Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

Kloster Eibingen

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Childhood

Her Life › Origin › Childhood

Navigationsbaum: Her Life › Origin › Childhood

The early childhood of Hildegard is largely unknown. If you trust her own statements and those of her biographer Guibert, she was born in 1098 as the tenth child of the free noble Hildebert and Mechthild. According to Christian-Jewish tradition, Hildegard was said to be baptized as „tenth“. Details regarding the time were not given. Already at a young age, she was said to have shown early maturity and the renouncement of all flesh. If you further follow the sources, Hildegard did not have a carefree childhood: Her Vita states several times that she had already suffered painful illnesses at an early age and „hardly used her feet to walk“. Hildegard herself wrote that she „was quite ignorant of many things in the outer world on account of the chronic illnesses I have suffered from the time of my mother’s milk up to the present day, which has weakened my body and worn down my spirits.“

Hildegard’s childhood was also characterized by another extraordinary experience: „In the third year of my life I saw a light so bright that my soul trembled, but because I was still an infant I was unable say anything.“ Later she wrote that she confided in her nurse and asked her whether she could see anything besides externally visible objects. When she said no, Hildegard realized that this inner vision was something extraordinary and only visible to her. She describes it very personally in another part of her Vita:

„But when the force of the vision subsided somewhat – in the course of which I had acted far more childishly than suited my years – I blushed profusely and frequently wept (…). Still, because of my fear of other people, I did not dare to tell anyone how I saw.“.

The picture that these statements draw is one of a girl that, because of such an extraordinary experience that made her different to the other children and adults, was profoundly insecure. Also her bodily weakness separated her from peers of her own age.