Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

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The Preaching Journeys

Her Life › Advisor and admonisher › The Preaching Journeys

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In order to fulfil her mission, to spread the words of God in the world, no effort was too great and no challenge too big for Hildegard of Bingen. Specific evidence of this can be seen in her preaching journeys.
At the age of about 60 years, she was so seriously ill „that the blood in the veins, the marrow in the bones dried up and my intestines were torn and my whole body tired out like the herbs losing the greening power in winter“. As so often, her illness was connected to her prophetic office: „I was directed in a true vision to visit certain communities of religious men and women to reveal openly to them the words that God had shown me.“ Her biographer names numerous places where Hildegard preached the words of God:

„In all this, it is also remarkable that she, not only directed by the Holy Spirit, but driven, came to Cologne, Trier, Metz, Würzburg and Bamberg in order to announce to clerics and the people what it was that God wished, and on the Disibodenberg, in Sieburg, Ebersbach, Hirsau, Zwiefalten, Maulbronn, Rothenkirchen, Kitzingen, Kraufthal, Hördt, Hagen, Werden, Andernach, on the Marienberg, in convents and remote places she revealed what was beneficial for salvation, according to what God had revealed to her.“

In the 19th century, there was an attempt made to put together a route entailing these places. According to this, Hildegard undertook four journeys: From 1158 to 1161, she went from Mainz to Bamberg, then from Trier along the river Mosel to Lorraine, followed the Rhine for one year and arrived in Cologne and on her last journey in 1170/1171 she visited Swabia. Whether these journeys actually took place, is doubtful. The assumption that the biographical note would support a salvation of the Abbess and would increase her posthumous fame, is obvious. Letters from Trier and Cologne that request a written version of Hildegard’s sermons at least prove her presence there. So, it cannot be excluded that the Abbess of the Rupertsberg made her way on several preaching journeys between 1158 and 1171.

These ventures are especially remarkable for two reasons: Travelling in the Middle Ages was difficult and dangerous for everybody; for a woman of over 60 years, however, these exertions that she had to face, either walking, on a horse or on a ship, were almost impossible to overcome. Also, women then – as it is still the case today – were not allowed to preach in the Catholic Church. Hildegard grew up studying the Bible and knew the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: „Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach (…).“ However, her self-conception as a prophet legitimated her to do so. Thus, it was possible for her to admonishingly preach in churches and public places about the grievances spreading across the clergy. In this way, she also reached people that were denied the chance to read her works, approach her with letters or visit her.