Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen, died 1179 - Another Radical Feminist

My daughter wrote a paper last year in that women in the middle ages were better off than women after the renaissance and I think she made a good case. 

 Of course, she didn't come up with that idea herself. Just look at some of the women and their influence in the middle ages. Queen Eleanor. Joan of Arc. Julian of Norwich. 

And the lady we commemorate today, Hildegard of Bingen.

It's a little shocking for our modern sensibilities to learn that Hildegard was sent away from her family to a convent when she was only eight. Hildegard was one of ten children --when she was sent to the convent she was taken under the wing by an abbess named Jutta. She probably got much more attention and nurturing and certainly, education than had she stayed at home.

Ever since the story of Katie Luther's escape from the convent in the pickle wagon Lutherans tend to think of convents as terrible places. 

 But I think convents were avenues of freedom for medieval women. 

Convents gave women like Hildegard opportunities to be leaders and even preachers. Hildegard traveled all over Germany and as far as Paris and people came far and wide to hear her and even asked for written copies of her sermons. She advised bishops, popes, and kings.

Her writings combined science, mathematics, music, art, social justice, respect for creation and theology. And all this was based on visions that some believe were simply the result of debilitating migraine headaches! It makes you wonder what beauty we are missing because we no longer search for meaning in suffering.


  1. Hildegard was an amazing woman. We visited Germany in 2006 and visited some of her sites. fascinating. I began to follow your tweets during the ELCA conf and now discovered your interesting blog. You have a great blog list here. something I need to strengthen on my blog.
    good to read another Lutheran Twitterer and Blogger!

  2. Read this post after finishing Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase - Hildegard is wonderful, the women only spaces of convents have given us some extraordinary female figures. I shall try and report part of this to the women in ministries blog (and I loved reading your squash soup recipe too ... hmm delicious!)