Albrecht Classen

title.none: Koring, Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179 (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9906.017 99.06.17

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Koring, Innes and Winfried Wilhelmy. Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179. Hans-Jurgergen Kotzur, ed. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1999. Pp. xii-352. $42.00. ISBN: 3-805-32398-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.06.17

Koring, Innes and Winfried Wilhelmy. Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179. Hans-Jurgergen Kotzur, ed. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1999. Pp. xii-352. $42.00. ISBN: 3-805-32398-0.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Roughly beginning with the publication of the catalogue for the Stuttgart exhibition on the Hohenstaufen in 1977, this unique genre has emerged as a major forum for a vast number of scholars to contribute to a special topic from a variety of disciplines. Following the Hohenstaufen exhibition, those dedicated to Emperor Charles IV (1978) and Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia (1981), among many others, have proven that catalogues prepared for major exhibitions easily can achieve high scholarly standards. Commemorating the mystic Hildegard von Bingen's 900th anniversary, an exhibition was organized in Mainz which was also accompanied by a catalogue. Even a superficial scanning of its content quickly demonstrates that this publication follows the high standards of its predecessors, as the outstanding quality of the visual material and the wide spectrum of topics discussed pertaining to Hildegard's life confirm. A large number of scholars have contributed to this volume which is the result of considerable cooperation among various disciplines.

Nothing needs to be said about Hildegard von Bingen herself who is highly acclaimed as a mystic, as musical composer, writer, medical doctor, and preacher. The catalogue contains specialized articles about Hildegard's life (Ines Koring) and her impact on posterity until today (Helmut Hinkel). Barbara Stuhlmeyer discusses Hildegard's contributions to music; Scholastika Steinle examines her mystical visions; Peter Walther explores Hildegard's theology; Winfried Wilhelmy introduces her texts about herbs and medicines, and finally Wilhelmy also outlines Hildegard's perception of sexuality, pregnancy, and birth.

Since not many historical documents have been preserved from Hildegard's time -- the convents of Disibodenberg and Rupertsberg lie in ruins today or, respectively, have disappeared completely --, and not many objects which might have belonged to her are still extant, the exhibition was faced with a difficult task. As the catalogue indicates, however, this task was handled well as the organizers combined contemporary manuscripts, illustrations, and objects with those which were created posthumously in honor of or in admiration of Hildegard. These include: a tomb cover from the twelfth century, a crucifix from the last third of the eleventh century, bibles and psalters, sculptures, chalices, stones, carved capitals, stone portals, historical documents, seals, textiles, pottery, coins, the royal insignia of the German kings (crown, scepter, apple, lance, and cross), the bust of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, and so forth.

As to be expected for a scholarly catalogue, each item is thoroughly discussed, and the relevant research literature is provided as well. The individual articles highlighting specific aspects of Hildegard's life primarily aim at assembling the relevant information, but at times and quite unfortunately shy away from entering a critical examination, insinuating that no questions remain. The short essay by Scholastika Steinle on Hildegard's visions does not illustrate the phenomenon well, whereas Peter Walter's examination of Hildegard's theology covers most of the relevant issues.

Posterity quickly strove to credit Hildegard with sanctity, but all efforts to canonize her eventually failed. Nevertheless, her popularity as a saintly woman grew over the centuries, and by now in the late twentieth century she has gained an enormous reputation both among scholars and the lay audience, as Helmut Hinkel outlines in admirable detail. Many times stained glass, liturgical objects, crosses, sculptures, illustrations, and posters portray Hildegard and represent this continuous surge in fascination with this medieval mystic. The color plates and black and white illustrations included here beautifully document both the particular achievements by Hildegard and by posterity from the twelfth through the twentieth century.

At the end the catalogue contains modern German translations of excerpts from Hildegard's works, accompanied by a vast number of first-rate illustrations. Throughout the entire volume the editors successfully combine pictures with text and so have put together a highly informative collection of critical essays with relevant photos of objects, manuscripts, textiles, stained glasses, and sculptures. It is only deplorable that the volume is not accompanied by a CD containing both the illustrations and musical performances. Undoubtedly, this catalogue represents a worthy contribution to Hildegard research and makes it also easily accessible to the lay audience.