Happy Feast Day, Hildegard!
Y’all, it’s finally time. I said before that eventually we would need to have some coffee and talk about my favorite person, Hildegard von Bingen. Oh and we should probably talk some about Ave Generosa while we’re at it.
So…who is this person with the funny name?
Hildegard von Bingen was recently named a Saint by the Catholic church but she has been an inspiration to worshipers and scholars alike for A LITERAL THOUSAND YEARS since she was born in the 11th century (-ish) She was a nun and lived the religious life but rose to a seat of influence and leadership in her community. TODAY, September 17th is her “feast day” which is kind of like a birthday in the Catholic church, a time to remember how cool she was.
She was allowed to teach
She was considered so wise and knowledgeable that this Medieval church even *gasp* let her teach! (This was not a thing back then.) She was even allowed to leave the abbey, travel, and preach around the country, amassing quite a following.
She invented opera
It is said that her “morality play” Ordo Virtutum was the first “opera”. Not much has survived from the Medieval period until now, but this is one of the only instances scholars know of where a story was set to music and performed with characters, chorus, and instruments. So, though it was religious in nature, it is still considered one of the first (or THE first) contribution to the operatic genre.
She questioned male authority
This chick had work to do, and as the elected leader of her other sister nuns, she got it done. When the abbot (head of the monastery) didn’t listen to her she would go over his head, straight to he Archbishop or even the Pope! Do work, Hildegard!
She saw visions
While some people have proposed that these visions were actually migrane aura or another medical ailment, her visions inspired her to write and compose beautiful works of art.
She was a scientist
She had two great interests in her daily life, tending the garden at the monastery and caring for the sick. She wrote about these interests in several volumes and had a deep interest in combining the two worlds to find uses of plants and herbs to heal and treat the ill. As a result, she casually had a plant named after her. (!)
She was a prolific writer
Just the simple fact that a woman was literate this time is astounding and rare. But Hildegard also had an incredible output of writing in her lifetime, including: musical compositions, books on theology and the natural sciences, and hundreds of letters to all kinds of important people.
So here’s where we finally get around to Ave Generosa which is one of her written works. The composer, Ola Gjello, actually only set the first stanza of this prayer which refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus:
Hail, nobly born, hail, honored and inviolate,
you Maiden are the piercing gaze of chastity,
you the material of holiness—
the one who pleased God.
Well that’s all for today! I hope getting to know this amazing historical woman helps inspire you to realize your own inner awesomeness.
As the Catholics say: ” Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Pray for us!”