Hildegard of Bingen 1: Introduction

In the Fall of 2007, the “Gates of Paradise” were on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. we were graced to receive Ghiberti’s famous Gold-gilded doors from the Baptistry at Florence’s Cathedral. Although they were on display in the Museum, people were content to instead watch the video program in the next room that explained the laser technology used to restore the Gates of Paradise.

This experience echoed itself for me when I saw the Botafumeiro, the famous massive Incensor at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Instead of experiencing and watching it, I, like everyone else, was watching it through the screen of my portable electronic device filming it. The same technology that restores, sustains, and sometimes creates great art, often seems to bring us to a personal disadvantage.

Hildegard of Bingen, herself a woman of her times, herself a woman immensely creative in many multimedia fields, achieved a greater balance. She was ahead of her times, and yet her times contributed to her brilliance. As a deeply Spiritual and Learned Monastic Woman, Hildegard achieved a unique balance and elusive brilliance. She was mystified by God’s closeness to our world & experience as many Medieval mystics were, and she also contributed to the flourishing of Art, Spirituality, Liturgy & Theology. She worthily attains the title of Doctor of the Church.

I believed that it was a good time to dig up the paper that I wrote on Hildegard of Bingen, as part of an Undergraduate project. I have touched up the paper slightly and divided it into two parts. I have only been deliberately provocative in this initial post. I wanted to also elucidate more on her contemporary significance.

The primary, and most helpful resource for me has been Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader edited by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. The book provides an accessible and critical edition summarizing some key readings, ideas, and intuitions of Hildegard. Hildegard, Doctor of the Church, was a theologian. She was also a hymn writer, a master chef with many recipes (to which I have sampled), a healer, and a playwright. Many of these works were published in this Spiritual Reader. Another one from the Classics of Western Spirituality, The Scivias, I have not read, and imagine it would be another quality resource.

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