviation for “sciens vias” or “nosce vias Domini”) s. visionum et revelatianum libri iii., and completed in 1151. In 1147 St Bernard of Clairvaux, while at Bingen preaching the new crusade, heard of Hildegard’s revelations, and became so convinced of their reality that he not only wrote to her a letter cordially acknowledging her as a prophetess of God, but also successfully advocated her recognition as such by his friend and former pupil Pope Eugenius III. in the synod of Trèves (1148). In the same year Hildegard migrated along with eighteen of her nuns to a new convent on the Rupertsberg near Bingen, over which she presided during the remainder of her life. By means of voluminous correspondence, as well as by extensive journeys, in the course of which she was unwearied in the exercise of her gift of prophecy, she wielded for many years an increasing influence upon her contemporaries—an influence doubtless due to the fact that she was imbued with the most widely diffused feelings and beliefs, fears and hopes, of her time. Amongst her correspondents were Popes Anastasius IV. and Adrian IV., the emperors Conrad III. and Frederick I., and also the theologian Guibert of Gembloux, who submitted numerous questions in dogmatic theology for her determination. She died in 1179, but has never been canonized; her name, however, was received into the Roman martyrology in the 15th century, September 17th being the day fixed for her commemoration.

Her biography, which was written by two contemporaries, Godefridus and Theodoricus, was first printed at Cologne in 1566. Hildegard’s writings, besides the Scivias already mentioned and first printed in Paris in 1513, include the Liber divinorum operum, Explanatio regulae S. Benedicti, Physica and the Letters, &c., are contained in Migne, Patr. Lat. t. cxcvii., and in Cardinal Pitra’s Analecta sacra spicilegio Solesmensi parata; Nova S. Hildegardis opera (Paris, 1882).

For a modern study of the saint’s writings, see Sainte Hildegarde by Pal Franche, “Les Saints” series (Paris, 1903); and U. Chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques, bio.-bibl. 2153.