[Daniel’s notes are in red.]

from Grove Music Online…


Hildegard of Bingen

(b Bermersheim, nr Alzey, 1098; d Rupertsberg, nr Bingen, 17 Sept 1179). German Benedictine abbess, visionary, writer and composer. She is known for her literary, musical and scientific works, and for her religious and diplomatic activities. Her oeuvre includes recorded visions, medical and scientific works, hagiography and letters; also lyrical and dramatic poetry, which has survived with monophonic music.


She was born into the free nobility of Rheinhessen. When she was eight her parents, Hildebert and Mechthild of Bermersheim, promised her to the Church, and when she was 14 bound her over to the newly constructed Benedictine monastery at nearby Disibodenberg. She entered a stone cell (a ‘tomb’) with Jutta von Spanheim (1092–1136), who came from another powerful and wealthy local family. Their vows were received by Bishop Otto of Bamberg on All Saints' Day, 1112. Jutta instructed Hildegard in the Psalter, reading Latin and strict religious practices.

Although their contact with the outside world was via a single window, their isolation was not complete. Jutta corresponded with people of all social classes who, by way of letters, approached her for prophecies and spiritual instruction. The monk-priest Volmar, possibly from the monastery at Hirsau, apparently nurtured Hildegard's fundamental theological knowledge, providing access to sermons and treatises. The enclosure attracted other daughters from local noble families, expanding into a convent. After Jutta's death Hildegard, appointed ‘prioress’, became its leader but subject to the abbot, a role she fulfilled until about 1150 when the community had grown to about 20 members.

The convent's exclusivity and eccentric theological observances came under fire. Compelled by divine command, Hildegard sought to establish her own house at Rupertsberg, near Bingen, an endeavour unprecedented in her time. With endowments from the noble community the site was purchased in 1147, construction begun, and the move initiated in about 1150. In 1152 the Archbishop of Mainz issued founding documents. By 1158 Hildegard had secured complete financial independence from Disibodenberg, and, already under archiepiscopal protection, in 1163 she obtained protection from Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa who acknowledged her ‘abbess’. When, in 1165, numbers at the convent had reached over 50, she established a daughter house with room for another 30 nuns at Eibingen, near Rüdesheim, where the Abbey of St Hildegard stands today.

She was famous for her prophecies and miracles. Later described as the ‘Sybil of the Rhine’ (1383), she was consulted by and held lengthy correspondences with popes, emperors and other secular and ecclesiastical leaders as well as lower members of the clergy and lay persons, and involved herself in politics and diplomacy at a time of immense political and ecclesiastical turmoil. Exceptionally for a woman, she undertook four preaching missions through Germany between 1160 and 1170. But above all, as spiritual mother and ‘magistra’, she guided her nuns by fortifying their commitment to the Virgin through the teaching of scripture and the Rule of St Benedict, and the discernment of the right path in monastic life.

In 1223 a protocol was drawn up for her possible canonization, but neither Pope Gregory IX (1227–41) nor Pope Innocent IV (1243–54) granted approval. Clement V (1305–14) and John XXII (1316–34) also hesitated, but in 1324 the Avignon papacy sanctioned her cult. In the 16th century she appears in the Roman martyriology of Baronius, and in 1940 her feast day was officially approved for all German dioceses; but these efforts have never resulted in a formal canonization. However, as Newman (1998) has pointed out, between 1198 and 1461 no Benedictine nun was canonized, with female sainthood shifting to the newer Dominican and Franciscan orders and the lay penitents associated with them.

From the age of five Hildegard experienced visions, and in 1141 her abbot gave her permission to record what she saw, with the aid of Volmar. The result, Scivias, which contains 14 lyric texts that later appeared with music, took ten years to write and comprised 26 revelations. Two works on natural science and medicine followed: Physica and Causa et cure (written between 1150 and 1160). Then came the Liber vite meritorum (1158–63) and the Liber divinorum operum (1163–73). The three visionary tomes have been described as a trilogy of apocalyptic, prophetic and symbolic writings. Her Lives of St Disibod (1170–72) and St Rupert (1172) and the Explanatio of the Rule of St Benedict round out her religious prose works.

Collection of Hildegard's musical settings of her poetry had begun by the early 1150s but the settings themselves may go back at least to the 1140s. The texts are laden with brilliant imagery and share the apocalyptic language of the visionary writings. They have some affinity with the poetry of Notker Balbulus (9th century) and are akin in richness and imaginative quality to those of Peter Abelard and Walter of ChČtillon.

The two main notated sources, Dendermonde, Benedictine Abbey, MS 9 (c1163–1175) and the ‘Riesenkodex’, D-WIl 2 (c1180–90), preserve 77 songs in German neumes. Eight of the songs, all short antiphons, form part of a liturgy to St Ursula, so the total number is sometimes cited as 71. Collectively these songs are entitled Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum by all modern editors, although that designation does not appear in any of Hildegard's sources (Willimann). Of the songs, 43 are labelled ‘antiphons’ (fig.2), 18 ‘responses’, seven ‘sequences’ and four ‘hymns’; the remainder comprises a Kyrie, an alleluia and three undesignated items. Taken together they form a liturgical cycle, with some items bearing designations to feasts or classes of feast. Most feasts have an antiphon-respond pair. Some, especially the locally revered saints, have more: thus St Rupert has three antiphons and a sequence, St Disibod two antiphons, two responds and a sequence, St Ursula and her 11,000 virgins eight antiphons, two responds, hymn and sequence. The remaining sequences are to the Holy Spirit, the BVM, St Eucharius and St Maximinus.

The music is not drawn from plainchant and is in some respects highly individual. Hymns and sequences are nearly syllabic, while prolix responds are extravagantly complex, with elaborate melismas extending up to 75 notes; antiphons occupy a stylistic middle ground, alternating syllabic and melismatic styles. The responds are supplied with verse and repetenda, and occasionally also Gloria Patri using melodic material from the verse; some antiphons have ‘EVOVAE’ and the hymns ‘Amen’. The sequences use poetic and melodic parallelism, but far from strictly.

The music of Hildegard is made up of a comparatively small number of elemental melodic patterns, which recur constantly under different melodic and modal conditions and are the common property of her poetic output. The patterns differ from the recurrent melodic ‘timbres’ (Aubry) of Adam of St Victor's work. While the latter are fixed phrases assembled in a ‘patchwork quilt’ manner akin to Centonization, Hildegard's formulae rather provide melodic ‘matrices’ with innumerable realizations. Highly decorative, the text and music of Hildegard's songs are intimately related and inseparable, as parallel syntaxes mirroring (and at times contradicting) one another, while unfolding within an idiosyncratic system of modes. On another level, the songs are meditations upon visionary texts, that in turn represent poetically condensed exegesis of complex theological issues, expressed at greater length in the prose trilogy of visions. Like all the writings received ‘in visio’ by the presence of the Living Light, ultimately the music's raison d'źtre lies in fostering ruminatio (‘chewing over’), a method of penetrating the deeper spiritual meaning behind both words and music. As such, the songs are a special Hildegardian facet of contemplative medieval practice.

Hildegard also created a morality play, Ordo virtutum, in dramatic verse. This contains 82 melodies, many more nearly syllabic in setting than the liturgical songs. The earliest morality play by more than a century, it presents the battle for the human soul, Anima, between 16 personified Virtues and the Devil.

There are indications that at least some of the songs, and perhaps the play, were used in the liturgy at Rupertsberg, at Disibodenberg, in Trier and at the Cistercian monastery of Villers that received the Dendermonde manuscript as a gift in about 1175. Specifically, the responds to Mary, St Disibod and St Ursula would have been sung at Matins on the respective feast days. Some of the Ursula antiphons are indicated for Lauds, others (the Gospel antiphons) are suitable for Lauds or Vespers. In addition, as the antiphons are supplied with notated ‘EVOVAE’ psalm-tone cadence formulae (far more of these appear in Dendermonde than in the ‘Riesenkodex’), they must have framed the recitation of psalms. The songs for the patron saints of Disibodenberg and the Trier monasteries might have been included in the liturgies there. The Ordo may have been performed in 1152, at the dedication of the church at Rupertsberg (Dronke, 1981).

The two musical manuscripts represent the song cycle in two states of development. Dendermonde, in its present fragmentary state, does not include the Ordo, but it is possible that the play may have been included at the beginning of the music section (Dronke, 1969–70), which contains 56 songs. The ‘Riesenkodex’ adds many items while excluding two short antiphons, and ends with the Ordo. Moreover, it shows the single cycle of Dendermonde reshaped into two by the separation of antiphons and responds from hymns, sequences and symphoniae, with the Kyrie in the middle. Thematically, both song collections are organized into eight hierarchically arranged groups, from God the Father to the BVM, then to Virgins, Widows, Innocents and finally the Church. Yet the detail of this arrangement differs. In the ‘Riesenkodex’ the items to the Holy Spirit (nos.24–8 in Pfau's edition) precede those for the Virgin Mary (8–23), and the items to St Ursula and her companions (60–65) come under the heading of ‘Virgins’ rather than ‘Innocents’; the manuscript also has additional items, including all those for the Trier saints Matthew (50), Eucharius (52–3) and Maximinus (54), the item for St Boniface (51) and O viridissima virga (19).

Dating the songs remains problematic. Nearly half appear without melodies in prose contexts, and it is unclear which came first, the musical composition or the lyric poetry. A ‘Miscellany’ of homilies, letters and other materials by Hildegard (D-WIl 2, ff.404–407v) includes 26 song texts (some with variants) but without their repetenda, doxologies, Amen or liturgical cues. These materials, which represent a different recension of the texts from the main song collection, possibly reflect rough transcriptions of the liturgical text, made at Rupertsberg, that Hildegard later revised to make them suitable for liturgical celebrations in other places (Newman, 1998). That is, the musical versions may have preceded these text versions. Or, they may represent transcriptions from an ‘intermediary’ song collection now lost (Berschin). Scivias (completed in 1151) culminates in 14 song texts, followed by a shorter version of the Ordo. It has been postulated that the song texts were incorporated at the end of the book of visions, as a ‘transcription of a celestial concert’ (Newman, 1988) from individual (notated) exemplars that are now lost. Alternatively, they may have been set to music after the completion of Scivias. They have the same hierarchical arrangement as the notated sources, but on a smaller scale. Similarly, alternative scenarios have been proposed for the Ordo text. It may represent an early, unpolished sketch before music was added (Newman, 1988) or a later, abridged rendering (Dronke, 1981) of the play. All this suggests that the planning and fleshing-out of a liturgical cycle was a gradual process, and that Hildegard collected her songs into a systematic order over time, her last songs being incorporated posthumously into the cycle preserved in the ‘Riesenkodex’. Newman has tentatively suggested a division into early, middle and late compositions: the 14 pieces in Scivias and all or part of the Ordo by 1151; the 26 of the ‘Miscellany’ from the late 1150s; and the text and music of the remaining pieces after the 1150s.

WORKS – see below

BIBLIOGRAPHY – see below




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1. Hildegard with her amanuensis, Volmar: miniature from ‘Scivias’, completed 1151 (ex-D-WIl Hs 1)

[Hessische Landesbibliothek, Wiesbaden ]

2. ‘O gloriosissimi’, antiphon from Hildegard of Bingen's ‘Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum’, c1163–1175 (Dendermonde Abbey, MS 9)

[Benedictine Abbey of St Peter and Paul]





Der heiligen Hildegard von Bingen Reigen der Tugenden: ‘Ordo Virtutum’ (Berlin, 1927), ed. M. Böckeler and P. Barth (Berlin, 1927) [B]

Hildegard von Bingen: Lieder, ed. P. Barth, M.I. Ritscher and J. Schmidt-Görg (Salzburg, 1969) [L]

Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179): Sequences and Hymns, ed. C. Page (Newton Abbot, 1983) [P]

The ‘Ordo virtutum’ of Hildegard of Bingen, ed. A.E. Davidson (Kalamazoo, MI, 1985) [O]

Hildegard von Bingen: ‘Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum’, ed. M.R. Pfau (Bryn Mawr, PA, 1997–8) [Pf]


Manuscript sources: Belgium, Dendermonde, Benedictine Abbey of St Peter and St Paul, MS 9 [D]

D-WIl 2, ff.466r–481v, songs [Ra]

D-WIl 2, ff.132v–133r, Scivias (song texts only) [Rb]

D-WIl 2, ff.404r–407v, ‘Miscellany’ (song texts only) [Rc]

Scivias and Miscellany items are indicated after the title by Rb and Rc respectively, followed by the number, in parentheses (Rb 1), (Rc 1). Parentheses under ‘type’ indicate that the designation does not appear in a manuscript. Further source information is given in Pf.


I. Trinity, Father and Son


II. Virgin, Mother and Son


III. Trinity, Holy Spirit


IV. Celestial Hierarchy


V. Patron saints


VI. Virgins, Widows and Innocents


VII. St Ursula and her Companions


VIII. Ecclesia





J. Gmelch, ed.: Die Kompositionen der heil. Hildegard (Düsseldorf, 1913) [facs.]

P. van Poucke, ed.: Hildegard of Bingen: Symphonia harmoniae caelestium revelationum: Dendermonde, St. Pieters & Paulusabdij Ms. Cod. 9 (Peer, 1991) [facs.]

L. Welker, ed.: Hildegard von Bingen: Lieder: Faksimile Riesencodex (Hs. 2) der Hessischen Landesbibliothek Wiesbaden, fol. 466–481v (Wiesbaden, 1998) [facs.; with commentary by M. Klaper]


editions and translations of texts

J.-P. Migne, ed.: S. Hildegardis Abbatissae opera omnia, PL, cxcvii (1855)

J.-B. Pitra, ed.: Analecta sacra spicilegio Solesmensi parata, viii (Paris, 1882/R) [edns of Liber vite meritorum, 145 letters, and other works; incl. 26 items of the ‘Miscellany’]

H. Schipperges, ed. and trans.: Der Mensch in der Verantwortung: das Buch der Lebensverdienste (Liber vitae meritorum) (Salzburg, 1972)

A. Führkötter and A. Carlevaris, eds.: Hildegardis ‘Scivias’ (Turnhout, 1978)

M. Fox, ed.: Hildegard of Bingen's ‘Book of Divine Works’, with Letters and Songs (Santa Fe, 1987) [songs with music; translation by R. Cunningham]

B. Newman, ed.: Saint Hildegard of Bingen: Symphonia: a Critical Edition of the ‘Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum’ (Ithaca, NY, 1988, 2/1998)

F. Bowie and O.Davies, eds.: Hildegard of Bingen: Mystical Writings (New York, 1990) [translation by R. Carver]

H. Feiss, ed. and trans.: Hildegard of Bingen: Explanation of the Rule of Benedict (Toronto, 1990)

C. Hart and J. Bishop, eds. and trans.: Scivias (New York, 1990)

L. van Acker and M. Klaes, eds.: Hildegardis Bingensis Epistolarium (Turnhout, 1991–); see also L. van Acker, Revue Bénédictine, xcviii (1988), 141–68; xcix (1989), 118–54

F. Staab, ed.: ‘Vita domnae Juttae inclusea’, Reformidee und Reformpolitik im spätsalisch-frühstaufischen Reich: Trier 1991, ed. S. Weinfurter (Mainz, 1992), 172–87

J.L. Baird and R.K. Ehrman, eds. and trans.: Hildegard of Bingen: Letters (Oxford, 1994–)

P. Dronke, ed. and trans.: ‘Play of the Virtues’, Nine Medieval Plays (Cambridge, 1994), 161–81

W. Berschin and H. Schipperges, eds.: Hildegard von Bingen: Symphonia: Gedichte und Gesänge (Gerlingen, 1995)

A. Carlevaris, ed.: Hildegardis Liber vite meritorum (Turnhout, 1995)

A. Derolez and P. Dronke, eds.: Hildegardis Bingensis Liber divinorum operum (Turnhout, 1996)

S. Flanagan, ed. and trans.: Secrets of God: Writings of Hildegard of Bingen (Boston, MA, 1996)



biographical studies

[Gottfried of St Disibod and Dieter of Echternach]: Vita Sanctae Hildegardis, ed. J.P. Migne in PL, cxcvii (1855), cols.91–130; also ed. M. Klaes (Turnhout, 1993); Ger. trans., A. Führkötter (Salzburg, 1980); Eng. trans., A. Silvas, in Tjurunga: an Australasian Benedictine Review, xxix (1985), 4–25; xxx (1986), 63–73; xxxi (1986); xxxii (1987), 46–59

J.P. Schmelzeis: Das Leben und Wirken der heiligen Hildegardis nebst einem Anhang hildegard'scher Lieder mit ihren Melodien (Freiburg, 1879)

S. Flanagan: Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179: a Visionary Life (London, 1989, 2/1998)

T. Schäfer: Visionen: Leben, Werk und Musik der Hildegard von Bingen (Munich, 1996)

Ä. Bäumer: Wisse die Wege: Leben und Werk Hildegards von Bingen (Frankfurt, 1998)


other studies

MGG1(J. Schmidt-Görg)

L. Bronarski: Die Lieder der hl. Hildegard: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der geistlichen Musik des Mittelalters (Zürich, 1922) [analysis of melodies]

M. Böckeler: ‘Aufbau und Grundgedanke des Ordo Virtutum der heiligen Hildegard’,Benediktinische Monatschrift, v (1923), 300–10

M. Böckeler: ‘Beziehungen des “Ordo Virtutum” der heiligen Hildegard zu ihrem Hauptwerk “Scivias”’, Benediktinische Monatschrift, vii (1925), 135–45

H. Liebeschütz: Das allegorische Weltbild der heiligen Hildegard von Bingen (Leipzig, 1930/R)

B. Widmer: Heilsordnung und Zeitgeschehen in der Mystik Hildegards von Bingen (Basle, 1955)

J. Schmidt-Görg: ‘Die Sequenzen der heiligen Hildegard’, Studien zur Musikgeschichte des Rheinlandes, i: Festschrift zum 80. Geburtstag von Ludwig Schiedermair, ed. W. Kahl, H. Lemacher and J. Schmidt-Görg (Cologne,1956), 109–17

M. Schrader and A. Führkötter: Die Echtheit des Schrifttums der heiligen Hildegard von Bingen: Quellenkritische Untersuchungen (Cologne, 1956)

J. Schmidt-Görg: ‘Zur Musikanschauung in den Schriften der heiligen Hildegard’, Der Mensch und die Künste: Festschrift für Heinrich Lützeler, ed. G. Bandmann (Düsseldorf, 1962), 230–37

I. Ritscher: ‘Zur Musik der heiligen Hildegard’, Colloquium amicorum: Joseph Schmidt-Görg zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. S. Kross and H. Schmidt (Bonn, 1967), 309–26

P. Dronke: The Medieval Lyric (London, 1968, 3/1996), 75–6, 233ff

P. Dronke: ‘The Composition of Hildegard of Bingen's “Symphonia”’, Sacris erudiri, xix (1969–70), 381–93

P. Dronke: Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages: New Departures in Poetry 1000–1150 (Oxford, 1970), 150–79

P. Walter: ‘Virgo filium Dei portasti: Maria in den Gesängen der hl. Hildegard von Bingen’, Archiv für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte, xxix (1977), 75–96

A. Brück, ed.: Hildegard von Bingen: Festschrift zum 800. Todestag der Heiligen (Mainz,1979) [incl. articles by A. Führkötter, I. Ritscher, W. Seibrich, P. Walter and others]

P. Dronke: ‘Problemata Hildegardiana’, Mittellateinisches Jb, xvi (1981), 97–131

B.J. Newman: O feminea forma: God and Woman in the Works of St Hildegard (1098–1179) (diss., Yale U., 1981)

A.E. Davidson: ‘The Music and Staging of Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo virtutum’, Atti del IV Colloquio della Société internationale pour l'étude du théČtre médiéval: Viterbo 1983, ed. M. Chiabė, F. Doglio and M. Maymone (Viterbo, 1984), 495–506

P. Dronke: ‘Hildegard of Bingen’, Women Writers in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1984), 144–201

P. Escot: ‘The Gothic Cathedral and Hidden Geometry of St Hildegard’, Sonus, v/1 (1984), 14–31

B. Thornton: ‘Hildegard von Bingen aus der Sicht des Interpreten’, Concerto, ii/Jan (1984), 48–53

R. Boenig: ‘Music and Mysticism in Hildegard von Bingen's O Ignis Spiritus Paracliti’, Studia mystica, ix (1986), 60–72

J. Martin and G.Hair: ‘O Ecclesia: the Text and Music of Hildegard of Bingen's Sequence for St Ursula’, Tjurunga: an Australasian Benedictine Review, xxx (1986), 3–62

A.B. Yardley: ‘“Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne”: the Cloistered Musician and the Middle Ages’, Women Making Music, ed. J. Bowers and J. Tick (Urbana, IL, 1986), 15–38

B. Newman: Sister of Wisdom: St Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine (Berkeley, 1987)

M.R. Pfau: ‘Music and Text in Hildegard's Antiphons’, Saint Hildegard of Bingen: Symphonia, ed. B. Newman (Ithaca, NY, 1988, 2/1998), 74–94

M.R. Pfau: Hildegard of Bingen's ‘Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum’: an Analysis of Musical Process, Tonality, and Text-Music Relations (diss., SUNY, 1990)

Sonus, xi/1 (1990) [Hildegard issue, incl. articles by R. Cogan, P. Escot, S. Flanagan, K. Kraft and M.R. Pfau]

A.E. Davidson: ‘Another Manuscript of the Ordo virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen’, Early Drama, Art, and Music Review, xiii (1991), 36–41

A.E. Davidson, ed.: The ‘Ordo virtutum’ of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies (Kalamazoo, 1992) [incl. articles by A.E. Davidson, C. Davidson, G. Iversen, J.B. Holloway, R. Potter and P. Sheingorn]

K. Schlager: ‘Hildegard von Bingen im Spiegel der Choralforschung: Rückschau und Ausblick’, De Musica et cantu: Studien zur Geschichte der Kirchenmusik und der Oper: Helmut Hucke zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. P. Cahn and A.-K. Heimer (Hildesheim,1993), 309–323

U. Wiethaus: ‘In Search of Medieval Women's Friendships: Hildegard of Bingen's Letters to her Female Contemporaries’, Maps of Flesh and Light: the Religious Experience of Medieval Women, ed. U. Wiethaus (Syracuse, NY,1993), 93–111

A.E. Davidson, ed.: Wisdom Which Encircles Circles: Papers on Hildegard von Bingen (Kalamazoo, MI, 1996)

C. Mews: ‘Seeing is Believing: Hildegard of Bingen and the Life of Jutta, Scivias, and the Commentary on the Rule of Benedict’, Tjurunga: an Australasian Benedictine Review, li (1996), 9–40

M.R. Pfau: ‘Echo aus dem zwölften Jahrhundert: die geistliche Musik der Hildegard von Bingen’, Annäherung an sieben Komponistinnen, vii, ed. C. Mayer (Kassel, 1996), 6–22

M.F. Schleiffer and S.Glickman, eds.: Women Composers: Music Through the Ages (New York, 1996), i [incl. M.R. Pfau: ‘Hildegard von Bingen: Biography’, 25–9; ‘Five Responsories, Sequences, and Hymns from the Symphonia’, 30–50; A.E. Davidson: ‘The Ordo virtutum’, 51–60]

B. Stühlmeyer: ‘Die Kompositionen der Hildegard von Bingen: ein Forschungsbericht’, Beiträge zur Gregorianik, no.22 (1996), 74–84

S. Morent: ‘Von einer Theologie der Musik: zur Musikanschauung bei Hildegard von Bingen’, KJb, lxxxi (1997), 25–40

E. Forster, ed.: Hildegard von Bingen, Prophetin durch die Zeiten: zum 900. Geburtstag (Freiburg, 1997) [incl. articles by B. Newman, K. Schlager, B. Stühlmeyer and B. Thornton]

C. Burnett and P. Dronke, eds.: Hildegard of Bingen: the Context of her Thought and Art (London, 1998)

Hildegard von Bingen in ihrem historischen Umfeld: Bingen 1998 [forthcoming]

A. Kreutziger-Herr: ‘Hildegard von Bingen’, Europäische Mystik vom Hochmittelalter zum Barock: eine Schlüsselepoche in der europäischen Mentalitäts- und Individuationsentwicklung, ed. W. Beutin and T. Bütow (Frankfurt, 1998)

M.B. McInerney, ed.: Hildegard of Bingen: a Book of Essays (New York, 1998) [incl. articles by K.L. Bumpass, J. Emerson and M.B. McInerney]

S. Morent: ‘Hildegard von Bingen: der Rupertsberger “Riesenkodex”, Wiesbaden Hessische Landesbibliothek Hs. 2’, Beiträge zur Gregorianik, no.26 (1998), 81–96

Musik und Kirche, lxviii/1 (1998) [Hildegard issue, incl. articles by O. Betz, M.R. Pfau, K. Röhring, D. Sölle and G. Wolfstieg]

B. Newman, ed.: Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard and her World (Berkeley, 1998)

B. Newman: ‘Hildegard and her Hagiographers: the Remaking of Female Sainthood’, Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and their Interpreters, ed. C.M. Mooney (Philadelphia, 1999), 16–34

J. Willimann: ‘“Hildegard cantrix”: Überlegungen zur musikalischen Kunst Hildegards von Bingen’ (1098–1179)’, Denkschrift für Ernst Lichtenhahn, ed. A. Baldassarre, S. Kübler and P. Müller (Berne, 1999)

S. Morent: ‘Encoding the Music of Hildegard von Bingen: a Proposal for Computer-Assisted Musical Research’, Computing in Musicology, xx [forthcoming]



Excerpt from the article in Grove Music titled “Women in Music.”


…this is the Table of Contents for the entire article…

Women in music

I. Historiography

II. Western classical traditions in Europe and the USA

1. Antiquity to 500 ce.

2. 500–1500. – included below

3. 1500–1800.

4. Since 1800.


a: collected editions, anthologies

b: indexes, bibliographical sources

c: biographical dictionaries, encyclopedias

d: special periodicals

e: special periodical numbers

f: general historical studies

g: the ancient world

h: 500–1500

i: 1500–1800

j: since 1800

k: jazz, popular music

l: disciplinary and professional studies

III. World music

1. History of research and analysis.

2. Women's music in everyday and ritual life.

3. Music in the court and harem.

4. Popular and commercial music.

5. New research.


a: general sources, anthologies

b: north america

c: central and south america, caribbean

d: africa

e: north africa, middle east

f: europe

g: asia

h: australia and the pacific





Women in music, §II: Western classical traditions in Europe & the USA


II.2. 500–1500.


The monastic movement, which was formalized in the 6th century, played a crucial role in women's music history during the Middle Ages. The Rule of St Benedict (c530 ce) established convents as well as monasteries, while around 512–34 Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, wrote the first rule especially for a women's community. Administrative structures were similar, so that abbeys had an abbot or abbess, a prior or prioress, and a cantor or cantrix. Despite the fact that most positions within the church hierarchy would have remained closed to women, that monasteries would have been more powerful, numerous and wealthy than convents, that equivalent educations were not provided and Latin not routinely taught, convents nevertheless functioned like monasteries in the propagation and preservation of medieval music.


Some exceptional convents were famous centres of learning. Two organa survive from the celebrated illuminated religious encyclopedia Hortus deliciarum (c1167–85) by Herrad of Landsberg which is no longer extant. A major 14th-century manuscript of polyphony comes from the Spanish convent of Las Huelgas. The 15th-century Utrecht Liederbuch comes from a Franciscan nunnery. Yardley (1986) listed 14 additional manuscripts from convents containing music from the 12th century to the 15th.


Convents offered some women access to musical literacy. The first surviving music by a female composer is a set of troparia by Kassia (b 810), a renowned Byzantine composer of chant. The most stunning achievement of the era belongs to the abbess Hildegard of Bingen, a leading figure in 12th-century culture and one of several prominent female mystics in the 12th and 13th centuries. Music history has long acknowledged her existence, but only recently her stature: Hildegard created the largest single body of attributed monophonic chant of the Middle Ages. She also wrote the first allegorical morality play (Ordo virtutum), the only medieval music drama in which both the music and the text are attributed. Like Sappho and Miriam, Hildegard entered the world of illustrious paradigms. In 1523 Vives wrote that ‘the letters and learned books of the German maiden, Hildegard, are in everyone's hands’ (De institutione feminae christianae), yet only in the last two decades of the 20th century did her musical genius win recognition beyond the scholar's circle.


How much new music was created more routinely by other religious women is the subject of research often focussing on the special ceremonies unique to convent life (such as the consecration service of Virgin Brides to Christ). Manuscript corroboration can be found in many countries. Over half the antiphon repertory in the music of St Birgitta of Sweden (1303–73) is unknown outside its main source, the Cantus sororum. The Dutch nun Suster Bertken (1426/7–1514) published eight sacred songs, the melody of one of which survives through its concordance in the Utrecht Liederbuch. In England, chants unique to specific monasteries survive in a 15th-century hymnal from Barking Abbey and from a Benedictine nunnery at Chester (including the still familiar carol Qui creavit celum).


Convent life and culture varied greatly by era, region, order and class. Some convents served the daughters of the rich, forced to take vows by their families (indeed, the theme of the forced nun appears in contemporary popular songs); others were shelters for the random poor. The discipline and control exercised by local ecclesiastical authorities varied as well. As early as 789 ce Charlemagne issued an order that ‘no abbess should let those under her … dare to write love songs [winileodas]’. This points not only to now buried repertories but to social behaviour more diverse and less predictable than church doctrines suggest. By the 12th century the ubiquitousness of the religious woman as music teacher modified the iconography of La Donna Musica – Lady Music – which moved from allegory into contemporary allusion. The mid-13th-century Florentine manuscript known as ‘F’ contains an illumination of the three Boethian categories of music: one of the figures is dressed in the garb of a convent music teacher. Awareness of all these factors has changed the climate of scholarship around medieval music to some extent, so that no longer is Gregorian chant defined as ‘single-line melody sung by men’, as it was in 1980 in Grout's influential History of Western Music.


More questions than answers still surround the practice of polyphony in convents. Ecclesiastical decrees suppressing polyphony imply conventions of musical performance already in place. In 1261 the Archbishop of Rouen forbade the convent at Montivilliers to continue to perform conductus and motets. Yet this convent enjoyed enough of a reputation for knights in the Roman de l'Escouffe to attend a Mass sung by the Montivilliers ‘nonnains’. The Las Huelgas Manuscript contains a two-part solfŹge exercise annotated with directions for convent use. Still awaiting more historical investigation is a late 14th-century manuscript ‘Notitia de valore delle note del canto misurato’ from a Florentine convent, which teaches ‘musica mensuralis’, including the reading and composing of motet tenors.


With respect to secular music, four important currents flow through the period 1000–1500: (1) the continuation of employment as musician-entertainers; (2) the representation of women's experience in sophisticated genres, producing ‘women's song’ in every medieval Romance-language repertory; (3) the emergence of the ‘trobairitz’ and female trouvŹre; and (4) the pervasive musical activity of amateur female musicians, both in urban social life and in court culture.


Working-class women made livings as professional musicians – both as freelance, sometimes itinerant, minstrels (known as joglaresse in Provenćal, or jougleresse in Northern French) and as court entertainers. In the French romans, heroines have adventures in which they darken their skin to disguise themselves as Moorish jougleresses (Aucassin et Nicolette) or menestrelles (Galeran de Bretagne and Guillaume de Dole). Illuminations in the late 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria include a depiction of a female servant-lute player entertaining two ladies. In other 13th-century French manuscripts illuminations realistically portray women musicians playing the vielle, harp, rebec and gittern.


Most guilds, according to Etienne Boileau's Livre des metiers (1270), accepted women. In 1321 eight women were among the 37 who signed the statutes of the professional guild of menestriers (minstrels), whose articles of incorporation mention ‘menestreus et menestrelles’ and ‘jougleurs et jougleresses’. In England, the Musicians' Company of London (founded 1472) included women as well as men. Sometimes an obscure source provides a confirming detail. For example, the household accounts of Dame Alice de Bryene, a wealthy English widow, mention payment to ‘Margaret Brydbek, one harper’ at a New Year's banquet in 1413 (Amt, 1993). Diverse archives from the courts of Louis IX, of Burgundy, of the Duke of Berry and of Savoy provide similar corroboration, mentioning employment of a ‘cantatrix’ or ‘chanteresses’ and ‘menestriŹres’.


Between 1000 and 1500, as vernacular artistic forms gained literary prominence, the medieval lyric, which was rooted in centuries of aural tradition as well as classical literary practice, developed into formal genres in several Romance languages. With that came a significant literary corpus for the representation of women's experience and sexual love. Love songs written from the point of view of a female subject appear as cantigas de amigo in Portugal, Frauenlieder in Germany and chansons de femme in France. Songs about pregnancy appear in Carmina Burana. Social critiques of marriage appear in the French chanson de malmariée or its Italian counterpart the malmaritate. Women in French romans often sang a chanson de toile, a weaving song that spins a tale of unrequited love. The genre of ‘women's song’ is found in 15th-century Italian chansonniers.


Who sang such songs? Who listened? As an accomplishment for an ideal heroine or a socially ambitious young woman, music was promoted in literature and in advice books. In around 1200 Garin lo Brun's Ensenhamens urged women to sing and recite poetry for their guests. The Ensenhamen de la donsela by Amanieu de Sescars (c1291–1295), a Catalan, explicitly suggests that young women practise the arts of the ‘trobairitz’ and write ‘jocs partis’ (jeux-partis, or love-debate duets), thus endorsing a high level of cultural literacy. The subject of Chretien de Troyes' Philomena composed poetry and played the psaltery, vielle and other instruments. In Gotfrid von Strassburg's Tristan, Isolde achieves the musical skill one associates with Orpheus, enchanting men (instead of beasts) through her music: she fiddles an estampie, plays the lyre and harp expertly, and sings a variety of chansons, including a pastourelle, rotrouenge and rondeau, some of which she may have composed.


Thus the step from ‘chansons de femme’ to actual female poet-musicians is not great. Alongside the troubadour is the ‘trobairitz’, a term found in the Roman de Flamenca (c1250). About 20 female poets flourished between 1170 and 1260, among them Alamanda, Azalais de Porcairages, Maria de Ventadorn, Tibors, Castelloza, Garsenda and the Comtessa da Dia. Dominating the total known corpus of about 40 poems are two genres – the tenso (debate dialogue), and the canso (love song). Only one canso by an Occitanian composer, the beautiful A chantar by the Comtessa da Dia, has survived with a melody (F-Pn fr. 844). Of around 15 chansons by female trouvŹres, five survive with melodies. Coldwell (1986) transcribed one chanson each by Maroie de Dregnau de Lille and Blanche de Castile and a duet by Dame Margot and Dame Maroie, a rare example of a jeu-parti. 13th-century chansonniers containing this repertory include the famous Manuscript du Roi (F-Pn fr. 844, c1246–1254); the Chansonnier cangé (F-Pn fr. 845); F-Pn n.a.fr. 21677; F-AS 657 (c1278); I-Rvat Reg. Lat. 1490; and the Chansonnier de Noailles (F-Pn fr. 12615). The composing ‘domna’ (lady) was, according to the vidas, most often a noblewoman. But that does not mean she wrote for herself alone: a 13th-century Italian manuscript (MS H) is exceptional in depicting eight trobairitz, significantly seen in performance poses, with hands outstretched toward an imaginary audience, or holding a pointer.


Although the trobairitz and women trouvŹres contributed perhaps 1% of the total repertory, their symbolic stature as the first female composers of extant European secular music has attracted many historians and literary critics. In 1935 Rokseth asserted the ‘fraĒcheur’ and ‘sincérité’ of the chansons of the Comtessa da Dia. More recently, literary critics have searched the repertory to demonstrate ‘écriture féminine’, that powerful if ambiguous idea of sexual identity inscribing itself into art.


Why the 12th century produced such enduring examples of women's musical creativity as Hildegard of Bingen and the trobairitz remains unexplained. It has been asserted (in landmark scholarship by Kelly-Gadol, H1977) that 12th-century cultural achievements paralleled the comparative growth in power and wealth of medieval women in general, particularly in Occitan, where the trobairitz resided. No comparable figures emerge within the repertory of polyphonic music until three centuries later.


It is true that anonymity was the rule rather than the exception for both men and women composers until the 15th century (e.g. there are no named composers for the 13th-century motet repertory). For women, moreover, conventions of modesty and class restraints increased the likelihood of their donning the protective veil of anonymity. That there were fewer women composers then (as now) also seems likely, a fact related directly to their subordination in society. Notated polyphony in Western music, which was becoming increasingly important, depended precisely on the kinds of training women usually did not receive – study at a cathedral school, or apprenticeship to a master player.


The lack of compositions attributed to women has occasionally been interpreted as evidence of their exclusion from late medieval musical life. But too much circumstantial evidence shifts the burden of proof away from assumptions of exclusion towards more sophisticated interpretations of performing practice. Many examples of literary allusion and visual imagery document the ubiquitous presence of women in the musical culture of the late Middle Ages. It is significant that in Boccaccio's Decameron women musicians outnumber men.


The tradition of music as an élite accomplishment sanctioned their training on instruments (like the vielle or harp), especially to relieve the tedium of young girls ‘who would not last shut in’ – that is, sequestered in the home – without some diversion (Francesco da Barberino, Reggimento e costumi di donna, 1316–18). This early Italian treatise devoted to women's socialization contains one of the earliest uses of the word ‘chamber’ to describe musical activity in a space that links intimacy with emotion: ‘E questo canto basso, chiamato camerale, e quel che piace e che passe ne' cuori’ (‘And this soft singing style, called of the chamber, is what people like and will affect the heart'; Beck in Schliefer and Glickman, A1996).


The brilliant courts, so important to the prestige of feudal and monarchical governance, required both women and men. Music as entertainment, as symbol of wealth and royal breeding, depended on the female courtier as much as on her male counterpart. Specialized studies of particular courts, such as that of Princess Marguerite of Scotland, where the creative work of several women poets has been documented, may eventually also unearth names of women composers.


Some noblewomen became important musical patrons. The Mellon Chansonnier (US-NHub 91) was probably prepared as a gift to Beatrice of Aragon, reflecting her tastes and interests. The chanson album of Marguérite of Austria, prepared under her direction, includes her poetry and perhaps even a composition of hers (B-Br 228 and 11239). Other notable patrons include Marie of Burgundy, Anne of Britanny and, above all, Isabella d'Este. Isabella played a formative role in the development of the frottola, employing women (among them Giovanna Moreschi, the wife of Marchetto Cara) as professional singers at the Mantuan court. Manuscript corroboration for the use of women's voices in the frottola survives (I-Fn Magl. VII. 735, c1510).


Bibliography to “500-1500”


L. Eckenstein: Woman under Monasticism: Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500 (Cambridge, 1896/R)

K. Meyer: Der chorische Gesang der Frauen mit besonderer Bezugnahme seiner Betätigung auf geistlichem Gebeit (Mittenwald, 1917)

Y. Rokseth: ‘Les femmes musiciennes du XIIe au XIVe siŹcle’, Romania, lxi (1935), 464–80

R. Kelso: Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance (Urbana, IL, 1956)

M. Bogin: The Women Troubadours (New York, 1976)

J. Kelly-Gadol: ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’, Becoming Visible: Women in European History, ed. R. Bridenthal and C. Koonz (Boston, 1977), 134–64

M. Shapiro: ‘The Provenćal Trobairitz and the Limits of Courtly Love’, Signs, iii (1978), 560–71

P. Bec: ‘Trobairitz et chansons de femmes: contribution ą la connaissance du lyrisme féminin au moyen Čge’, Cahiers de civilisation Mediévale, xxii (1979), 235–62

P. Dronke: Women Writers of the Middle Ages: a Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (d. 203) to Marguerite Porete (d. 1310) (Cambridge, 1984)

H.M. Brown: ‘Women Singers and Women's Songs in Fifteenth-Century Italy’, Women Making Music: the Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950, ed. J. Bowers and J. Tick (Urbana, IL, 1986), 62–89

M.V. Coldwell: ‘“Jougleresses” and “Trobairitz”: Secular Musicians in Medieval France’, ibid., 39–61

E. Taitz: ‘Kol Isha: the Voice of Woman: Where was it Heard in Medieval Europe?’, Conservative Judaism, xxxviii (1986), 46–61

A.B. Yardley: ‘“Full Weel She Soong the Service Dyvyne”: the Cloistered Musician in the Middle Ages’, Women Making Music: the Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950, ed. J. Bowers and J. Tick (Urbana, IL, 1986), 15–39

D.L.C.M. Galles: ‘Canonesses and Plainchant’, Sacred Music, cxiv/1 (1987), 7–11

T. Seebass: ‘Lady Music, and her Proteges from Musical Allegory to Musicians’ Portraits’, MD, xlii (1988), 23–61

U. Mölk, ed.: Romanische Frauenlieder (Munich, 1989)

W.D. Paden, ed.: The Voice of the Trobairitz: Perspectives on the Women Troubadours (Philadelphia, 1989)

A.B. Yardley: ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Earth: a Late Medieval Source of the “Consecratio virginum”’, CMc, nos.45–7 (1990), 305–24

E. Borroff: ‘Women and Music in Medieval Europe’, Mediaevalia, xiv (1991), 1–21

A. Callahan: ‘The Trobairitz (c. 1170–1260)’, French Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, ed. E.M. Sartori and D.W. Zimmerman (Westport, CT, 1991), 495–502

J.M. Edwards: ‘Women in Music to ca. 1450’, Women and Music: a History, ed. K. Pendle (Bloomington, IN, 1991), 8–28

P. Higgins: ‘Parisian Nobles, a Scottish Princess, and the Woman's Voice in Late Medieval Song’, EMH, x (1991), 145–200

A. Rieger: Trobairitz der Beitrag der Frau in der altokzitanischen höfischen Lyrik (Tübingen, 1991)

L.W. Macy: ‘Women's History and Early Music’, Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, ed. T. Knighton and D. Fallows (London, 1992), 93–8

E. Rosenn: Feminine Discourse in Medieval Provencal, Old French and Galician-Portuguese Lyrics (diss., Columbia U., 1992)

E. Amt, ed.: Women's Lives in Medieval Europe: a Sourcebook (New York, 1993)

P. Higgins: ‘The “Other Minervas”: Creative Women at the Court of Margaret of Scotland’, Rediscovering the Muses: Women's Musical Traditions, ed. K. Marshall (Boston, 1993), 169–85

K. Marshall: ‘Symbols, Performers, and Sponsors: Female Musical Creators in the Late Middle Ages’, ibid., 140–68

R.T. Rollins: ‘The Singing of Women in the Early Christian Church’, Music in Performance and Society: Essays in Honor of Roland Jackson, ed. M. Cole and J. Koegel (Warren, MI, 1997), 37–57




This is a site devoted to Hildegard and has some links to more resources… some in German.


Hildegard of Bingen – www.hildegard.org


Support New England's only German National Parish:

Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church

Holy Trinity’s doors and arms are wide open to welcome all to the 10:00 AM Mass on Sundays. The church is located in Boston's South End, just three blocks south of the Theater District.


To the German page [which appears to be a dead link]


v    Working Group for the Promotion of the Tradition of Hildegard

v    Catholic Parish St. Rupertus and St. Hildegard, Bingen-Bingerbrück

v    Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard near Rüdesheim

v    SCIVIAS-Foundation (Disibodenberg)

v    Online-Documents [most of these links are bad, but with some Google searching, you may find alternative sites with the same information.]

o      Werner Lauter: Bibliography

o      Sabina Flanagan: Hildegard von Bingen

o      St. Hildegard by Adelgundis Führkötter (in German)

o      Rev. Wolfgang Schuhmacher: Hildegard von Bingen

o      Nancy Fierro: Hildegard's Music and Discography

o      Klaus-Dietrich Fischer: Hildegard of Bingen on Human Nature and the Art of Healing (in German) [might be some history of science here, but this link is a dead end.  Perhaps an alternate path is available…???]

o      Traces of Hildegard in Today's Bingen

o      Historical Sites

o      Rhonda-Lee Bugg: RE-VISIONS: Back to the habits of the medieval prophet, Hildegard of Bingen

v    Internet Resources

v    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

v    -

v    Rupert of Bingen (German)

v    The Museums of Bingen (German)

v    History and Guide to the town of Bingen on the Rhine

v    Travel information


First Hildegard-page in Bingen, since 23 January 1996

E-mail: webmaster@Hildegard.org

All links on this page will open in new windows.

Hildegard Publishing Company (2001) – Official homepage-


Roberge, P.-F.: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography (2004) – Complete and regularly updated discography of Hildegard recordings