The life of Hildegard of Bingen by two of her contemporaries brings this German mystic to life in excerpts from her own writings. This twelfth-century Benedictine abbess exorcized demons; healed the sick; warned sister convents and monasteries against the dangers of a “soft” life; preached to the laity on her journeys; incurred an interdict against her convent rather than obey an order she knew was wrong; founded a new convent, separated from her original monastery, and then successfully negotiated the transfer of her nuns’ dowries from reluctant monks. When Hildegard needed answers or protection, she went to the top – to her archbishop, to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, to Pope Eugene III, or to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. And then she dared to revile Barbarossa when he continued to back the antipopes, even though he was the protector of her convent.Led to act by her visions, she tried, like Jonah, to ignore God’s promptings. She stalled, resisted, and became deathly ill. Each time Hildegard recovered as soon as she obeyed God’s hard orders. An authority on medicine, herbal remedies, natural science, music, and theology, Hildegard scolded, instructed, refused, and loved. She was a liberated woman.
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