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Eckenstein, Lina, d. 1931 / Woman under monasticism: chapters on saint-lore and convent life between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500 (1896)


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St Hildegard of Bingen[1*] and St Elisabeth of Schönau.[2*]

FROM the peaceful pursuits of mediaeval nuns we turn to some of the women who were interested in the problems of the day, and whose minds were agitated by current difficulties which they sought to solve in their own way. In Germany in the early Middle Ages the struggle between Pope and Emperor, and the interference in temporal matters of prelates in their character as dependents of the Pope, gave rise to a prolonged struggle. Much criticism, reflection and speculative energy were brought to bear on the relations between monarchical and ecclesiastical power, on the duties of the ministers of the Church, and on the Pope's efficiency in controlling them. It is at least curious to find among the voices that are raised in criticism and protest, those of two nuns, who in consideration of the services they have rendered to the faith are estimated as saints. The present chapter proposes to deal in outline with the writings of St Hildegard of Bingen (1098--1178) and of St Elisabeth of Schönau (c. 1129--1165). These two women differed somewhat in their points of view, but they were equally zealous in supporting the Pope's authority, and were equally in   [p. 257]   spired by the belief that the Church could and should maintain a lofty and universal standing and act as a regenerator to society. The exhortations of these women were very popular, and in the year 1158, when they were in the full exercise of their power, the annalist wrote, 'in these days God made manifest His power through the frail sex, in the two maidens Hildegard and Elisabeth, whom He filled with a prophetic spirit, making many kinds of visions apparent to them through His messages, which are to be seen in writing.'[3*]

The attitude of these women and the tone of their writings were the direct outcome of contemporary events. They were deeply moved by the instability of social conditions and shared the belief of other great reformers of the age, that what was needed to remedy social evils was a livelier faith in the truths of religion and a higher standard of morality in conduct.

The 12th century is the age when national feeling in the different countries of Europe first asserted itself strongly, and when consciousness of solidarity within made possible the apprehension of ideas which lie beyond the pale of immediate personal and national advantage. The conception of knighthood, hitherto determined only by land ownership and loyalty to a lord, was given a new interpretation, and the order of Knights Templars was founded, which held knighthood to be based upon devotion to the cause of religion and loyalty to the Saviour. Similarly love of war, which till then had expended itself in self-protective and aggressive warfare, was turned into a new channel, and the thought of the Crusade roused peoples of different nationalities to fight side by side, inspired by a common cause and actuated by a common interest. The authority of the Pope as a temporal ruler had reached its climax, and there were threatening signs of its decline, but when this power, like the conception of knighthood, received the new interpretation, its importance had never been more distinctly emphasized.

The Popes who ruled between 900 and 1000 had been absorbed by party squabbles in Rome and had done little to raise the dignity of their office in other lands. But a change had come through Hildebrand, who nominally served, but practically ruled, five Popes before he himself sat in the chair of St Peter as Gregory VII (1073--1085). Owing to his influence the papal power rapidly increased and took a universal colouring, for, by   [p. 258]   identifying himself with all the wider and higher interests of humanity, the Pope succeeded in winning for himself the recognition of his supreme authority in matters both spiritual and temporal. There was something grand and inspiring in this conception of the Pope as the universal peace-maker, and of Rome as the central and supreme court of appeal of the civilized world, but it could not last. In proportion as national life in the different countries struggled into being, this overlordship of the Pope was felt to weigh heavily and to hamper development, and criticisms arose concerning his right to interfere in matters that did not appertain directly to the Church. At the time we are speaking of--the second half of the 12th century--there were indications of a distinction drawn between 'sacerdotium' and 'imperium,' between priestly and imperial status considered as the rightful basis of power, with a consequent loss of prestige to the Church. The position of the Papacy was moreover seriously affected by continued schism. As a check to this loss of prestige, those who were in favour of papal supremacy urged that the Church must be strengthened in its members, and they sought an increase of influence in a reform of the life of the clergy generally.

It has been mentioned above how from the 10th century onwards a direct connection had grown up between the Pope and the monastic centres, and how the founders of new religious orders had by a like direct connection secured a safeguard against wilful interference with their prerogatives by prince and prelate. Outside Italy it was in the monastery that the Pope throughout the 12th century found his chief advocates, that his spiritual supremacy was most earnestly emphasized, and that the belief was fostered that through his influence a re-organization of society could be obtained.

In this connection no figure of the age is more remarkable than that of Bernard of Clairvaux († 1153),[4*] 'the simple monk, clad in plain clothes, weakened by fasting,' whose power is felt in religious and lay circles alike. The secret of Bernard's influence lay in the fact that he was in one direction the mouthpiece of the ideal aspirations of his age--he emphasized the spiritual side of religion and insisted on the great social and moral advantages to be obtained by accepting spiritual direction as a guide in practical matters. By doing so he at once increased the reverence felt for religion and gave it a practical value. His very success   [p. 259]   commands admiration, repellent as his narrowness appears in some particulars. It is true that he diminished schism by persuading King Louis VI of France to recognise Pope Innocent II (1130--43), that he won over the German Emperor Lothar († 1137) to the same course; it is true that he founded the order of the Knights Templars, gave a new impulse to the order of Citeaux, and preached the Crusade; but it was he who declared the writings of Abelard († 1142) false, and who had Arnold of Brescia expelled from Paris on the charge of heresy.

Socially and politically speaking the state of affairs in the German Empire during the first half of the 12th century had taken a deplorable turn through the choice of Konrad († 1152) as emperor. His vacillating policy left party hatred rampant between the rival houses of WeIf (Guelph) and Hohenstaufen. On the slightest provocation this hatred broke out in warfare; it was checking all possibility of material progress and prosperity when the thought of a crusade offered a welcome diversion to these turbulent elements. For the first crusade few recruits had been drawn from any districts except the northern provinces of France, but the second assumed very different proportions. As early as 1145 Pope Eugenius was granting indulgences to those who joined it, while Bernard took up the idea and preached it with great success all along the Rhine. Disastrous as the undertaking itself proved to those who took part in it, its immediate effects on the countries from which the crusaders were drawn were most beneficial. After speaking of the terrible contentions which for years had set the ruling powers in Poland, Saxony and Bohemia at strife, Bishop Otto III of Freising († 1158) continues in this strain:

'Suddenly, through the counsel of the Most High, a speedy change was effected; and in a short time the turmoils of war were quieted, the whole earth seemed restored to peace, and unnumbered bands from France and from Germany received the Cross and departed to fight against its enemies.

When these crusaders had been sped on their way--a motley crowd in which figured emperor and king, adventurous knight, venturesome woman, and vagrants of every kind and of both sexes--Pope Eugenius, whose position at Rome was insecure and who had been staying at Clairvaux with Bernard, journeyed to Trier at the request of the archbishop to meet in council the prelates of the neighbouring districts. Among them was Heinrich, archbishop of Mainz (1142--53), who together with Wibald, abbot   [p. 260]   of Corvei, had been appointed representative of the emperor during his absence. It was on this occasion that some of Hildegard's writings were first submitted to the Pope, probably at the request of Archbishop Heinrich. Judging from what Hildegard says herself, Heinrich and the church at Mainz had accepted her writings, saying that 'they had come through God and through that power of prophecy by which the prophets had anciently written.'[5*]

These writings were exhortations to faith and piety set forth in the form of revelations. Hildegard had been at work on them for the past six years, and they form the first part of the book 'Scivias'(that is 'Sci vias,' Know the ways[6*] ), as it now lies before us. The life of Hildegard, written shortly after her death, tells us that Bernard 'with the consent of others urged the Pope that he should not suffer so obvious a light to be obscured by silence, but should confirm it by authority.'[7*]

The time was ripe for the kind of literature which comes under the heading of prophecies. At the time of the Second Crusade leaflets containing one of the so-called Sibylline prophecies had had a wide circulation and had greatly inflamed men's minds as to coming events.[8*] Simultaneously with Hildegard the abbot Giovanni Gioachimo († after 1215) foretold coming events, so that later writers often cited Hildegard and Joachim side by side. There was something earnest and yet undefined, something fiery and suggestive in these writings, which appealed to the restless imagination of the age, for they were largely founded on the Apocalypse, and like the Apocalypse admitted of many interpretations. Their very vagueness repels the exact thinker, but attracts the mind that is conscious of quickened sensibilities and roused emotions, without being able to guide them into practical channels.

Bernard of Clairvaux unhesitatingly accepted the divine origin of Hildegard's writings, and in a letter to her, which seems to have been written while the Pope's decision was pending, he addressed her in most respectful terms:[9*] 'They tell us that you understand the secrets of heaven and grasp that which is above human ken through the help of the Holy Spirit,' he wrote among other things. 'Therefore we beg and entreat you to remember us before God and also those who are joined to us in spiritual union. For the   [p. 261]   spirit in you joining itself unto God, we believe that you can, in great measure help and sustain us.' Hildegard--with a mixture of self-assurance, and eagerness to justify that assurance, which is thoroughly characteristic of her--replied to Bernard in ecstatic terms,[10*] praised him for having preached the Cross and spoke of him as the eagle who gazes into the sun.

The correspondence[11*] of Hildegard is voluminous, for from the time when her writings first gained approval from the Pope, many lay princes and dignitaries of the Church, bishops and abbots, abbesses and nuns, wrote to her, generally asking for her good opinion or for advice, but sometimes propounding questions of speculative interest, to which Hildegard in reply sent sometimes a few sentences, sometimes a long disquisition. It is largely owing to this correspondence that the fame of the abbess has spread beyond / the confines of Germany. Linde, one of the few modern students who has treated of Hildegard, enumerates many manuscript copies of these letters which are preserved in the libraries of German cities, in Paris, London and Oxford. The genuineness of the letters has been questioned on the ground that all those addressed to Hildegard are curiously alike, but Linde, after examining a number of manuscript copies, came to the conclusion that the letters were genuine.[12*] In their present arrangement the letters do not stand in chronological order but according to the rank of the correspondents, so that those written by Popes to Hildegard with their replies stand first, then come those written by archbishops, bishops, emperors, and so on. With few exceptions there is only one letter from each correspondent, an arrangement which suggests the work of a scribe, who for the sake of uniformity may in some instances have selected from or summarized his material. The letters printed by Migne are a hundred and forty-five in number, but Linde refers to a few more in his list with the remark that parts of the correspondence exist separately and are sometimes cited as separate works.[13*]

These letters of Hildegard's, as well as her other writings, contain many references to herself; she never fails to inform us of the circumstances which led her to begin a work. She tells us that she was middle-aged when she first wrote an account of her visions, but that she had been subject to these visions from her earliest childhood, and that the mental agonies she went   [p. 262]   through before she sought relief in writing were ever present to her mind.

Moreover we are in possession of an account of her life written between 1181 and 1191, of which the first part is by Godefrid, who introduces extracts from the book 'Scivias.' The second and third parts are by Theodor, who uses an autobiography of Hildegard of which we have no other mention. It appears from the Acts of Inquisition of the year 1233 which were drafted to establish Hildegard's claim to canonization, that both these monks had stayed with Hildegard.

Summarizing the contents of these different accounts and the information which the voluminous writings of the abbess supply, we gather that Hildegard, at the time when the Pope's attention was first drawn to her, was between forty and fifty years of age; that she was a daughter of one of the landed gentry, and that she had been given into the care of the nuns of Disibodenberg at the age of seven and had made profession at fourteen. Disibodenberg,[14*] situated on the river Nahe, was a monastery of some importance and has preserved annals extending from 831 to 1200 which contain useful contributions to contemporary history. The house was under the rule of an abbot, but a convent of nuns had been lately added to it when Hildegard came there; this convent was under the rule of the 'magistra' Jutta, sister of Meginhard, Count of Sponheim. From Jutta Hildegard received her training, which included a knowledge of books of devotion, scripture and music. Apparently she could not write German,[15*] and in Latin her acquaintance with grammatical inflection and construction was limited,[16*] so that when she began to write she availed herself of the help of a monk and afterwards of that of some nuns of her convent who helped her to polish (limare) her sentences. - During the years she spent at Disibodenberg she seems to have been devoted to nursing,[17*] and the consecration of a chapel in the infirmary about this time leaves us to infer that there were in this monastery special conveniences for the sick.[18*] In the year 1136 she succeeded Jutta as lady superior, and at once formed the plan of leaving Disibodenberg and settling some distance away   [p. 263]   on the Rupertsberg near Bingen on the Rhine, in a convent foundation of her own. But at first Kuno († 1155), abbot of Disibodenberg, opposed her going and cast doubts on the vision in which she declared she was divinely directed to do so,[19*] while many who did not belong to the monastery, and among them the parents of girls who had been given into her care, disapproved of their daughters being taken to a distant and desolate neighbourhood.[20*] But Hildegard persisted, for the accommodation at the monastery was insufficient for herself and her numerous pupils, and besides as abbess at the Rupertsberg she would have a very different standing. She fell ill, and then, chiefly through the intercession of friends outside who made grants of land and helped her towards the erection of new buildings, the abbot was brought to agree to her wishes. Among others Heinrich, archbishop of Mainz, advocated her going, and about the year 1147 she removed to the new settlement with eighteen young women. We have a description of the influence she exerted over these girls, her spiritual daughters, when they were still at Disibodenberg. In the new home Hildegard adopted the rule of St Benedict, but she met with opposition, for some of the young women objected to the greater restrictions put upon them by the new rule, and the abbess needed the help and support of the better and wiser ones amongst them to overcome the difficulty. After the labour of moving Hildegard fell ill and lay prostrate for several years, till she was strengthened and restored by visions of the work that still lay before her.

The Acts of Inquisition tell us that there was accommodation on the Rupertsberg for fifty professed nuns (dominac), seven poor women and two priests,[21*] but the independence of the nunnery was not easily secured and Hildegard repeatedly travelled to Disibodenberg to settle matters. The men's convent continued to supply priests to the women on the Rupertsberg, but as late as 1170 difficulties occurred in regard to their appointment, and we find Hildegard writing to Pope Alexander begging him to admonish the abbot of Disibodenberg in her behalf.[22*]

A considerable portion of 'Scivias was written before Hildegard removed to the Rupertsberg. She has described in the introduction to the book how she was led to write it.[23*]

  [p. 264]  

'It was in my forty-third year, when I was trembling in fearful anticipation of a celestial vision, that I beheld a great brightness through which a voice from heaven addressed me: "O fragile child of earth, ash of ashes, dust of dust, express and write that which thou seest and hearest. Thou art timid, timid in speech, artless in explaining, unlearned in writing, but express and write not according to art but according to natural ability, not under the guidance of human composition but under the guidance of that which thou seest and hearest in God's heaven above; what thus thou hearest proclaim, like a listener who understanding the words of his teacher, as this teacher wills and indicates, so gives expression to his words according to the power of his speech. Thus thou, O child of earth, proclaim what thou seest and hearest, and put it in writing, not as thou or others will it, but as He wills who knows, sees and disposes of all in the depths of His mysteries." Again I heard a voice from heaven, saying: "Speak these wonderful things, write them in thy unlearned way, proclaim them." And it happened in the year 1141 of Christ's incarnation, when I was forty-two years and seven months old, that a fiery light of great brilliancy streaming down from heaven entirely flooded my brain, my heart and my breast, like a flame that flickers not but gives glowing warmth, as the sun warms that on which he sheds his rays. Then of a sudden I had the power of explaining Scripture, that is the Psalter, the Gospels and the other Catholic books both of the Old and of the New Testament (Psalterium, Evangeliorum et aliorum catholicorum tam Veteris quam Novi Testamenti volumina), though I did not understand the inflections of words, their division into syllables, their cases and tenses. I had been conscious from earliest girlhood of a power of insight, and visions of hidden and wonderful things, ever since the age of five years, then and ever since. But I did not mention it save to a few religious persons who followed the like observances with myself; I kept it hidden by silence until God in His grace willed to have it made manifest.'

In this strain she tells how her visions came to her, not when she was asleep or when she was dreaming or in any way excited, but in the most serious of moods. They had for years perturbed her, and she had shrunk from putting them into writing, when a sudden illness came upon her and made her alter her mind. Then in her own words, 'a noble high-born girl and the man whom I had secretly sought and consulted, were witnesses to how I set my hand to the task '--that is to the composition of' Scivias.'

  [p. 265]  

It would lead us too far to give a summary of the contents of this extraordinary book; it is divided into three parts, the first containing the account of six, the second of seven, and the third of thirteen visions, all of which seem to have taken place in the following way. Hildegard is confronted by a bright light, which radiates over some wonderful piece of imagery, a mountain, an abyss, some beast, man, or building, or part of the firmament, which, with the figures that throng around, she minutely describes, and then she gives an explanation of the allegorical meaning of this picture vouchsafed to her from God in heaven. The real and the unreal alike supply material for these visions, which show great powers of imagination; in their allegorical application they dwell upon the Creed, the Scriptures, the Incarnation, the Trinity, and life hereafter, and other questions of doctrinal and theological interest. The descriptions are highly coloured throughout, but their application is often very obscure. A translation of the opening passages of one of the visions, which turns on the protection afforded to the faithful against the wiles of the devil, will give some idea of the character of their imagery.[24*]

'Then I saw a shining light, wide and high as a mountain, which spreading upwards flashed into many tongues of fire (linguas). And outside it stood a number of men clad in white, in front of whom, like a veil, transparent crystal extended from their breasts downwards to their feet. But before this band, in their pathway, lay a dragon (vermis) of huge size and length, of such terrible and threatening aspect as cannot be expressed. On his left was as it were a market-place where the riches of this world lay heaped, wealth delightful to the eye, where buying and selling went on; some people passed by this place in a great hurry without buying, while others drew near slowly and stayed to buy and sell. The dragon was black and hairy, and covered with venomous excrescences, of which five kinds extended from his head over his body to his feet in the shape of rings; one was green, one white, one red, one yellow, one black, and all were equally charged with deadly venom. His head was broken, causing his left jaw to hang down. His eyes were red and flashed fire; his ears were round and furred; his nostrils and mouth were those of a dragon (vipera), he had the hands of a man, the feet of a dragon, and below a short horrible tail. And his neck, hands and feet were bound by a chain   [p. 266]   and this chain was fixed to the abyss, and held him so fast that he could not move away to suit his wicked will. From his mouth poured forth four streams of flame, of which one rose aloft, a second spread towards the children of this world, a third towards the company of just men, the last towards the abyss. The flames which rose aloft threatened those who aspired to heaven, who move in three ranks, one touching the sky, the other betwixt heaven and earth, the third close to earth, and all were crying, "We are striving to reach heaven" But some of them, although touched by the flames, fell not, others barely kept their footing, yet others falling again to earth, gathered themselves up and went forth anew.--The flames which spread towards the children of this world reached some and burnt them to utter blackness, of others they took hold, turning them hither and thither; yet others burst away, and striving towards those who were nearing heaven shouted out aloud: "Ye faithful ones, give us help!" But some remained as though spell-bound--The flames which ran to the company of the just covered some with blackness; the company of the just moved in six ranks, and those whom the cruel flames wounded not were tainted by the poison of the dragon which issued from the green, white, red, yellow, and black parts of its body.--The flames which sought the abyss carried various punishments to those who had not been cleansed by baptism, who ignored the true faith and worshipped Satan instead of God. And I further saw arrows pouring from the dragon's mouth, black smoke issuing from his body, steaming liquid bubbling from his sides, and excretions going out from the lower part of his body, like to frogs that are disastrous to man, and which bring infection to many. And a black mist with foul odour going forth contaminated all.

'But lo and behold the men shining in brilliancy advanced towards this dragon to fight and vex it, whom it could harm neither by fire nor by poison. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me: "God, who disposes all in wisdom, summons His faithful band to the glory of their heritage; the old deceiver lies in wait and tries his evil powers, but he is overcome, his presumption is defeated; they attain their heavenly heritage, and he suffers eternal disgrace. Therefore dost thou behold a shining light, wide and high as a mountain, flashing upwards into many tongues of fire, which is the justice of God, as it glows in the faith of believers, setting forth the breadth of His holiness, the height of His glory, by which glory are declared the wondrous powers of the divine Spirit."'

  [p. 267]  

All the visions of the first two parts of the book are written in this vague indefinite strain, but in the third Hildegard, conscious of the evils that had come upon the Church through the schism in the Papacy, became more outspoken in her views, and enlarged on the true faith being shaken, on Holy Scripture being disregarded, and on the great works of learned men being neglected. She says definitely that there can be no life where the head is severed from the limbs; and such, in her estimation, is the condition of the Church while schism continues. In common with a current view, she expected that things would go from bad to worse till the coming of Antichrist, whose appearance and influence she describes in eloquent and impressive imagery.[25*] The apprehensive tone of these descriptions is in agreement with the growing consciousness of wickedness and personal responsibility, which assumed such proportions during the latter half of the 2th century, and made the minds of many prepared for the altruistic doctrines spread abroad by the orders of friars.

The last vision of the book 'Scivias' lays stress upon the final revolution and reconciliation which will follow the reign of Antichrist and the times of trouble, and in this vision occur passages in dialogue, cast into dramatic form and called a symphony (symphonia), which rank among the finest productions of their kind.[26*] The subject of this improvised drama is 'the Progress of the Soul on her way to heaven.' It opens with a lament of those Souls who are still confined in the body, whereupon one Faithful Soul (Fidelis anima), who is set free, raises her voice in supplication, calling on the Virtues or Divine Powers (Virtutes) for assistance. They respond and promise help, when Divine Knowledge (Scientia Dei) raises her voice and adds to the consciousness of helplessness in the Faithful Soul, who is now importuned on one side by Pride or the Devil (Diabolus) and on the other by Humility (Humilitas), both of whom are striving to gain possession of her. But the Virtues urge her to hold by Humility and the Devil is put to flight, whereupon the Virtues guide the Faithful Soul upwards to Heaven where she is finally received by Victory (Victoria). The whole ends with a hymn in praise of Christ which is sung by the Virtues.

It is probable that only the first and second parts of the work 'Scivias' were laid before the Pope in 1146. He wrote to Hildegard as abbess of the Rupertsberg, and the letter is short and   [p. 268]   curt.[27*] He refers to her wonderful powers and then continues: 'We congratulate ourselves in this grace of God, and we congratulate thee, but we would have thee reminded that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the lowly. Take good care of this grace which is within thee in order that what thou art spiritually (in spiritu) urged to proclaim, thou mayest proclaim with caution.' And he adds words to the effect that he confirms the settlement she has founded.

The whole of the lengthy reply[28*] which Hildegard sent to this letter was written in an admonitory tone, for she considered herself the chosen mouthpiece of God though characterizing herself as a poor lowly woman. 'The light stays with me and glows in my soul as it has done since my childhood,' she says to the Pope, 'therefore I send thee these words, a true admonition from God.' A mass of imagery follows, powerful and direct, but not always clear in its application.

In one place she writes: 'A jewel lies on the road, a bear and deeming it beautiful puts out his paw and would comes, treasure it in his bosom' (the bear is the German Emperor).[29*] 'But suddenly an eagle snatches the jewel, wraps it in the covering of his wings and bears it upwards to the royal palace' (the eagle represents the Pope, the palace the kingdom of Christ). 'The jewel gives out much light before the king, so that he rejoices and out of love of the jewel gives to the eagle golden shoes' (the insignia of papal authority), 'and praises him for his goodness. Now do thou, who art sitting in the place of Christ in care of the Church, choose the better part; be as the eagle overcoming the bear, that with the souls entrusted to thee thou mayest decorate the palace of the Church; so that with golden shoes thou mayest rise aloft and be removed from thine enemies.

Other images follow. It is told how the valleys overtop the hills and then the hills overtop the valleys, with the obvious application that no order is maintained in the Church, since the lower clergy presume upon and the higher abuse their powers; each one neglecting to do his duty, and class being envious of class. 'The poor man is very foolish who, when he knows that his garment is soiled, looks at others and reflects on the appearance of their clothes, instead of washing and cleaning his own.... Therefore, do thou, great shepherd called upon to follow Christ, supply   [p. 269]   a light to the hills, a rod to the valleys. Give to the teachers precepts, bring unto the lowly discipline.' And further, 'Make all things pure and have thine eyes everywhere.'

After settling near Bingen Hildegard completed the book 'Scivias and then engaged on the compilation of two books on medicine, one of which has never been published.[30*] The other is usually called 'Physica' its amplified title runs, 'On the nature of man, of the various elements and of various creatures and plants, and on the way in which they are useful to man.'[31*] This book, of which the printing press issued several editions in the 16th century, has been characterised by the scientist Virchow as an early 'materia medica, curiously complete considering the age to which it belongs.'[32*] Haeser, in his history of medicine, also points out the importance of the work, saying that 'it contains descriptions of the medicinal properties of the best-known animals, plants and minerals, together with directions how to improve accepted remedies against illness in man and beast.'[33*] He considers that the book has an historical value because it is an independent German treatise based chiefly on popular experience, for no writer except Isidor of Seville († 636) is made use of in it. In this connection it has been further commented on by Jessen.[34*]

The book consists of a collection of terse bits of description, of sensible advice, and of old-world superstitions. It is so arranged that a description is given first of plants (230 in number), and then of elements (14), trees (60), stones (26), fishes (37), birds (72), animals (43), and lastly of metals (8). The German term for each object is given and its health-giving or obnoxious properties are mentioned. Thus the description of the mulberry tree is followed by the information that a decoction of its leaves forms an efficacious remedy in cases of skin disease, and after the description of prunes comes the information that they are good for a dry cough. When treating of the pig Hildegard states that pork is indigestible and should be avoided in cases of sickness. While some descriptions are excellent and obviously based on direct observation, as for example that of the properties of soda, others are entirely fabulous,   [p. 270]   such as that of the unicorn. We get the savour of primitive leechcraft in the statements that carrying about a dead frog is good for the gout, that drinking water out of a cypress bowl rids one of devils and fantasies, and that eating raven's flesh should be avoided since it encourages thieving propensities. In regard to diagnosis of disease Hildegard's ideas are necessarily vague. The illnesses referred to are chiefly indigestion, fevers, coughs, delusions and leprosy. Several kinds of leprosy are distinguished, and the chief remedies prescribed are baths in decoctions of leaves and other less savoury preparations.

In the light of information such as is contained in this book, the wonderful cures which Hildegard and many other early saints are said to have effected take a new meaning. It is generally allowed that the fame of monasteries as curative centres is founded on a basis of fact which consists in their healthy situation, abundance of pure water, and regular diet. But evidently there is more than this. When we look through the 'Physica,' compiled under Hildegard's direction if not directly by her, we feel that, if we could only see behind the veil of the miraculous through which all religious writers persist in looking at the alleviation of physical and mental suffering, we should be brought face to face with much judicious treatment and with the application of a considerable amount of medicinal knowledge.

During the early part of her stay on the Rupertsberg Hildegard also wrote a book of Latin texts for hymns (before 1153) which are accompanied by musical notation[35*] --certain 'Expositions of the Gospels' (before 1157) for the use of her nuns, which have not been printed,[36*] ----an explanation 'of the rule of St Benedict,[37*] --and another 'of the symbol o f St Athanasius.'[38*] In the opening sentences of this last work she describes the difficulties she had to contend with in founding the nunnery, and admonishes the nuns to guard against division and discord when she is no more. Another work entitled 'Vitae meritorum,' consisting of moral admonitions, was written between 1158 and 1162, but has not been printed.[39*] A   [p. 271]   series of questions was forwarded to her by Guibert of Gembloux and was the occasion of a lengthy reply, sent to him in the form of a letter.[40*] Hildegard also either invented or perpetuated in writing a glossary of words of a secret language, each term accompanied by its equivalent in Latin or in German, sometimes in both. Scholars look upon this work as containing words invented by members of the convent to be used in the presence of strangers for the purpose of secret communication.[41*]

These writings give proof of Hildegard's active interest in her convent, though at the same time she remained keenly alive to events outside. The choice of Friedrich Barbarossa (1152--1190) as successor to Konrad proved favourable in many respects to German lands, but the position of the Papacy was further jeopardised when Friedrich fell out with Pope Hadrian (1154--59). After the death of this Pope Friedrich did not support his legitimate successor Alexander III (1159--81), but the successive Antipopes, Victor IV († 1164), Paschalis III († 1168) and Calixtus III (resigned 1178). The cities of northern Italy tried to secure autonomy, and plotted against the Emperor. Again and again their rebellion obliged him to cross the Alps and devote himself to their subjection, while several of his powerful German prelates at home, by no means convinced of the rightfulness of his cause, sided with Pope Alexander, some secretly, some openly, against the Antipope and the Emperor. Hildegard joined this party and charged the Emperor with being partly responsible for the continued schism and for the diminished authority of the Church. With these views she wrote a letter full of adulation to Eberhard, archbishop of Salzburg (1147--1164), who adhered to Alexander,[42*] and sent dark forebodings of impending disaster to Arnold, archbishop of Mainz (1153--1160[43*] ). It would lead too far to dwell upon the numerous letters written during these years by the abbess who, believing herself to possess a miraculous insight into things, wrote sometimes in a threatening, sometimes in an admonitory, and sometimes in an encouraging strain. The outside world generally, including many clever and cultivated men, held her to be divinely enlightened. Arnold II, archbishop of Cöln (1151--1156), wrote to entreat her to send him her writings whatever their state.[44*] The abbot of Elwangen   [p. 272]   wrote saying that she could 'speak of the present, uncover the past, and foresee the future,'[45*] and the provost and clergy of Trier wrote to consult her in their trouble, and declared her 'filled by the Holy Ghost and acquainted with things which are hidden from mankind generally.'[46*]

Many powerful prelates, abbots and abbesses sought confirmation of their views or advice in tribulation from the learned abbess. Her fame spread beyond the confines of Germany, for we find the patriarch of Jerusalem addressing a letter to her, in which he said that he was living in sad straits and begged for her prayers, and Hildegard, evidently influenced by his exalted position, urging him to remain steadfast and assuring him that while his faith is firm he need not despair.[47*]

Among the letters which refer to convent matters we note one addressed to Heinrich, the archbishop of Mainz. In early days he had supported Hildegard, but at a later date he advocated against her wish the promotion of one of her nuns to the post of abbess in another convent, thus drawing on himself Hildegard's scorn and anger. The nun was Hiltrud of Sponheim, who had helped Hildegard to put 'Scivias' into writing and whose loss was a serious matter to her. She vented her anger by attacking the bishop and threatening him with ruin. 'The rod you raise is not raised in the interest of God,' she wrote to him,[48*] and ended her letter with these words: 'your days are numbered, remember how Nebuchadnezzar fell and lost his crown. Many others who presumed that they would attain to heaven have likewise fallen.' In point of fact Heinrich was soon afterwards charged with wasting the goods of the Church, was deposed and died in exile.

Another nun, who had also helped Hildegard with her writing and left her against her wish, was Richardis, sister of Hartwich, bishop of Bremen (1148--1168). The correspondence includes a letter from Hartwich to Hildegard, telling her that his sister died shortly after accepting her post as abbess, that she always regretted having left Hildegard and would have returned to her if she had lived. Hildegard in reply speaks warmly of the virtues of Richardis, and says that she finds comfort in the thought that God has removed her from the vanities of this world.[49*]

Abbesses of many convents, convinced of Hildegard's being   [p. 273]   divinely inspired, wrote to her for advice concerning personal matters. Thus the abbess of Aitwick near Utrecht asked if she were justified in resigning her post and becoming a recluse, and Hildegard in reply urged her not to yield to temptation but to remain in charge of her flock.[50*] The abbess Sophie of Kizzingen had the same wish but was likewise advised to persevere in her vocation.[51*] Among numerous other letters from the superiors of convents there is one from the abbess Adelheid of Gandersheim († 1184) who had been educated by Hildegard and who wrote begging for news and saying that she was shortly coming on a visit.[52*]

Among the letters bearing on Hildegard's religious attitude is one addressed to Philip von Heinsberg, an earnest adherent of Pope Alexander. He afterwards became archbishop of Cöln, and Hildegard wrote warning him of the dangers to be apprehended from a sect of heretics, doubtless the so-called Cathari, of whom more later.[53*] This sect were at the time in possession of a well-planned organization in the Rhine districts, and aroused serious apprehension in religious circles. The archbishop of Cöln, Reinald von Dassel (1159--1167), disputed with them; Ekbert, a monk of Schönau to whom we shall return, directly attacked their doctrines, and in 1163 a number of them were burnt to death at Cöln. It is interesting to note what fears they inspired and how their doctrines were interpreted. In the eyes of Hildegard there is no doubt as to their being altogether evil.

The situation of the Rupertsberg near the Rhine, the highway of communication in those days, kept Hildegard in touch with the outside world. She received many visitors and took frequent journeys. We hear of her going to Cöln, Trier, Würzburg, Bamberg and to many monasteries in the neighbourhood, but the story that she went as far as Paris and Tours is unfounded--the result of a misinterpreted passage in the account of her life.[54*] Personal acquaintance with Hildegard seems only to have confirmed the belief in her superior abilities and her direct converse with the Godhead--a curious illustration of the credulity of the age, with its craving for signs and wonders.

Her clear-sightedness and consciousness of prophetic power in-   [p. 274]   creased with age, and there is the strongest evidence of them in her last important work, which bears the title of 'The Book of Divine doings.'[55*] It was written between 1163 and 1170, 'when the apostolic see was most seriously oppressed,' and for imaginativeness, breadth of knowledge and power of generalization ranks highest among Hildegard's works.

The leading idea of this book is to establish parallels, sometimes between things divine and human, sometimes between the physical and the spiritual world, sometimes between the facts of the Biblical narrative and their allegorical meaning, with a view to glorifying God in His works. It contains vivid bits of description, valuable glimpses of contemporary scientific knowledge, and occasional brilliant similes, but the conceptions among which it moves are so entirely those of a past age that it is often difficult to grasp their import.

Thus in the first vision there is the description of the creation of man in the image and the likeness of God, which is supposed to account for the complexity of the human being. In another vision the heavenly spheres are set forth according to the accepted astronomical theory, and their movements within each other and mutual interdependence are described. In each of these spheres resides a spiritual influence, such as divine grace, good works, or repentance, and as the heavenly spheres influence each other, so these spiritual influences control and determine the nature of man. Many of the parallels are extremely curious, such as those between things physical and physiological, in which the external influences of wind, weather and the constellations are treated in connection with the humours of the human body. For the humours in the human body are so disposed that their undue pressure on heart, lungs or liver upsets the balance of the constitution and produces stomachic disorders, fevers, pleurisy, leprosy, etc., thus showing that these illnesses are indirectly the outcome of physical surroundings.

The learned abbess also draws parallels between the configuration of the surface of the earth with its heights and depths, and human nature with its heights of virtue and depths of vice.[56*] Forced as some of these comparisons appear to modern ideas, the language in which they are given shows considerable appreciation of phenomena in nature. Hildegard amplifies her book by disquisitioris on passages in Job, the Psalms, St John, and the Apocalypse, which bear on the relation of light to life, of the spirit to the word, and of   [p. 275]   mental to physical darkness. The moments of the Creation are explained in their allegorical application, and give rise to comparisons such as this:[57*] that the firmament of faith, like the firmament of nature, is illumined by two kinds of light; the greater light, like that of day, comes through prelates and spiritual teachers, the lesser light, like that of night, through kings and secular princes. In another passage man is likened to the soul and woman to the body, for the soul is of heaven and the body of earth, and their combination makes human life possible.[58*] The wickedness which preceded the Flood, the falling away from the true faith, and the manner in which God chastised man by means of water and fire, are described in very impressive language, and together with a description of the Plagues of Egypt, lead up to the last vision, which enlarges on the evils of the time and on coming events. Here again as in 'Scivias' we have a description of impending changes, of threatening disaster, and of the results of the coming of Antichrist; it is perhaps as emphatic in the way of prophecy as anything that has ever been written. Contemporaries were powerfully impressed by this part of the book; even to later ages it appeared truly remarkable. Again and again in times of trouble and difficulty men have gone to it and found corroboration of the changes which were taking place around them. The reader can judge for himself how men's minds at the time of the Reformation were likely to be affected by the perusal of passages such as those which follow, in which the collapse of the German Empire--that is the Roman Empire of the German nation--and the Papacy, and their falling asunder had been described three hundred years before by the abbess of the Rupertsberg.[59*]

'In the days to come the Emperors of the Roman See, forfeiting the power by which they had up to that time firmly upheld the Roman Empire, will become feeble in all their glory, so that the empire that has been given into their hands by divine power will gradually become enfeebled and fail, until they themselves, becoming sordid, feeble, servile and criminal in their practices, will be altogether useless, and yet they will claim to be respected by the people; but being indifferent to the people's welfare, they cannot be respected or held high. Then the kings and princes of the   [p. 276]   various peoples, who before were subject to the Roman Empire, will cut themselves off from it and refuse to be ruled by it. And thus the Roman Empire will sink to decay. For each clan and each people will set up a king unto themselves whom they will respect, alleging that the greatness of the Roman Empire was previously more an encumbrance to them than an advantage. But after the Imperial sceptre in this way has been divided, never to be restored, then the dignity of the Apostolic See (infula) will be impaired also. For neither princes nor other men, of the religious or the lay orders, will uphold any religion in the name of the Apostolic See, and they will violate the dignity of that name. They will appoint unto themselves other teachers and archbishops under some other name in the various districts, so that the Apostolic See (apostolicus), impaired in its standing through collapse of its dignity, will barely maintain its hold on Rome and on a few adjoining districts. This will come about partly through the irruptions of war, partly through the common consent and unity of religious and lay folk, who will demand of each secular prince that he fortify and rule his kingdom and his people, and of whatever archbishop or other spiritual teacher who is appointed that he exert discipline over those who are subject to him, lest they again experience the evils which by divine decree they experienced once before.'

Various interpretations have in the course of time been given to Hildegard's prophecies, and a number of pamphlets, some consisting of amplified passages of her works, some entirely spurious, have circulated under her name. In the 13th century she was held to have indicated the threatened downfall of the Dominican friars,[60*] and even in England in the 'Creed of Piers Ploughman' we are called to 'hearken to Hildegard.'[61*] At the time of the Reformation the attention genuine passages from her writings attracted was very considerable, and again in the 17th century they were interpreted as foretelling the downfall of the Jesuits.[62*] Even in the course of the present century, passages taken from Hildegard's writings have been explained as foretelling the revolt of Belgium.[63*]

Hildegard lived to the advanced age of eighty-two. Her last writings, which were purely legendary, were a life of St Rupert, the   [p. 277]   patron saint of her nunnery,[64*] and a life of St Disibodus, patron saint of the monastery she had left[65*] As for Disibodus Wattenbach says that 'there is no mention of him previous to the 12th century.'[66*] Indeed Grimm has explained the name 'Disiboden' as a height hallowed to holy women (idisi), in which case, if an early Christian dwelt there at all, he must have taken his name from the height. In 1178 Hildegard passed away after a short illness, and soon after her death an enquiry was instituted with a view to her official canonization. In spite of renewed efforts this was not accomplished, but her name was placed on the Roman Martyrology and she is reckoned among the accepted saints of the Church.[67*]

Surely it is curious that no attempt has hitherto been made to submit the writings and influence of Hildegard to a detailed critical examination. The few accounts which tell of her, such as that of Schmelzeis,[68*] are dictated solely by the wish to show how divine grace was made manifest in her. The reprint of her chief works and a descriptive account of the extant manuscript copies of her writings, and of genuine and supposititious works,[69*] have now brought the material for such an enquiry within reach of the student, and made it possible to obtain an analysis of the aims and character of a woman whose influence and popularity were far-reaching, and on whom later ages in recognition of her powers have bestowed the epithet of the 'Sibyl of the Rhine.'[70*]

It remains to cast a glance at the writings of Elisabeth, the nun at Schönau, who contemporaneously with Hildegard was held to be divinely inspired, and who, 'while Hildegard acted as adviser to Emperor and Pope, in humbler wise influenced the clergy and the people.'[71*] In later ages the names of Hildegard and Elisabeth were frequently coupled together, and their efforts to rouse the representatives of the Church to greater consciousness of their responsibilities were looked upon as a proof of God's wish to restore the supreme influence of the Church. The nun Elisabeth dwelt in the women's convent which was attached to the Bene   [p. 278]   dictine monastery of Schönau in the diocese of Trier. She went there in 1141 at a youthful age, and in 1157 she became lady superior (magistra). Her brother Ekbert († 1184) while a canon at Bonn frequently visited her, and it was through her persuasion that he finally became a monk at Schönau. He was a writer of some importance, well known for his exhortations against the heretic Cathari; he had been educated with Reinald von Dassel, afterwards archbishop of Cöln, and with him adhered to the cause of the Emperor and the Antipope Victor. Elisabeth was inspired by similar political sympathies. For unlike Hildegard, who was an ardent supporter of Pope Alexander, Elisabeth was favourably inclined towards his opponent Pope Victor--a preference which laid her open to calumny.

The 'Visions of Elisabeth came to her between 1152 and 1160, and we are told that they were sent her in the first place for her own comfort, direction and enlightenment. They are grouped together in three books, but there is a later work entitled 'On the ways of God,' which is sometimes referred to as a fourth book of the visions.[72*] She also wrote 'Revelations on the holy band of Virgins at Cöln.' Her collected works fill the smaller half of a moderately sized volume.

It is supposed that Elisabeth was helped by her fellow-nuns to put the visions of the first books into writing, and that her brother Ekbert assisted in their circulation. The manuscript from which they were published contains an introduction by Ekbert written after he had become abbot at Schönau (1167), in which he says he has collected (conscripsi) these writings and other things that have reference to them, and that he has translated into Latin what happened to be in German.[73*]

The first book of the 'Visions' contains short accounts of how on certain festal days during religious service Elisabeth, who was delicate and apt to get excited at the mention of certain saints, asserts she saw them before her bodily. It is described how she was liable at any time to fall into trances, in which she lost consciousness of what happened around her. In the second and third books the accounts of the visions are fuller and more elaborate; they contain interesting bits of imagery and symbolism, and give us occasional glimpses of the daily life in the convent. It is curious to note how the fancied visions of the nun were in various   [p. 279]   particulars accepted by her contemporaries as manifestations 'of the divine will. The party in the Church, who were desirous of establishing the 'Assumption of the Virgin' as a recognised festival, greeted Elisabeth's vision of this incident[74*] with enthusiasm. Other festivals of the Church, for example that of Corpus Christi, owed their general acceptance to inspired visions of nuns. For the emotional yearning of the age found relief in representations of religious ideas, and the Church readily ministered to the desire by elaborating the cult of relics and saint-worship.

It is thought that Elisabeth's book 'On the ways of God'[75*] was written after she became acquainted with the 'Scivias' of Hildegard, and her title looks like an imitation.[76*] This work consists also of visions, but these are given in the form of admonitions (sermones) addressed to different classes of society; the work is wonderfully complete in plan and execution. In simple and direct language men are urged to mend their ways, and to listen to the admonitions which the Angel of the Lord has vouchsafed to them through the mouth of the nun.

In this book Elisabeth sees the summit of a lofty mountain, on which stands a man whose face is luminous, whose eyes shine like stars and from whose mouth goes forth a sword. She sees three paths leading up this hill; one is blue, another green, and the third purple. The blue path indicates the use of contemplation, the green of action, and the purple of martyrdom. But afterwards other paths appear which also lead up the hill towards heaven:these are the paths of married people (conjugatorum), of celibates (continentium), of prelates (prelatorum), of widows (viduatorum), of hermits (heremitarum), of young people (adolescentum et juvenum) and of children (infantum).

'I was resting on my bed but not asleep,' says Elisabeth, speaking of those who have chosen a life of contemplation,[77*] 'when the Angel (spiritus) of the Lord visited me of a sudden and in-inspired me to speak as follows: "Give heed, you, who have renounced worldly pleasures and who have chosen to follow in the footsteps of Him who has summoned you into His beauteous light and who Himself calls you His chosen sons, appointing you to the end of time to judge the tribes of Israel. Consider among yourselves in what way you should live in humility, obedience, love,   [p. 280]   and without murmuring, without disparagement, jealousy and pride, and take heed that you keep yourselves from other vices! Love one another, that your Father in heaven be not blasphemed in you and be not roused to anger at your leaving your path, the path of contemplation!" Then the Angel (angelus) of the Lord followed up his utterances by saying: "If there be among you wranglings, quarrels, disparagements, complaints, anger, hatred and jealousy, spiritual pride (extollencia oculorum), desire for advancement, boasting, ribaldry, gluttony, laziness, incontinence, idleness and such like, in all of which you walk on, sons of this world, what place do you give to divine contemplation?' And again he spoke and said: "This exhortation of God is addressed to you who have chosen to serve God whether in the clerical or in the monastic profession. You have chosen the best part, but take heed lest it slip from you. Studiously avoid the sinfulness of those who outwardly bear the semblance of religion, but shame its worth by their actions. With their lips they honour God; by their ways they blaspheme Him. Some of them strive for knowledge of the law, but they know not how to apply it. They turn their back on truth, and yet they boast of moving in the path of contemplation. They make the law of God and their advocacy of it serve their pride, avarice and desires, and from those who dwell in Jesus Christ they boldly snatch wealth and honours, and cherish their foulness. The sanctuary of God, and places to be hallowed by angels, they visit with pride and pollution, and raise the adorable treasures of Christ's sacrament in irreverent ministration with impure hearts. They jeer at him who rebukes them and sadden him with contempt and persecution. Those among them who are less wicked, are yet hateful before the Lord. For they walk about with the semblance of humility, but their hearts afe far removed from it. They multiply words, but of what use are these when in their hearts they oppose God, neglect brotherly love, envy and disparage others, and wrangle about position? They profess contempt of the world, but worship that which is of the world, strut about boldly, and yield to every gust of their desires. They have cast aside the customs of their fathers; they engage in the business of this world and fill the Church with wranglings. Thus religion suffers contempt, and faith is divided. But why should I enlarge on such doings, saith the Lord? A shout is raised against them, but they listen not and repudiate my voice of admonition in contempt....

And it is not only those of the religious profession whom the   [p. 281]   nun admonishes. The address to married people [78*] is especially interesting, not only on account of her conception of the mutual obligations of husband and wife, claiming obedience from the wife and respect for his wife's feelings from the husband, but because she vehemently attacks women's love of dress and men's love of indulgence. The Angel of God informs Elisabeth that now-a-days men in large numbers degrade their desires to the level of women's folly, and are foolish enough to adapt themselves to women's stupidity. 'The love of dress, which thou dost hate and despise in the women of the world who come to thee, has grown apace on earth, and has become a madness, and brings down the wrath of God. They delight in walking about, their steps hampered by the mass of their garments, and they try to wear out to no profit what the poor sorely need. O wretchedness, o blindness!'

It is in the course of this exhortation that Elisabeth consults the Angel about the heretic Cathari,[79*] who she states are said to reject marriage while teaching at the same time that only those marriages are valid where both parties have preserved their virginity. The Angel cannot deny that such marriages are most acceptable to God, but declares that they are rare. Yet he announces that the leaders of that sect are of Satan. 'Then,' the nun continues, 'I said, "Lord, what and of what kind is their faith?" He answered: "Their faith is contemptible, their works are worse. And I said: "Yet they have the appearance of just men and are praised as men of good works." "Truly," he replied, "they put on an appearance of just and innocent living, through which they attract and convert many, and yet inwardly they are full of the worst madness."' Considering that nothing is known of these early dissenters except what their opponents have preserved, these remarks are interesting as showing that though Hildegard treated the Cathari with unhesitating contempt Elisabeth was perplexed about them.

Another exhortation addressed to the ministers of the Church) is eloquent in its attacks on the overbearing conduct of the clergy, and on the way they neglect their flocks. Widows are then admonished to cultivate peace of mind and to reflect only on spiritual joys, and hermits are urged not to carry their self denying practices to extremes, since immoderate fasting is pro   [p. 282]   ductive of no good results. The book seems originally to have ended here, for the last two exhortations are evidently the result of an afterthought. In the first of these young people are recommended to cultivate seriousness of mind, and the second treats of young children, but only in a vague way, for their parents are said to be chiefly responsible for their behaviour. The book ends with a paragraph to the effect that the angel appeared and addressed the bishops of Trier, Cöln and Mainz telling them to amend their ways and accept the contents of the book. 'Read them, and hearken to their divine admonitions,' it says,[80*] 'and receive them with an equable mind. Do not think they be the fabrications of a woman, for they are not; they have come through God, the Almighty Father, who is the source and origin of all goodness.'

It must have been some time after she had begun to write visions that Elisabeth wrote the following letter to Hildegard. It is preserved in the third book of her visions, and also in the correspondence of Hildegard, together with the reply sent to it.[81*]

'What you said had been revealed to you concerning me, I now write to confirm; a cloud of distrust has come over my mind owing to the foolish sayings of some people who are ever talking of me; they are not true. The talk of the people I can easily bear, but not of those who wear clerical garb, they bitterly oppress my spirit. For goaded on, at whose instigation I know not, they ridicule the grace of God that is within me, and do not hesitate rashly to condemn what they do not understand. I hear that certain letters written in their spirit are circulating under my name. They accuse me of having prophesied concerning the Day of Judgment, which I surely never have presumed to do, as knowledge of its advent is denied to mortal man.' She goes on to explain how the angel of God had repeatedly appeared to her, saying that the time for contrition and repentance had come, and how she had spoken of this to others. But now a letter is circulated, full of threats against the abbot. In her distress she begs that Hildegard will accept this explanation, offer prayers in her behalf and write her some words of consolation.

In her reply to this letter Hildegard admits Elisabeth's power of prophecy. She also is a trumpet through which the blasts of divine admonition become audible. Another letter addressed to Hildegard by Elisabeth. shows that they remained in communi   [p. 283]   cation,[82*] though their different church and political sympathies naturally precluded a closer connection.

The last book Elisabeth wrote added greatly to her fame. It consists of 'Revelations on the holy band of virgins of Cöln,'[83*] the companions and fellow-martyrs of St Ursula, the origin of which legend is shrouded in some obscurity.[84*] The story current in Elisabeth's time in various versions states that in the 3rd century Ursula, a British princess, went on pilgrimage to Rome with1,000 virgin companions, and that on their journey homewards these virgins together with many followers were murdered at Cöln, either by the Huns or some other heathen tribes. The name Ursula however, does not occur in any of the ancient martyrologies, and therefore may be a latter-day addition to the story, while the extraordinary number of her companions is held to have originated through misreading an inscription which refers to eleven martyred virgins (XI M. V.). History speaks of virgin martyrs at Cöln at an early date.

In 1156 a quantity of bones were found in an ancient cemetery outside Cöln, and this led to the revival of the story, which now assumed gigantic proportions. The relics of one of the virgins named Cordula were brought to Schönau by Ekbert. Elisabeth's imagination was roused, the progress of St Ursula, various incidents of her journey and the character of many of her companions, were made manifest to her in a series of visions by St Verena, also one of the band, who repeatedly appeared to Elisabeth and divinely enlightened her on various points in dispute. With the help of this saint Elisabeth felt enabled to explain how Pope Cyriacus (otherwise unknown to history) came to be of the party; how it was that archbishops, cardinals and a king of England accompanied these women, and what caused one of the band to bury, with some of the dead, tablets inscribed with their names, which tablets had come to light at Cöln. The whole account, which Elisabeth promulgated in good faith, and which her contemporaries had no hesitation in accepting as genuine, forms a most interesting example of mediaeval religious romance. It teems with chronological and historical impossibilities: apart from these it bears the stamp of truthfulness. It is pure romance, but it is romance set forth in a   [p. 284]   spirit of conviction and with a circumstantiality of detail thoroughly convincing to the uncritical mind.

Throughout the Rhine district these visions were greeted with acclamation. They were welcome for two reasons; they increased the interest and traffic in the relics at Cöln, and they fell in with current traditions and encouraged the revived local worship of the three women-saints. The names of these were now connected with that of St Ursula,[85*] and the legend of St Ursula became the centre of many floating traditions, and has proportionately attracted the attention of the hagiologist and the folk-lore student. Eleven thousand became the accepted number of Ursula's followers and the compilers of the Acta Sanctorum have actually succeeded in making out a list containing over seven hundred names.[86*]

In literature the version of the legend as told by Elisabeth was accepted in preference to earlier versions, and became popular not only in Germany, but also in England and France, especially in Normandy. In England both the legend and the visions were known as early as 1181 through Roger, a monk of the Cistercian abbey at Forde in Devonshire. It is thought that he came into personal contact with Elisabeth at Schönau, and references are sometimes made to him as the compiler of the 'Visions' and as the author of the legend of the band of 11,000 virgins.[87*]

Elisabeth died in 1164 at the early age of thirty-six, and her brother Ekbert, who was staying with her at the time, wrote a full account of the last days of her life to three nuns of the convent of St Thomas at Andernach.[88*] In this letter he describes Elisabeth's thoughtful care and tenderness to her companions on her deathbed, and says that she was more than a sister to him and that his grief is proportionally greater. Like Hildegard Elisabeth has never been officially canonized, but her name also was inscribed in the Roman Martyrology compiled by Gregory VIII, by which she became a recognised saint of the Church.[89*]

A later age witnessed other notable nuns who were divinely inspired and who were acknowledged to be so by their contemporaries, but, as we shall see later, their communings with God and the saints were chiefly directed to intensifying mystic and devotional feelings in themselves. They have neither the hold on outside events nor the wide outlook which give such a deep interest to the writings of St Hildegard of Bingen and St Elisabeth of Schönau.


[1*] Hildegardis, Opera, 1882 (in Migne, Patrol. Cursus Compl., vol. 197, which contains the acts of the saint reprinted from A. SS. Boll., St Hildegardis, Sept. 17; her life written by Godefrid and Theodor; the 'Acta Inquisitionis' the article by Dr Reuss, and the fullest collection of the saint's works hitherto published).

[2*] Roth, F. W., Die Visionen der heil. Elisabeth und die Schriften von Ekbert und Emecho von Schönau, 1884.

[3*] 'Annales Palidenses' in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Script. vol. 16, p. 90.

[4*] Neander, Der heil. Bernard und seine Zeit, 1848.

[5*] Opera (Vita, c. 17), p. 104.

[6*] Opera, 'Scivias, pp. 383--738.

[7*] Ibid. (Vita, c. 5), p. 94.

[8*] Giesebrecht, W., Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit, vol. 4, p. 505.

[9*] Opera (Epist. nr 29), p. 189.

[10*] Opera (Responsum), p. 189.

[11*] Ibid. 'Epistolae, pp. 1--382.

[12*] Linde, Handschrften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, pp. 19 ff.

[13*] Ibid. pp. 53 ff.

[14*] Schneegans, W., Kloster Disibodenberg; Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken derheil. Hildegardis, 1879, pp. 45 ff.

[15*] Opera (Responsum to Bernard), p. 190.

[16*] Ibid. (Vita C. 14), p. 101.

[17*] Ibid. (Vita c. 19), p. 105.

[18*] Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken der heil. Hildegardis, 1879, p. 53.

[19*] Opera (Vita c. 21), p. 106.

[20*] Ibid.

[21*] Ibid. (Acta Inquisitionis), p. 136.

[22*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 4), p. 154.

[23*] Opera, p. 383.

[24*] Opera (lib. 2, visio 7), p. 555.

[25*] Opera(Iib. 3, visio 11), p. 709.

[26*] Opera (lib. 3, visio 13), p. 733.

[27*] Opera (Epist. nr I, p. 145.

[28*] Opera (Responsum) p. 145.

[29*] This interpretation is given by Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken der heil. Hildegardis, 1879, p. 157.

[30*] Jessen, 'Ueber die medic. naturhist. Werke der heil. Hildegardis,' in Kaiserl Acad. der Wissenseltaften, Wien, Naturwissensch. Abth. vol. 45 (1862), pp. 97ff.

[31*] Opera, 'Physica,' pp. 1117--1352.

[32*] Virchow, R., 'Zur Geschichte des Aussatzes, besonders im Mittelalter,' in Archiv fur pathol. Anatomie, vol. 18, p. 286.

[33*] Haeser, H., Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Medizin, 1875, vol. I, p. 640.

[34*] Jessen, Botanik der Gegenwart und Vorzeit, 1864, pp. 120--127.

[35*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, p. 83; an example of the musical notation as an appendix in Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken der heil. Hildegardis, 1879.

[36*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, p. 78, 'Expositiones Evangeliorum.'

[37*] Opera, 'Explanatio regulae St Benedicti,' pp. 1053-1069.

[38*] Ibid. 'Explanatio symboli St Athanasii,' pp. 1066--1093.

[39*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877 p. 38.

[40*] Opera, 'Solutiones triginta octo quaestionum,' pp. 1038--1053.

[41*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, p. 79.

[42*] Opera(Epist. nr 12), p. 164.

[43*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 6), p. 157.

[44*] Ibid. (Epist. nr II), p. 163.

[45*] Opera (Epist. Nr. 62), p. 281.

[46*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 49), p. 253.

[47*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 22), p. 178.

[48*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 5), p. 156.

[49*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 10), p. 161.

[50*] Opera (Epist. nr 100), p. 321.

[51*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 101), p. 322.

[52*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 96), p. 317.

[53*] Ibid. (Epist. nr 48), p. 243; cf. below, p. 281.

[54*] Ibid. (Vita, c. 44), p. 122; also p. 142 (Reuss here misunderstands the Acta Inquisitionis p. 138), comp. Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken der heil. Hilldegardis, 1879, pp. 538 ff.

[55*] Opera, 'Liber divinorum Operum,' pp. 739-1037.

[56*] Ibid. (Visio 4), pp. 807 ff.

[57*] Opera (visio 5, c. 36), p. 934.

[58*] Ibid. (visio 5, c.. 43), p. 945.

[59*] Ibid. (visio 10, c. 25), p. 1026.

[60*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, pp. 95 ff.

[61*] Line 1401.

[62*] Cf. The Nunns prophesie. ..concerning the rise and downfall of.. the.. Jesuits, 1680.

[63*] Prédictions sur la révolution de la Belgique. Amsterdam, 1832.

[64*] Opera, 'Vita St Rupertis,' pp. 1081--1092.

[65*] Ibid. 'Vita St Disibodi,' pp. 1093--1116.

[66*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877, p. 75, footnote.

[67*] Opera, p. 90; A. SS. Boll. St Hildegardis, Sept. 17.

[68*] Schmelzeis, Das Leben und Wirken der hell. Hildegardis, 1879.

[69*] Linde, Handschriften der königl. Bibliothek in Wiesbaden, 1877.

[70*] Opera, p. 140, footnote.

[71*] Roth, F. W. E., Die Visionen der hell. Elisabeth etc. 1884, Vorwort, p. cv.

[72*] Roth, Die Visionen der heil. Elizabethetc. 1884, Vorwort, pp. cvii.ff.

[73*] Ibid. 'Liber Visionum primus,' Prologus, p. I.

[74*] Ibid. 'Liber Visionum secundus,' c. 31, p. 53; Anlage, p. 153.

[75*] Ibid. 'Liber Viarum Dei,' pp. 88-- 122.

[76*] Ibid. Vorwort, p. cix.

[77*] Ibid. 'Liber Viarum Dei,' c. 10, p. 92.

[78*] Roth, Die Visionen der heil. Elisabeilt etc. 1884, 'Liber Viarum Dei,' c. 13, p. 100.

[79*] Ibid. 104.

[80*] Roth, Die Visionen der heil. Elisabeth etc. 2884, 'Liber Viarum Dei,' c. 20, p. 122.

[81*] Ibid. pp. 70, 178.

[82*] Ibid. p. 74.

[83*] Ibid. 'De Sacro Exercitu Virginum Coloniensium,' pp. 123--153.

[84*] Ibid. Vorwort, pp. cxi ff. Roth discusses the history of the development of this legend.

[85*] Comp. above, . 40.

[86*] A. SS. Boll., St Ursula, Oct. 21.

[87*] Roth, Die Visionen der heil. Elisabeth etc. 1884, Vorwort, p. cxxiv; Hardy, Th. D., Descriptive catalogue of MS. material, 1858, vol. 2, p. 417.

[88*] Roth, Die Visionen der heil. Elisabeth etc. 1884, p. 253.

[89*] A. SS. Boll., St Elisabetha, June 18.

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