In the Foosteps of Hildegard von Bingen

Sheri Byrd
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***About 40 miles north of the KMC, above the village of Staudernheim on a hill between the confluence of the Glan and Nahe rivers, the ruins of a once-thriving abbey sleep among oaks and ivy slowly deteriorating the stones.

Getting there
from the KMC

  • Follow B270 direction Lauterecken (north) from Vogelweh
  • At Lauterecken, take B420 toward Meisenheim
  • At the light in Meisenheim, turn left toward Raumbach and Abtweiler, follow priority road through these towns
  • In Abtweiler, turn right at the sign to Staudernheim
  • In Staudernheim, follow the signs to “Klosterruine Disibodenberg”

Dozens of such ruins exist in this area, but this one is somewhat special.
In the early 12th century, it was home to the famous nun, Hildegard von Bingen (1098 -1179). Although Hildegard later founded two more abbeys, one of which still operates today on the hillside above Rüdesheim, it was at Disibodenberg Abbey where she grew up, and in a time when few women wrote, composed many of her famed books, poems and religious chants.

“Hildegard’s work is universally appealing because she draws her inspiration from the natural forces that exist all over the earth,” said Norma Gentile, an American performer of Hildegard’s chants who recently gave a weekend workshop amongst the ruins. “Her written, visual and musical art is timeless and people of many religions and cultures perceive great truth in it.”

***image2***Hildegard’s medical guide, “Causes and Cures,” was the standard for medical treatment throughout Europe for centuries.

In recent years, her musical work has enjoyed a popular revival, with compact discs available online from various artists. A live concert of some of Hildegard’s music is scheduled for the evening of July 16 in the ruins with the choral group “Voices of Angels.”

Visitors to the abbey can follow a winding meditation trail up the hill from the museum and parking lot to the ruins at the summit. Along the way, posted signs next to benches invite pilgrims to stop and contemplate a Bible verse and Hildegard quote on topics such as faith, love, praise and prayer. Each bench offers a magnificent view to accompany the mental and spiritual themes.

***image3***Within the ruins a classical labyrinth calls walkers to explore its curving paths and their own thoughts. Next to the ruins stands a small modern chapel dedicated to Hildegard.

After soaking in the spiritual atmosphere, visitors can purchase books on the life and works of Hildegard, as well as local wine, berry and grain products from the gift shop. The grains are produced as they were in Hildegard’s time, using organic spelt wheat, called Dinkel in German.

Hildegard herself wrote of spelt, “The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.”

For more information on the life and works of Hildegard von Bingen, visit halsall/med/hildegarde.html. For samples of her music recorded by soprano Norma Gentile, visit