Friday, June 7, 2013

Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegarde von Bingen (1)
A review of Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen.

"The last night of the first millennium..." So begins this documentary/movie on the life of the 12th Century saint. A dingy, tiny church is shown, crowded with German believers. They grovel, cry, cling together as a priest tells them it is their last night on earth. Come morning, the sun rose, and no one knew what to make of it. Life went on, but from that frightening night came the little girl who would grow to be Hildegarde von Bingen, one of the most revered female saints in Christendom.

The film is in German with English subtitles, but is well worth the watch. The history is shown colorfully, in a way that will engage the viewer intimately. The details of Hildegarde's childhood are covered briefly, skipping to her life beginning at age 30. (For a full history of Saint Hildegarde, please refer to Sabina Flanagan's excellent work.)

So much is covered in exquisite detail that it's difficult to explain. Her visions are never depicted as showy but as bright lights that conveyed knowledge in a way only she understood. At the urging of her inner visions, she applies herself to learning healing through the use of herbs, music, prayer, and crystals. She eventually becomes the new Mother of the convent, and passes on to her own charges that healing can only come when one is in balance with both nature and God.

Liber Scivias (2)
For the first 40 years of her life, she hid her visions from all but two people. It was her belief that during one of her visions, she was specifically commanded to write down what she was learning, that others might benefit from it as well. That was the beginning of her first book.

Much of the movie centers around her extreme love for her young protégé Richardis. It sometimes appears that this love is more intense than might be proper in a convent, but as the story develops we learn just how important Richardis and her support are for Hildegarde. When Richardis is later removed from Hildegarde's convent to become Abbess elsewhere, the young girl pines away and eventually dies, something Hildegarde predicted.

The movie ends frustratingly when Hildegarde is taken by another illness and almost dies. She is sent back by angels, her job not yet finished. When asked why she was sent back, she explains that she has more to do, and that she will be travelling around to preach. Unheard of at the time, this shocks many people.

If you are new to studying Hildegarde von Bingen, this is a fascinating and well developed documentary/historical fiction that presents the important features of her life. You'll gain enough information to begin a further, more in depth study of her life, visions, music and religious beliefs. I give this movie four stars!

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1) Image from
2) Image from  Wikimedia Commons (PD-OLD)