Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

Historisches Museum am Strom Hildegard von Bingen

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Correspondence Partners

Her Life › Advisor and admonisher › Correspondence Partners

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Like Hermann, Bishop of Constance , many people approached the Abbess of the Rupertsberg: „The fame of your wisdom has spread far and wide and has been reported to me by a number of truthful people, reports that have made me desire to seek out your solace and support even from these far distant regions.“ There were numerous well-known personalities of the 12th century amongst the enquirers. In addition to the correspondence with Frederick I Barbarossa, especially the papal letters and the one from Bernard of Clairvaux have to be mentioned, although the problem of handing down these letters has to be considered. Anastasius IV and Hadrian IV, for example, did presumably not correspond with Hildegard, although the address line makes us believe so. Eugenius III was mainly involved in her successful step into the public eye, even though he never sanctioned her letters in writing, as is stated in her Vita. A letter from him was handed down that deals, amongst others, with the nun Richardis of Stade leaving the monastery on the Rupertsberg, which Hildegard wanted to prevent. To Pope Alexander III she wrote after the death of her secretary Volmar and prevailed that the monks of the monastery on the Disibodenberg had to send a successor to her. The oldest preserved letter Hildegard wrote in 1146/1147 to the Cistercian Abbott Bernard of Clairvaux in order to make him confirm her prophetic gift. She only received a short, though neutral response from the powerful man.

Numerous bishops and archbishops, primarily the three Rhenish Archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier, corresponded with Hildegard and appreciated her advice. The same can be said for Abbots, Abbesses, provosts, priors, Canons, Canonesses, monks and nuns from Albon to Zwiefalten. She exchanged letters with secular people, amongst them the English royal family, the Byzantine Empress Bertha, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses as well as non-noble lays.

The letter from Tengswich of Andernach, which is described in detail at another point, is not the only letter exchange of the famous Abbess with a great woman of the 12th century: Several letters from the mystic Elizabeth of Schönau were also handed down. Like Hildegard she was a visionary and also composed three visionary works, but in many perceptions Elizabeth differed essentially from her. Elizabeth lead an extremely ascetic life and underwent hard penances, which certainly was one reason for her early death at the age of only 31. She told Hildegard about her visions that she experienced in ecstasy, and in which an upcoming punishment of the world for her sins was revealed to her. Hildegard’s response was full of solacing words, and she strengthened Elizabeth in her role as a prophet. In another letter, she advises her to „learn to be modest! (…) a person, who imposes more hardship on herself than her body can bear, (will) not bring benefit to her soul.“ As in the case of the Abbess of Schönau, Hildegard also referred to the personal needs of the people in other letters. The more her fame spread, the more people approached the prophet of Bingen with their religious questions, often even representatives of Christ on earth.