Hildegard of Bingen (Germany) lived around 1098-1179 A.D. and possessed all the attributes that would have earned her the title of a Renaissance woman had she been born two centuries later.
A few months ago I noticed that Ambleside Online had scheduled her as a composer to be studied later this year and my interest was piqued. I had heard of her years ago but had no idea of her influence and the breadth of her abilities, let alone listened to any of her musical compositions.
A contemporary of Bernard of Clairvaux, she joined the ranks of such luminaries as Augustine, Bede the Venerable and Athanasius, when she was made a Doctor of the Church in 2012.
An online search gave me an indication of the interest generated by her life and work. From university studies and articles from diverse Christian persuasions, to recordings of her compositions by contemporary artists, I found a good amount of information for adults, but nothing for a younger audience.
And then along came this book:
Hildegard’s Gift by Megan Hoyt
Hildegard’s Gift gives us an insight into the life and times of Hildegard of Bingen, starting with her childhood and her struggle with the gifts she had been given and their expression. The story follows her journey as she enters the Abbey, meets with Bernard of Clairvaux, accepts the call of God on her life and eventually gives voice to her gifts. Hildegard called herself, ‘a feather on the breath of God,’ and dedicated her life to God and serving others.
This delightful book has 28 pages and is attractively illustrated by David Hill. It is written for 5 to 10 year olds but the author’s inclusion of a number of quotes from Hildegard herself opens the book up to a wider age range, adding depth without over-complicating the story. I think the book would enhance any study of mediaeval times or church music for children.
‘There is the music of Heaven in all things, and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing.’
I appreciated the author’s intent and belief that every child is God’s workmanship created to do good works and each person has a gift to be put to use. Some gifts come wrapped up, as Hildegard experienced, and have to be sought out, and as in her case, may involve a commitment from others to help unwrap that gift. I think this book helps us to see and appreciate the role that we can play in this unwrapping, and the possibility that our role in this area might also extend beyond our own children.
Information on Megan Hoyt and her personal story which inspired her to write this book can be found on her website
. It also contains examples of music and paintings by Hildegard, spelt recipes (Hildegard was also interested in health!) and printable colouring pages by the illustrator.
Hildegard’s music has found a more recent voice through performances and recordings by groups such as Sequentia
, an innovative ensemble for medieval music, and Elfthenthal, an early music ensemble based in Germany.
The Ambleside Online composer’s page
has a list of recommended listening and links to you-tube videos of her compositions.
Other websites that I thought were helpful are:
A well written historical aspect: The Freelance History Writer
related to Hildegard of Bingen.
An article written from an Anglican perspective.
Another from the Christian Worldview Journal.
I was kindly given a free copy of Hildegar’s Gift
by Paraclete Press
for the purpose of this review.