Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

Klosterruine Disibodenberg

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Foundation of the Monastery

Her Life › Work as Abbess › Foundation of the Monastery

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Around 1150, Hildegard and 18 or 20 nuns moved to the Rupertsberg. Their life on the Disibodenberg was modest under Benedictine rules, but still pleasant. They had rooms for living and prayer and the surroundings offered „rich fields and vineyards“. About the new site, Hildegard reported the opposite and the initial joy was soon replaced by displeasure. The nuns lived on a building site and had to do without many things they were used to. Many people met her with derision and doubted her.

„What is the benefit of bringing the rich and noble nuns from a site where they did not lack anything to one with so many shortages?“

Some of her fellow sisters were also dissatisfied with the conditions and deserted Hildegard.

Nevertheless, the destiny of the foundation of the monastery soon changed for the better. Due to the support of the powerful sponsors, the building work progressed at a rapid pace: In 1151 or at the beginning of 1152, Henry, the Archbishop of Mainz consecrated the church, which was assumed to be the reconstructed chapel with the relics of Saint Rupert. On 1 May 1152, the same Archbishop issued a certificate for Hildegard’s monastery with which he attested its foundation and transferred her a mill dam and property at the „Binger Loch“ (the name comes from a shoal in the river Rhine which was removed by blasting a hole into the rock wall). The charismatic Abbess was also able to convince the people that initially doubted her:

„Many who had despised us before and had called us arid futility, came to us in order to help us in all respects and to fill us with blessing.“

The disputes with the Abbot Kuno of Disibodenberg, however, could only be resolved in 1154/1155. Hildegard’s’ Vita reports that she

„acquired her residence by handing over her other property to the brothers in this monastery. For that they left her a large part of the possessions that were given to the monastery when the sisters joined it, and also a large amount of money so that there was no legitimate reason for complaint.“.

These agreements as well as a clarification of the legal relationships were written down in two deeds on 22 May 1158 and ordered to be issued by Henry’s successor Arnold. Hildegard achieved the fact that her monastery was put directly under the sole protection of the Archbishop of Mainz, and the nuns were ensured the independent election of their Abbess. With the Disibodenberg they were only connected through a priest who the nuns should freely elect amongst the monks. The second certificate regulated the previously disputed possessions. With this important document, the Rupertsberg Monastery became independent and Hildegard successfully accomplished her foundation.

In the following years, the new monastery flourished. For many noble families, the Rupertsberg was the first choice for the future place of their daughters and so the new monastery soon became too small for the convent. Thus, Hildegard used the opportunity in 1165 and purchased a second monastery in nearby Eibingen on the other side of the Rhine. Buildings of an abandoned Augustinian monastery already existed so the nuns could renovate it and settle down there quickly. Again, Hildegard surprises when we hear that she was able to cross the Rhine twice a week and ride to the affiliated monastery in order to attend to her duties as Abbess there as well. Perhaps she also admitted non-noble women, but evidence for this does not exist. Hildegard’s second foundation outlasted her first monastery on the Rupertsberg. The convent existed up to the 19th century when it was dissolved in the course of the secularization. Between 1900 and 1904, however, a new abbey was built on this place, the Benedictine Abbey St. Hildegard, where the legacy of the famous patron is continued.