Hildegard of Bingen was also a scientist and musician

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Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1197) is one of the great figures of medieval culture: because the profundity of her world-view and the versatility of what she produced, she has risen to the height of such personages as John Scotus Erigena, Avicenna, Dante. She has been recognized for years now, after centuries of being marginalized in the great currents of medieval thought.

She was an authoritative woman and from a monastery which she herself founded, having broken away from those among whom she had been raised. She had contact with the authorities of her time, Popes and emperors, as well as exponents of ecclesiastical and intellectual life and the nobility. She travelled and, an exception for that time, she preached publicly. The acknowledgement which today is due to her comes not only from theologians and philosophers, but also from musicians and practitioners of natural medicine: her work contains a powerful stimulus for rethinking the complexity human experience, it speaks of the unity and discord between body and soul, between the self and the world, between individual destiny and historical context.

If Hildegard was not a “philosopher” in the scholastic sense of the word, in her wisdom culminates a prophetic and “monastic philosophy” which bases itself on a symbolic reading of the historical and the natural, it leads us to the invisible through the visible. This symbolic reading is not “irrational”, for one of the central ideas in Hildegard's work is precisely the value of human rationalitas, it is the spark of the Divine Spirit, which makes humanity into God's masterpiece and endows it with freedom.

Michela Pereira, © L’Osservatore Romano May 12, 2012

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