Hildegard of Bingen


Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179) was a German renaissance writer, composer, philosopher. She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs and poems.

Life and Music

  • During her life she was a leading light of the medieval intelligentsia and one of the most influential women in Europe.
  • She was the author of several visionary books, works of natural history and medicine.
  • In the States, it's her theology and mysticism that have won her most friends, with radical priests like Matthew Fox championing her as a leader of 'Creation Spirituality'.
  • She wrote rambling religious poems in Latin and painted pictures of herself, most famously as a tiny seated figure gazing upwards at a circular design perhaps intended to symbolise the cosmos but looking remarkably like a Tibetan mandala.
  • Her poems and devotional texts were often set to music, to be sung by the choir of her convent.
  • Hildegard is the first composer whose biographical details we have any clear idea about.  She is still best known in Britain.
  • She gave conventional plainsong a new flexibility and expressiveness, creating long, spiralling melismas that make the music of the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos seem curiously flatfooted and earthbound in comparison.
  • For a first taste of Hildegard's genius the CD A Feather on the Breath of God, featuring the voice of Emma Kirkby and a group of equally fine female singers, released in 1981, sold a remarkable 260,000 copies, making it the eleventh biggest-selling classical CD of all time.
  • In the early Eighties, with the early-music movement in full swing, her name began to be heard again in the company of Guillaume de Machaut, Perotin, Josquin Desprez and other masters of the pre-Renaissance era.

Did you know?
In Germany, Hildegard-mania has tended to focus on her avant-garde contribution to holistic medicine and nutrition. In health shops all over the country you can buy 'Hildegard bread' and naturopathic Hildegard face creams and moisturisers made from a primitive grain called Dinkel.

Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard Von Bingen: A Life

Renowned in her time for her theological, scientific and prophetic writings, Hildegard von Bingen is best known today for her unique and glorious music.

Early Music Composers