Hildegard was a most remarkable woman, and one of the greatest figures of the 12th century. This German mystic was a poet and a prophet, a physician and a moralist. She fearlessly rebuked popes and bishops, princes and lay people.
Becoming a nun at 15, Hildegard led an uneventful life for the next 17 years. But more and more she found herself foretelling the future in her conversations. After she became prioress of her community she felt the need to begin writing down the visions and revelations that were coming to her. The archbishop of Mainz examined her writings and declared, “These visions come from God.” Encouraged, she began her greatest work, 26 visions dealing with God and man, creation, redemption and the Church. Full of apocalyptic language, warnings and prophesies, the writing took 10 years to complete. Pope Eugenius III examined the results and cautiously told Hildegard to continue to write whatever the Holy Spirit told her to publish.
With the blessing of the pope, Hildegard, overcoming much opposition, built a larger monastery for her nuns in a place that had been revealed to her in a vision. The new monastery had such things as running water for the 50 women religious who resided there. And Hildegard was able to entertain the community with hymns and canticles for which she wrote both the music and the words. She composed a sacred cantata and wrote 50 allegorical homilies to be used for community reading.
Her more than 300 letters, written to popes and kings, to clergy and abbesses, are full of warnings and prophecies. As was to be expected, she was widely criticized by some, including her own nuns, while others valued her counsel. Despite sickness, she continued to write. One book was on natural history, another on medicine. Some of her ideas on blood circulation and mental illness were far ahead of her time.
Although she has never been formally canonized, the Roman Martyrology lists her as a saint.