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Publicity through the voice of God: Hildegard of Bingen as a Public Figure in the Twelfth Century
By Allison Jaines Elledge
Graduate Paper, University of Tennessee Knoxville, 2009
Introduction: Hildegard of Bingen has a long list of titles: she is sometimes said to be a mystic, sometimes a visionary, as well as prophet, physician, artist, musician, poet, and theologian. Little is known of her youth except that she was born in 1098, the youngest of ten children to a noble family. As a child she was rather sickly and migraines plagued her for the rest of her life. She was given to the convent at Disibodenberg at the age of eight, under the care of her spiritual mother, Jutta, who provided her with an education. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard became abbess of the convent. After a vision from God and much struggle with the abbot of Disibodenberg, Kuno, Hildegard moved her nuns to a new convent on the Rhine at Rupertsberg in 1150 and later founded a daughter convent across the river at Eibingen. Already well known and resourceful prior to the move, she earned her greatest fame as a visionary at Rupertsberg. She went on four public preaching tours that took her all over Germany and into France. She wrote several works, including Scivias (Know the Ways (of the Lord)), Ordo Virtutum (Play of Virtues), Liber vitae meritorum (Book of Life’s Merits), Liber divinorum operum (Book of Divine Works), De operatione Dei (On God’s Works). She also wrote two works on natural history and medicine, Physica and Causae et Curae, and a collection of songs with notes and lyrics, Symphonia.