Since 2014, we’ve been working on compiling information about Hildegard von Bingen and her remarkable life. Our initial motivation came from a genuine interest in Hildegard’s midlife awakening. Most of all, the notion that a purpose-driven life can begin at 40 — and if we listen to our inner voice and spirit, we will find our purpose. Over the years we’ve discovered that Saint Hildegard of Bingen offers much more than just inspiration.
Hildegard von Bingen’s Remarkable Contributions
Hildegard has long been recognized as a meaningful religious and historical figure. But it wasn’t until 2012 that her contributions to spirituality and medicine resulted in her canonization as a Saint and doctor of the Church.
Through our exploration of Hildegard von Bingen’s life and accomplishments we’ve discovered and documented many remarkable things we didn’t know about Hildegard. So we decided to categorize many of them and share them with you here as the 20 things you may not know about Hildegard von Bingen.
20 Remarkable Things You May Not Know about Hildegard von Bingen
1. Hildegard was one of the most important composers of the Medieval Period.
Hildegard von Bingen considered music to be the point where heaven and earth meet. So it is no surprise that she believed harmony to be more than the combination of voices and instruments, for Hildegard, music represented the balance of body and soul. She saw music as the interconnectivity between man and the universe.
There is much more to know about Hildegard as a composer and Hildegard’s music. We have compiled a comprehensive introduction to Hildegard of Bingen’s music with help from a foremost expert on Hildegard’s music, Dr. Barbara Stuehlmeyer.
2. Hildegard von Bingen’s writings were visionary and ahead of her time.
Hildegard von Bingen made a remarkable historical impact. As a result of her unique thinking and diligence in recording her work, her contributions survive to this day. Hildegard’s work touches on virtually every part of our human beliefs and practices, covering centuries of human experience. Hildegard of Bingens’s prodigious contributions result from her vast output and vigorous dedication to work.
Her Book of Life’s Merits contains one of the earliest descriptions of Purgatory. See our assembled list of the most prominent Hildegard of Bingen’s writings.
3. Hildegard von Bingen’s medicine remains prominent in Germany today.
Hildegard of Bingen’s background in healing was as a function of her duties as a nun (and eventual Abbess). Hildegard of Bingen’s medicine, and the medicine of her time, was practiced within the confines of the monastic community.
Today, this practice is known as monastic medicine, or klosterheilkunde in German. In recent years, monastic medicine has gained recognition within the scientific and medical communities. Like most medieval medical treatments, Hildegard of Bingen’s natural healing techniques were rooted first in the principles of scripture and the Order of St. Benedict.
4. Hildegard’s emphasis on grains may not have been focused on spelt.
Many consider an inseparable relationship between Hildegard von Bingen and spelt. Despite popular contemporary thinking around Hildegard and spelt, Hildegard’s writings do not focus on specific spelt recipes. Instead, her work notes the general attributes and benefits of spelt as a healthy plant.
In Physica, and perhaps other soundbites on spelt that we’ve collected, Hildegard von Bingen recognizes the value of spelt as a perfect grain. She reserves most of her favorable commentary for wheat and rye. Given how much grains have changed over the last 900 years, perhaps Drs Hertzka and Strehlow were right to propose the use of ancient dinkel grain for the gluten effects in spelt and for overall intestinal health.
5. Hildegard von Bingen’s mysticism promotes a oneness with nature.
Hildegard von Bingen’s spirituality has roots in the doctrine and theology of the Catholic Church. She was canonized as a Saint and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 2012 as a result of her contributions to theology and medicine. Most noteworthy is that Hildegard is one of only 36 people (and only 4 women) to be named Doctor, during the entire history of the Church.
Hildegard von Bingen is also recognized as a visionary and a mystic. Her mysticism is widely appreciated and celebrated. So much so that Michael Conti named his movie Hildegard, The Unruly Mystic. Matthew Fox’s Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality also dedicates a portion of its curriculum to the study of Hildegard’s mysticism and her appreciation of nature. Furthermore, Terry Degler wrote a wonderful piece illustrating how Hildegard von Bingen’s spiritual awakening is like that of a Kundalini awakening process.
6. Hildegard documented the midlife awakening that inspired Carl Jung.
Our relationship with Hildegard von Bingen started by learning of her personal spiritual evolution. We call her midlife transition since she came into her purpose at midlife. We also discovered that Hildegard of Bingen was transformational, embracing a new life and spiritual path in her early forties. Her awakening would result in the most prolific and creative period of her life — with her life continuing into her early eighties.
We consider Hildegard’s midlife awakening among her most valuable contributions. It reminds us that we have the power to change these lives we’ve led and to find our bliss. Carl Jung also found inspiration in Hildegard. As a result, he referenced Hildegard of Bingen in his research on the individuation process. Avis Clendenen meticulously documented Jung and Hildegard in her book, Experiencing Hildegard.
7. Hildegard von Bingen inspires to us embrace our gifts despite potential risk.
Even a biography of Hildegard von Bingen is an inspiring body of work. Through the process of learning about her life, we have discovered that Hildegard von Bingen was transformational. Hildegard demonstrated a new way of thinking and living during a time when little was expected of women, particularly within the confines of a church governed through patriarchal rule.
Today, Hildegard of Bingen is a Saint and one of a handful of Doctors of the Church. Critics have pointed to parts of Hildegard’s generally accepted biography as overly romantic to satisfy hagiography. Even without consideration for whether she was in fact tithed to the Church as a child or if she served in seclusion as an anchorite, the lasting effect of Hildegard of Bingen’s many works and writings speak to her tremendous influence.
8. Hildegard von Bingen’s medieval garden reflects a healthy body.
Dr. Victoria Sweet marvels at Hildegard von Bingen’s view of all aspects in nature as elements of a garden. Throughout her work, Hildegard emphasized the greenness of things, specifically the viriditas and healing of elements in harmony. We have Hildegard von Bingen to thank for discovering many of the healing plants to include in a proper Hildegarden and how her teachings can be the model for a successful medieval garden.
9. Hildegard von Bingen proposed basic nutrition in a medieval diet popular today.
At its core, the basic premise of Hildegard of Bingen’s healing harmony derives from balance and prevention. Hildegard would have us believe that we maintain health by enforcing some personal discipline and routine on matters such as diet, see cold weather foods.
Hildegard von Bingen advocated for a basic nutritional treatment founded in ancient traditions like breaking bread. Today, we can benefit from the same principals found in a medieval diet inspired by Hildegard. In addition, the modern slow food movement is much like how Hildegard saw food as medicine and how to take a walk after dinner for good health.
Since most of Hildegard of Bingen’s wisdom ultimately relied on common sense and moderation, we can adopt many of her practices rather easily. But there is still much more to her wisdom and work in natural medicine to be discovered.
10. Hildegard’s Viriditas reflects the power of nature in each of us.
Among Hildegard’s most recognizable contributions is her theory of Viriditas. Hildegard of Bingen believed that viriditas was what encapsulated the divine feminine force and the greening power of nature. As one might find in observing plant life, Hildegard of Bingen believed the unifying power of the divine shows itself in the form of growth.
In addition to physical health found through viriditas, we can also achieve mindfulness through viriditas. Like a form of dynamic meditation, we commune through our interconnectivity with nature. Dr. Nancy Fiero, a noted pianist and author of the book Hildegard of Bingen and her Vision of the Feminine wrote a poem she calls the Viriditas Prayer.
11. Hildegard’s fasting was a prescription for living in moderation.
Hildegard von Bingen is known in Germany as the founder of alternative medicine and for her contributions to holistic health and wellness. Those devoted to Hildegard nutrition often commit to some form of periodic fasting regime. Much like the affiliation of spelt to Hildegard, there is some dispute about Hildegard of Bingen’s’s actual endorsement of fasting, however there is little dispute over the importance of intestinal health in Hildegard medicine.
We believe fasting corresponds closely to Hildegard’s belief in routine, discipline, and discretio. Hildegard of Bingen’s guide to fasting and health advocates for moderate fasting guidelines to renew and preserve good health. In Germany, Hildegard von Bingen is known for three discrete healthy fasts, whereas in the US, Hildegard’s regimen is normally considered a spiritual fast from antiquity.
12. Hildegard of Bingen closely observed and documented human ailments and remedies.
As implied by our name, Healthy Hildegard is largely dedicated to recognizing ailments documented by Hildegard, and finding suitable Hildegard-inspired remedies. For easy reference, we’ve aggregated Hildegard of Bingen’s 11 best natural remedies.
There are several well-known treatments, within the context of Hildegard’s cures, such as the Wormwood cure, Parsley wine, holistic allergy remedies, 3 natural cold remedies and the Duckweed elixir. Ultimately, Hildegard von Bingen believed our health depends on nature and our environment, so her remedies often align with seasonal changes. Consider herbal cold remedies in winter, the autumn Duckweed drink, the Spring Cleanse and even the Spring Soul Cleanse.
13. Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum was the first morality play and opera.
Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum deserves its own special category apart from Hildegard’s writings, broadly. In addition to Scivias, Ordo Virtutum represents Hildegard of Bingen’s acceptance of her own voice and visions, marking the point of her midlife awakening. See our translation text of Ordo Virtutum to read the voice of Anima tell the story of our soul, along with the guiding support of our subconscious virtues. In the original performance of Ordo, Hildegard played the queen of all virtues, Humility. We have had the pleasure of watching modern performances of Ordo Virtutum, including the San Francisco Renaissance Voices, and Tim Slover’s Pulitzer prize nominated play, Virtue.
14. Commission E has adopted many of Hildegard’s healing herbs.
Hildegard of Bingen’s medicine is based on the concept of finding our cues in nature. Whether through the divine healing power of viriditas, or our meditations in nature, the natural world provides the remedies for our lives.
Healthy Hildegard is largely based on rediscovering the healing herbs that Hildegard von Bingen described in Physica and Causae et Curae. Accordingly, we have attempted to distill some of the more complex findings that continue to persevere in klosterheilkunde, including Hildegard’s 7 healing plants, herbal high blood pressure home remedies, and Hildegard’s 9 herbs for painful menses.
15. Hildegard’s healing spices help incorporate natural herbs in our daily routine.
As with healing herbs, Hildegard of Bingen’s healing spices are a way to incorporate Hildegard nutritional therapy into our daily lives. Among the most important of Hildegard’s 13 healing spices we’ve found compelling reference to Bertram or pellitory, galangal (often confused with ginger), and Thyme benefits. Hildegard’s guide to fasting and health encourages the use of these herbs to preserve and maintain energy levels. Finally, Hildegard would also likely advocate for the use of one of these 24 bitter spices, which were mainstays of monastic medicine in her time.
16. Hildegard’s belief in interconnectivity underscores our balance with nature.
When we think about interconnectivity we think of being a part of something larger than ourselves. We seek to embraced the joy of giving to a greater collective purpose. Hildegard of Bingen envisioned this as a cosmic womb of the divine feminine.
Hildegard von Bingen’s Scivias formalized her view by proposing a model of the universe resembling an egg. She wrote of the microcosm and the macrocosm as a means to exemplify the spiritual and physical interconnectivity of man and the universe. Fittingly, through Hildegard’s work, we’ve come to understand that the easiest way to achieve interconnectivity comes through our relationship with nature. Thus we think Hildegard would approve of finding mindful meditation in God’s cathedral of nature.
17. Hildegard von Bingen’s creativity represents both an expression and form of prayer.
Hildegard von Bingen’s beliefs in the power of creativity comfort us by reminding us that life’s greatest forces are found in our ever-expanding universe of creativity. When we explore the outer limits of our creative power we bring to life the divine feminine within each of us. According to Hildegard, life’s greening force results from the creative power of viriditas.
These core beliefs contribute to Hildegard’s legacy as the Patron Saint of Creativity. We think of Hildegard having first revealed her creative power in her performance of Ordo Virtutum. This milestone event, as Teri Degler puts it in her piece describing Hildegard as a kundalini, represents a meaningful point of overcoming fear and personal risk to embark on a spiritual transformation.
18. Hildegard’s of Bingen 4 bodily juices corresponds with seasons, directions and elements.
There has been much written about Hildegard of Bingen’s (and her predecessor’s) belief in humorism and humoral medicine. Though a believer in this ancient form of treatment, Hildegard had a rather small twist insofar as she viewed the bodily humors as four bodily juices.
According to Hildegard, four primary elements compose the Earth and the Earth was a gift to man from God. In her book, Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky, Dr. Victoria Sweet discusses the 4 elements as earth, fire, air, and water. Hildegard believed we find balance among the four elements. Accordingly, Hildegard believed that Fire strengthens, Earth provides life force, Air supports flexibility, and Water moisturizes and nourishes.
19. Hildegard von Bingen’s Discretio at the core of our mandate to manage our own condition.
Hildegard von Bingen’s concept of discretio is consistent with our understanding of discretion. So we refer back to discretio for various reasons throughout this site. From our Comments on a Hildegard Fast to Hildegard’s nutritional treatment, to Vindication for Breaking Bread, and of course Hildegard of Bingen medicine, discretion plays an important part in how we manage the routine of our daily lives.
It is particularly noteworthy that as far back as the middle ages Hildegard places much of the onus and responsibility of a healthy and productive life on our ability to manage ourselves.
20. Hildegard of Bingen liked bitter flavors to balance appetite and promote digestion.
Hildegard of Bingen’s concepts behind bitter tasting foods and bitters closely resembles the theory of bodily humors and elements. Accordingly, we experience five unique flavor profiles: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami (savory).
As a result of our tendency to avoid bitterness, our nutrition – and ultimately our health, suffers. Our western diet internationally avoids bitter flavors and foods in favor of more appealing flavors. Knowing what foods are bitter and how to incorporate those into our diet can greatly improve our intestinal health, reduce excessive appetite, and encourage a more diverse and nutritious bounty of foods into our diets.
Here are 17 bitter foods that you can learn about and start enjoying today.