Hildegard of Bingen: the Life, Accomplishments and Music of the Composer and Saint

Essay by XuntiyXskaXUniversity, Bachelor'sB, October 2007

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Throughout history, many women have struggled to gain well deserved recognition, respect and independence in a patriarchal society. Though western society has come very far in terms of gender equality, the inner workings of it's main religious institutions remain oppressive. Males have had power over females within the Church since the beginning of Christian worship, and thus men have traditionally held the majority of positions within the Church. Religious composition, for mass or performance, is perhaps one of the most important aspects of organized religion, one which was dominated almost entirely by males before the early twelfth century. In 1098, a tenth child was born to two wealthy members of the nobility, Hildebert and Mechtilde, in Bockelheim, Germany. This child, a daughter, was given to the Church as a tax, and became Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a composer, visionary, healer and author of major theological works. In the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen was one of very few female composers, and also part of a small minority of medieval women who could even read orwrite.

Her visions and instruction from God were initially questioned, and she met difficulty in making many of her visions' instructions into reality. Hildegard of Bingen spent her life constantly defending the validity of her visions, while gaining a form of fame within the western world, which was rare for a woman in that time. Although many of her strictly literary works reinforce many traditional beliefs of the church, her musicitself, in its lyrics and actual melodic construction embodies many different, even liberal ideas and images. By studying her life, accomplishments, compositions and other works, it is clear that Hildegard of Bingen broke many patriarchal norms within her society, and saw recognition for her work beyond that of any other women of her time.

When Hildegard...