Sister of Wisdom

St Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine
Newman, Barbara
Date published: 
January 1987

Sister of Wisdom introduces English-speaking readers to Hildegaard of Bingen, an extraordinarily gifted and versatile figure of the twelfth-century Renaissance. St Hildegaard captured the imagination of her age. Mystic and writer, musician and preacher, abbess and scientist, she styled herself a "poor little female" yet rebuked popes, prelates and emperors with the authority of a prophet. Surveying a wide range of newly translated poems, prose texts, and manuscript illustrations, Newman shows how Hildegaard used symbolic theology to explore the meaning of her gender within the divine scheme of things. She examines the seer's visions of Wisdom and Love, which represent the feminine aspect of the divine, as well as her reflections on Eve, Mary, and the allegorical figure of Mother Church. It is these visions that mark Hildegaard as a pivotal figure in the history of sapiential thought. In addition, the author considers the tension between spiritual and scientific views of sexuality in Hildegaard's medical works.