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The Greenest Branch

A Feature Review of Two New Books on Hildegard of Bingen

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0547567847″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″ alt=”Hildegard of Bingen” ]Illumination:

A Novel of Hildegard of Bingen

Mary Sharratt

Hardback: HMH Books, 2012.
Buy now:
[ [easyazon-link asin=”0547567847″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B006R8PHWU” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1565484630″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”103″]Woman Mystic:

Selections from Saint Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias

Elizabeth Ruth Obbard

Paperback: New City Press, 2012
Buy now:
[ [easyazon-link asin=”1565484630″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B009AHSHZO” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]


Reviewed by Caitlin Michelle Desjardins


I first encountered the name of Hildegard von Bingen during my years as a music student, in a class on Music before 1600. It was early in the first semester of my Freshman year, so I don’t remember much—saving the recollection of a pristine woman’s voice singing a few lines of Latin that had a remarkably rich melody.


Hildegard von Bingen has not been a stranger to me this year, however, as I’ve encountered her name, music, writings and person in a variety of ways, most particularly owing to this being the “Year of Hildegard” to correspond with her canonization in the Catholic Church. My first thought, of course, when I heard she was being canonized was to remember I’d encountered her in that “Music before 1600” class and wonder: why were they just canonizing her now? That question, I’m afraid, I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to, for the more I’ve encountered Hildegard, the more I’ve seen her as embodying the very definition of Saint in the sureness of her call and visions, the magnificence of the music she gifted to the church and the powerful theology she left in writing. But, like many visionaries (both those that, like Hildegard, literally saw heavenly visions, and those who foresaw the future or saw the now clairvoyantly), she was remarkably ahead of her time. So much so, perhaps, that we are only now catching up to her…and even then, there’s so much power here, I’m not sure we are even yet fully prepared.


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