St. Hildegard of Bingen and her Assistant Richardis

Artist: 
Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist's Narrative:
Hildegard, renowned as a mystic, author, musical composer; a researcher in science, medicine and herbs, she presented a powerful woman to the people of her time. Born in Germany, 1098, the 10th child of a wealthy family, Hildegard experienced visions from an early age. At age 8 she was sent to a Benedictine monastery as a “tithe child” under care of Jutta. A dedicated student and nun, she was elected abbess in 1136. She separated what was a double house and moved the women to Rupertsburg, gaining freedom for her female leadership in 1148. Labor, part of Benedictine rule, included nursing and illuminating manuscripts at Rupertsburg.

Joyous in the gifts of God’s created world she stated, “Creation looks on its Creator like the beloved looks on the lover.” She saw mankind standing like a cross, with outstretched arms, projected upwards to the cosmic circle. Expressed in her, Book of God’s Work, God spoke: “I…enkindle all sparks of life…With my wings I fly around the circle of earth, for I have properly put it in order by my wisdom. I, the flaming life of divine essence, glow above the beauty of the fields; I glisten in the waters; I burn in the sun, in the moon and the stars. And with the pleasant breeze – … I bring everything to powerful life. Air lives in the greens and the blooms. The waters flow as if they lived. I, the fiery power, remain hidden in all these things; they burn through me... For I am the life.” By the incarnation, God becoming man in the created world, the world is consecrated and this is central to her work.

In this icon, Hildegard, describes a vision to her devoted servant and friend Richardis, who records her words. Above them is an image of the cosmos, similar to the above description. It is a detail of her art, “Redemption,” the Order of the Four Elements, illuminated in her book, Scivias. Above the words is the title of one of her music compositions, “O Holy Wisdom.” She felt music a way to recover the unity of body, mind and soul in our relationship with God.

Her feast day is Sept. 17.

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