Every once in a while, Amazon gets it right. A few weeks ago I pulled my Kindle out of its cover and there, on the sleep-mode page, was a recommendation for Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, by Mary Sharratt. Well of course I bought it! Hildegard is one of my favorite historical figures.
At the same time, I’m really not all that surprised when I hear someone say “Hildegard von Who?”. Precious few people are aware of medieval history, and even fewer of those people stop to consider what women in the Middle Ages were doing. In the case of Hildegard, she was doing a lot!
In a nutshell, Hildegard was a German (and I use the term anachronistically) nun whose life spanned three-quarters of the twelfth century. She was a mystic, a writer, an abbess, and one of the greatest minds of the High Middle Ages. The crowned heads of Europe, including the Pope, wrote to her for advice on some of the thorniest issues, both personal and political. Her musical compositions are still performed. Her dramatic works are some of the finest of the pre-Shakespearean era. (more…)