Hildegard of Bingen

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(1098 - 1179) German abbess, monastic leader, mystic, and author, Hildegard was born into a family of knights in the service of the counts of Sponheim, close relatives of the Hohenstaufen emperors. Hildegard's parents put her in the care of Jutta, sister of count Meinhard of Sponheim, at the age of 8. On Jutta's death in 1136 Hildegard was chosen superior of the community that had grown up around Jutta, and eventually moved the community to a new monastery on the Rupertsberg at Bingen on the Rhine River. In her adminstrative role she corresponded with popes, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Hildegard wrote prolifically, and much of her work survives, including accounts of her visions, music, medicine, and letters. Her Scivias ("Know the Way"), the narrative of her visions, was richly decorated under her direction (though not by her hand) with pictures of the visions. Her vivid description of the physical sensations which accompanied her visions have been diagnosed by neurologist (including popular author Oliver Sacks) as symptoms of migraine. The book was celebrated in the Middle Ages and printed for the first time in Paris in 1513. The scholarly interest in women in the medieval church has led to a great interest in Hildegard, including many recordings of her music. The Ordo Virtutum ("Order of the Virtues"), sometimes referred to as an opera or an oratorio, is a sung drama for women's voices with one male part - the Devil - which she wrote for the nuns of her monastery.

Her feast is celebrated on September 17.