Hildegard was one of ten children born to noble parents m the
village of Beniersheim in what is now western Germany. At the age
of eight she was placed in the care of Jutta of Spenhcim, the
abbess of a group of nuns attached to the Benedictine monastery
near Bingen. After Jutta's death Hildegard became abbess, and
shortly after, in 1141, she saw tongues of flame descend upon her
from the sky. From this time on she devoted her life to trying to
express her mystical visions through composition, poetry, and
By virtue of her visionary experiences Hildegard was able to
exercise a strength and authority unusual for women at the time.
Combining religious and diplomatic activities, she made several
missionary journeys through Germany over a period of ten years.
She was a prolific writer as well as an accomplished physician,
and her works reflected a close and creative alliance between
science and the arts. As well as writing on natural history and
medicine, she composed much lyrical poetry, and she recorded her
prophetic and symbolic visions m her manuscript Scivias. Her
morality play, Ordo virtutum, consists of a discourse on
the virtues; 16 of these were represented in performance by Hildegard's nuns; the only male part — the Devil — was taken by
Merging her passions for poetry and music, Hildegard collected
her compositions together under the title Symphonia iUiiionic
celestium revelatioiium (Symphony of the harmony of celestial
revelations). She added to this work constantly over the years,
and from this collection come the sequences (a chant form) and
hymns found on the recommended recording.
Hildegard thought of herself as "a feather on the breath of
God", a mystic rather than a composer; most of her works involve
deeply devotional religious texts set to long, flowing melodies,
mainly for solo voices. In the composition О Jerusalem she
likens Jerusalem to the nunnery that she founded at Rupertsberg,
near Bingen, on the site of a monastery that had been previously
razed to the ground by Normans. Hildegard died at Rupertsberg in
the autumn of 1179.