Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

Historisches Museum am Strom Hildegard von Bingen

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Her Life › Origin › Family

Navigationsbaum: Her Life › Origin › Family

„When Henry IV was King of the Holy Roman Empire, there lived at that time in Gaul (meant is the area on the left side of the river Rhine) a maiden lady well known because of her aristocratic background as well as her holiness. Her name was Hildegard. Her father was Hildebert, her mother Mechthild.“.

This is the scarce information known to us today from the biography of Hildegard, the Vita Sanctae Hildegardis. Hildegard herself was never interested in revealing too much about her family. Neither in her works and letters nor in the parts of her Vita, which was written when she was still alive by the monk Gottfried in the monastery on the Rupertsberg, are there the names of her parents or other relatives mentioned. Only Theodorich of Echternach, who finished the Vita in the 1280s, added the names. It is generally assumed that this omission is related to her self-conception as prophet. In this function, her family relationships were not relevant and were not supposed to play a role, since it was not her who talked to the people in her visions, but the Triune God. A second draft of a biography of Hildegard was written by Guibert of Gembloux who stayed at the Rupertsberg from 1177 up to Hildegard’s death in 1179. This draft mentions more about her family.

„Outstanding in the pride of secular aristocracy, overflowing by the influence of wealth of the country, extremely important because of their renowned reputation (…) they had a great name (…).“.

Researchers agreed on the name „free nobility“ for Hildegard’s parents, which described the high dynastic nobility as opposed to the ministeriales – former unfree servants who moved up to a class similar to nobility from the 11th century. Hildegard was always aware of this status and her origin.

From Guibert, we also learned that Hildegard was the tenth child. The names of some of her siblings could be added by investigating certificates. Drutwin, the oldest son of Hildebert, was presumably to be his successor, two more brothers, Roricus/Rorich and Hugo, pursued the cloth: The first was supposedly a priest and canon in Tholey, situated on the river Saar. Hugo was a cathedral choirmaster in Mainz and from about 1175 provost in the monastery of his famous sister. There is in existence the names of four female relatives of Hildegard, who are considered to be her sisters: Irmgard, Jutta, Odilia and Clementia who was a nun in Hildegard’s monastery on the Rupertsberg.

It is known that few religious dignitaries were related to Hildegard. They included Arnold, provost of St. Andreas church in Cologne and later Archbishop of Trier (1169-1184) and his brother Wezzelin who was also a provost of St. Andreas church. Those family bonds to significant people in the Empire made it easy for Hildegard to be heard and supported in public.