Hildegard was born the tenth child of a noble family at Bockelheim, Germany, in 1098. She was dedicated to the Lord, and grew up with a deep faith. Hildegard was attracted to the ascetic life and frequently visited her aunt, Blessed Jutta, who lived as an "anchor" next to a Benedictine monastery, spending her life as a recluse in prayer, meditation, and quiet contemplation.
Several young women were attracted to the holy life of Jutta, and a convent was founded. After Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as the prioress of the new convent. The community moved to the area of Bingen on the Rhine, and established another convent in the mid-12th century.
Hildegard’s talents were many! Her musical plays were performed in her convents, and her beautiful choral compositions were sung in church. Musicologists and historians of science and religion initiated revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages; her music has a lovely ethereal quality, which is highly appreciated to this day. Hildegard believed in natural remedies, and produced writings about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, trees, and stones.
Hildegard was accustomed to seeing visions, and recorded them at the request of her spiritual director. She produced major works of theology. She wanted her visions to be formally approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She sought the recommendation of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who brought the writings to the attention of Pope Eugenius III (1145-53); he, with the archbishop of Mainz, approved them and exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings.
Like St. Catherine of Siena, Hildegard advised bishops, popes, and kings. She was considered to have great knowledge of the faith and the natural life. In a turbulent age, Hildegard used her talents in the quest for obtaining true justice and peace. She corresponded with four popes, two emperors, King Henry II of England, and famous clergy. Her works include commentaries on the Gospels, the Athanasian Creed, and the Rule of St. Benedict as well as Lives of the Saints and a medical work on the human body. Hildegard is regarded as one of the greatest figures of the 12th century — the first of the great German mystics, a poet, a physician, a musician, and a visionary. Hildegard died on September 17, 1179. Miracles were reported at her death, and the people honored her a saint. Beatified but not formally canonized, her name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology in the fifteenth century. Her feast day is September 17.