Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt's redemptive novel, Illuminations, brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine.
When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage.
Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.
She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans. . . . But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.
Hildegard von Bingen's vision of the Feminine Divine, from Scivias,
III, 4.15, translated by Mother Columba Hart, O.S.B., and Jane Bishop
THE MOST ANCIENT and enduring power of women is prophecy, my gift and my curse. Once, centuries before my existence, there lived in these Rhineland forests a woman named Weleda, she who sees. She took no husband but lived in a tower. In those heathen times, her people revered her as a goddess, for she foretold their ...
Deftly written, this novel places the reader fully into Hildegard's life and time with fully rounded characters, the historical backdrop of the Crusades and the ongoing struggle of women to overcome the social roles expected of them.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (820 words).
St. Hildehard von Bingen was an incredibly gifted writer and music composer. Her music is known for its soaring registers and flourishes. As a child, she was exposed to music at the monastery when she heard others take part in the Divine Office. She listened and learned from the interplay between words and sound. The monastery provided a forum for music composition with copyists who could pen the music and a skilled group who could sing it.
The saint believed music was the highest form of human activity and collected them as a complement to traditional Gregorian chants.
A Paris-based ensemble group, Sequentia, has revived the popularity of St. Hildegard von Bingen's music. Sequentia's work on the music has been recorded on seven releases ...
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