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Jutta of Sponheim

Her Life › Years of study in the hermitage › Jutta of Sponheim

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In the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Jutta of Sponheim played an important role. From 1106 or 1112 up to her death, she was Hildegard’s teacher and confidant who Hildegard also confided in with regard to her visions. These times shaped her student, even if she later took her own path. One can only agree with Franz Staab when he wrote in his article „Observations of the life of Hildegard of Bingen from a historical point of view“:

„Hildegard to a great extent learned, adopted, sometimes partly fell back or further developed here.“

Jutta was born in 1092 and so was only six years older than her future confider. She was the daughter of Stephan and Sophia of Sponheim, a family of higher nobility with residence in Castle Sponheim, located on the river Nahe to the west of Bad Kreuznach. They had friendly contact to Hildegard’s family. When Jutta was three years old, her father died and her mother raised her three children alone. According to stories of Jutta’s life, her mother had already taught her intelligent daughter in the early years of her childhood and instructed her in the Holy Scripture. Jutta and her mother prove that it is a preconception to assume that all women of that time were uneducated unless they lived in a monastery.

At twelve years old, Jutta became so ill that her recovery seemed like a miracle and she promised to lead a life as a clergywoman. To the frustration of her family, Jutta rejected all marriage proposals, saw the Archbishop of Mainz, Ruthard (1098-1109), and received the veil from him – with which Jutta promised to lead a maiden, consecrated life. On 1 November 1112, the bishop of Bamberg granted the profession to the 20 year old on the Disibodenberg and Jutta, Hildegard of Bingen and a third girl moved into the convent located there.

Jutta then became the educator and teacher of the other girls and in particular provided them insight into the Psalms and the Holy Scripture. Surely it was here that Hildegard gained knowledge in reading, writing and Latin as well as the Scriptures of the Church Fathers. During this time of intensive life together, Hildegard’s gift could not remain concealed for long from the intelligent Jutta:

„A noblewoman, however, who I was brought to for education, noticed everything and disclosed it to a monk of her acquaintance.“.

wrote Hildegard in her Vita. Now she could finally confide in somebody who understood her, because there is also information about Jutta, who was considered a „heavenly oracle“, because she received divine visions. It was also Jutta who recommended Hildegard as her successor, which implies great esteem for and trust in the abilities of the younger Hildegard.

The reputation of Jutta as a woman, who lived a saintly life locked away in a nun’s convent, rapidly spread outside of the monastery, and as Hildegard did later, Jutta also gave comfort, advice and support to people of all classes. In contrast to her student, however, Jutta lived a very ascetic life. She refused meat, increased her waking, fasting and praying time many times over. Her biography even reports of a chain she wore on her bare skin. Hildegard shared her own view of Jutta with us:

„God infused this woman with his grace like a river of many waters so that she gave her body no respite, with vigils, fasts and other good works, until she crowned the present life with a good death.“.

On 22 December 1136 Jutta of Sponheim died at the age of 44 years on the Disibodenberg.