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An Unknown Language by a Visionary Woman

  • Sarah L. Higley
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), twelfth-century anchoress, nun, and magistra from Germany’s Rhineland region, hardly needs an introduction to the popular and scholarly world, although her “Unknown Language” might. Born the tenth child to the nobleman Hildebert and his wife Mechtilde in Bermersheim, she was given when eight years old into the keeping of Jutta of Sponheim, her mentor, with whom she was enclosed five years later in the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg. 1 Dead to worldly life, she was to live the rest of her days as an anchoress, until at the age of forty-three a divine voice told her to write and say what she saw and heard in the visions she had kept secret until then. The extraordinary achievements of this woman who began her career in this way have captured the imagination of learned and laity alike: despite illness, legal and political obstacles, and the burden of being female in a medieval monastic world, she became the manager of the convent at Disibodenberg when her mentor Jutta died in 1136, the founder of two other convents (at the Rupertsberg near Bingen and across the river Rhine at Eibingen), a writer, teacher, preacher, advisor, composer of music, healer, visionary, prophet, letter-writer, and language inventor.

Keywords

German Word Language Philosophy Opus Omnia Language Movement Unknown Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The discovery of the Vita Jutta challenges earlier accounts that she was enclosed at the age of eight. See Anna Suvas, Jutta and Hildegard: The Biographical Sources (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1998), p. xvii.Google Scholar
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    Jonathan P. Green, “A New Gloss on Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua Ignota,” Viator 36 (2005): 217—234. 1 discovered Green’s essay well into the production of this book, and find that he and 1 have followed a similar trajectory in researching the Unknown Language.Google Scholar
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    See the edition by Monika Klaes, Vita Sanctae Hildegardis, CCCM, vol. 126. (Tumhout: Brepols, 1993), p. 20. quis uero non miretur, quod cantum dulcissime melodie mirabili protulit symphonia et litteras nonprius uisas cum lingua edidit antea inaudita? [Who truly does not marvel that she brought forth with miraculous harmony a song, sweetest of melodies, and published characters never before seen with a language unheard of before now?]Google Scholar
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© Sarah L. Higley 2007

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