Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age

Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age
Author: Fiona Maddocks
Language English
Pages: 256
ISBN10: 0747273987
Genre: Biography
Goodreads Rating: 3.64
ISBN13: 9780747273981
Published: 2001 by Headline Books

Among Catholic saints, the 12th-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen perhaps best fits the description of wild womanhood offered by Cole Porter's "The Lady Is a Tramp." That is, Hildegard did it all, she did it her way, and everyone who hears about her is amazed. Such is a fair summary of the evidence offered in Hildegard of Bingen, a biography by Fiona Maddocks (the chief music critic for London's The Observer). Hildegard is today best known for her haunting musical compositions. She was also, in Maddocks's description, "a polymath: a visionary, a theologian, a preacher; an early scientist and physician; a prodigious letter writer who numbered emperors and popes among her correspondents ... Her boldness, courage, and tenacity made her at once enthralling and haughty, intrepid, and irksome." This is a straightforward, chronologically organized biography, beginning with Hildegard's girlhood (she entered a male monastery when she was 8 years old) and ending with the story of her canonization and a contemporary account of the procession that occurs annually on her feast day in Eibingen, the site of the second convent she founded. Throughout, Maddocks reminds readers of the rich historical background of Hildegard's life (the Crusades, the rise of monasticism, the beginnings of the Renaissance), offering not only an account of one extraordinary woman but of an era whose influence on our own is still being felt. --Michael Joseph Gross