Saint Hildegarde von Bingen, a Woman for All Seasons

Illumination from Saint Hildegard's Liber Scivias showing her receiving a vision and dictating to her scribe and secretary (

Hildegarde von Bingen (+1179)  is one of the newest saints in the liturgical calendar, canonized ‘equipollently’ by Pope Benedict XVI on May 12, 2012 (since she had always been regarded as a saint, but never officially canonized). Her feast was extended to the universal Church, now on the same day as Saint Robert Bellarmine (so choose your saint!). The same Pontiff also declared her one of the elite Doctors of the Church that same year (there are only 37 of them in the whole history of the Church). That was on October 7, 2012, fittingly, the feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

As a young girl, Hildegarde was offered as an oblate to the Benedictines (as would Saint Thomas Aquinas a century and a half hence), and she spent her life following the balanced rule of Saint Benedict, going on to found and govern a number of convents, and leading many to holiness.

Saint Hildegarde was a remarkable woman, cultured, erudite, balanced, deeply prayerful, and gifted with ongoing mystical visions of God. She saw all reality in the light of human creatures, and all the world, to Him, journeying towards the eschaton, all of which she recorded in three treatises. These were approved by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and Pope Eugenius III.

A renaissance woman three centuries before that historical era, Hildegarde was renowned not only for her spiritual writings, but her compositions in music, her scientific investigations, in medicine and other fields, her journeyings throughout Europe preaching (not at Mass, of course, but her words moved many). She was not afraid to rebuke the powerful, including the Emperor himself, Frederick Barbarossa, warning him that his very soul was at stake with his immoral conduct (we need a new Hildegarde!). As Pope Benedict XVI described her:

This great woman truly stands out crystal clear against the horizon of history for her holiness of life and the originality of her teaching. And, as with every authentic human and theological experience, her authority reaches far beyond the confines of a single epoch or society; despite the distance of time and culture, her thought has proven to be of lasting relevance.

She prayed and lived in the convent she had founded at Bingen, corresponding widely with people across Europe (we still have many of her letters), until her death at the then-very-venerable age of 81.

Pope Benedict gave two addresses on Hildegarde in 2010 that may be found here:

Here also is his letter declaring her a Doctor of the Church:

And, finally, for a taste of her music, quite mediaeval, and transcendent: