09.07.02, Dronke, Evans, Feiss, Kienzle, Muessig, and Newman, eds., Hildegardis Bingensis

Main Article Content

Thomas Izbicki

The Medieval Review baj9928.0907.002


Dronke, Peter, Christopher P. Evans, Hugh Feiss, Beverly Mayne Kienzle, Carolyn A. Muessig and Barbara Newman (eds.). Hildegardis Bingensis: Opera minora. Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Mediaevalis, vol. 226. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Pp. 594. ISBN: 9782503052618.

Reviewed by:
Thomas Izbicki
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Research on Hildegard of Bingen has benefited greatly from new editions in Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis. The most recent volume provides us with some of the abbess's minor works. These are De regula sancti Benedicti (ed. Feiss), Explanatio symboli sancti Athanasii (ed. Evans), Expositiones evangeliorum (ed. Kienzle and Muessig), Symphonia harmonie celestium revelationum (ed. Newman), and Ordo virtutum (ed. Dronke). Each text has a substantial introduction, and the whole volume has indexes by Scripture passages and by sources employed by Hildegard.

The De regula sancti Benedicti was completed by 1158, when Hildegard mentioned it in the Liber uite meritorum. The text shows how well she knew the Rule of Benedict--probably by heart, but she did not comment on every passage. The prologue and sections related to the cultivation of virtues and good works received no attention. Otherwise, the explanations follow the order of the rule and treat monastic practice. Hildegard emphasized throughout the "humanity" and "discretion" of Benedict. This fits into her emphasis on the founder's "moderation and discretion" (p. 30).

The De regula, perhaps because of its focus on a life lived devoutly but moderately, was the most popular of the five works edited here during the Middle Ages. It is found in 27 manuscripts. Father Feiss places these in three groups. One group is found with Hildegard's letters, as are others of the Opera minora. A second group contains fifteenth-century copies not found with Geneno of Eberbach's Speculum futurorum temporum; while those that accompany Gebeno's work make up the third and largest group. Both that group and the fifteenth-century copies derive from work done by Hildegard's secretary, Volmar, as does MS W (Vienna, ONB 963), the version most closely derived from Volmar's collection of Hildegard's correspondence and other short texts. Textually, the manuscripts group somewhat differently. Group I accompanies Gebeno's Speculum. Group II derives from MS R, the Riesenkodex (Wiesbaden, Hessische Landesbibliothek 2). It includes Blanckwalt's 1566 edition of Hildegard's letters. Group III includes MS W and others related to it. The principles employed by Father Feiss privilege two groups against a third. The divergences of Group I are not employed, despite their numbers, when they are at odds with MSS R and W. A few manuscripts, including R and W, contain a letter to a men's monastic house that had asked for advice about the living of the monastic life. Because L. Van Acker has included the letter in his edition of Hildegard's Epistolarium, Father Feiss has omitted it from his edition.

The Explanatio symboli sancti Athanasii is a more difficult text. It exists in only three copies, two of them partial, MS R, MS W and MS V (Vienna, ONB 881). No complete copy of the text as Evans edits it exists. Furthermore, it is possible to argue that it is made up of two or even three works. The opening can be regarded as a letter (Evans) or exhortation (Feiss) of Hildegard to her nuns, admonishing them. (The reviewer leans to the latter interpretation.) There follows the actual exposition, which is couched in Hildegard's language of fire (ignis) and greenness (viriditas). The relationship of these portions has been questioned by Van Acker, as Evans notes. The last section begins afresh with the exhortation: Vos o magistri et doctores populi. This section Evans accepts as authentic, dated to Hildegard's seventieth year (ca. 1168). This places it two years earlier than the editor's date for the first part (ca. 1170). Evans follows W and V where they provide text. Where only W and R provide text, the former is preferred. R is employed where it alone is a witness. This is understandable. So is the decision to follow the orthography of R, the only complete copy of the Explanatio as Evans understands it.

The Expositiones are exhortations Hildegard delivered based on gospel texts. Some of them were delivered at other monasteries or at cathedrals during her travels. Their very existence makes the abbess the only medieval woman who did extended biblical exegesis. She based them on established liturgical pericopes, and they were accumulated over several years. The individual expositio could echo both the Bible and patristic texts. Hildegard need not have read each text employed in its entirety, since some were employed in liturgical offices. They reflect the offices celebrated at Disibodenberg, the abbess's original monastic home. the manuscript evidence is slim. MS R and two manuscripts now in London contain the texts. One London copy, MS H (British Library Harley 1725), is largely a copy of MS R. MS A (British Library Additional MS 15102, was copied from MS R for the Abbot Johannes Trithemius. It offers corrections of the readings in the Riesenkodex. This might indicate access to another manuscript copy. A major change this edition makes to the earlier edition by Cardinal Pitra is the elimination of the excessive way in which the cardinal subdivided the text, treating parts of the same explanatio as different works. The editors, Kienzle and Muessig, tied the first four explanationes to the preceding life of St. Disibod. The remainder follow the liturgical year from Christmas to Advent, with two sermons for the dedication of a church at the end. The apparatus fontium is of particular value for its distinction between biblical and patristic passages quoted directly and those alluded to or paraphrased. Here we see Hildegard playing off the liturgical texts she and her hearers knew well to deliver her messages.

The last two editions cover the best known texts in this volume. Barbara Newman offers a new version of her edition of the Symphonia. Peter Dronke has edited one of the most familiar of Hildegard's texts, the morality play Ordo virtutum. Neither is accompanied by music, although both the lyrics of the Symphonia and the play were sung. Readers desiring Hildegard texts with neumes can consult the editions to which the editors refer.

Barbara Newman, reflecting on the work done since her earlier edition of the Symphonia, makes specific reference to the work of Albert Derolez on the Riesenkodex. It once was thought that the manuscript R was compiled after Hildegard's death to support the effort to have her canonized. Derolez has argued, successfully, that the largest part of the work of compilation was done before the abbess died, a vita and other material being added after her passing. Newman also underlines the importance of MS D (Dendermond Codex 9), a codex prepared during Hildegard's lifetime and sent to the Cistercians of Villers, who needed neumes with the texts because they did not know the liturgical usages of Disibodenberg and Rupertsberg. One notes in particular that MS D has a major place in eight cases of divergent readings the editor discusses in detail.

The Ordo virtutum appears in only two manuscripts, MS R and MS A. Dronke, the editor, had thought the latter copied from the former for Abbot Trithemius. He corrects this in the light of evidence showing other manuscripts at Rupertsberg had been employed in the compilation of MS A. Dronke too follows Derolez in his discussion of the Riesenkodex. He does, however, follow the orthography of MS R, not of MS A, in the making of this edition. Dronke makes no use of the related material in Hildegard's Scivias on the acceptable ground that the play predates the larger work and can be treated as one of its sources.

These editions are meticulously done throughout. Each has an apparatus criticus and apparatus fontium to enable scholars to follow the reasoning of the editors and make their own judgments. This reviewer admires not just the thoroughness of the editors but their tracking of judgments made by themselves and others in the study and editing of these texts. The cumulative intellectual effect of reading the introductions and studying the editions is illuminating. One begins to understand better how Hildegard's works were diffused in her lifetime and in the period immediately after her death. Perhaps the most interesting insight come from the less familiar sources, like MS A and the Dendermond codex, both of which provide evidence of the creation, revision, and preservation of these works. In conclusion, the reviewer hopes to see soon editions of the lives of Disibod and Rupert that Abbess Hildegard composed published in similarly meticulous editions.

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Thomas Izbicki

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey