History 3850 Readings


Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a Benedictine abbess was one of the most original apocalyptic thinkers since ancient times. In interpreting her visions, Hildegard linked the time of troubles with the attacks of Henry IV upon the Church.


Then I looked to the North,34 and there were five beasts standing. One was like a fiery hound, though not burning, one like a lion of tawny color, another like a pale horse, another like a black pig, another like a gray wolf. They were all turning to the West.35 In the West before the beasts something like a hill with five peaks appeared so that a single cord was stretched from the mouth of each of the beasts to each peak of the hill. The cords were all somewhat blackish, especially the one which came from the mouth of the wolf and seemed part black and part white.36

Behold in the East I again saw above the cornerstone that youth whom I had previously seen clothed in a purple tunic above the corner of the shining wall and the stone wall of the building.37 Now he appeared to me from the navel down so that you might see him gleaming like the dawn from the navel to the groin. There was at that place something like a lyre with its cords lying crosswise. From there to the bottoms of his feet, that is, to a measure of two fingers set across from above touching the heel, he was shaded. From the two-finger measure through the whole of his feet he appeared brighter than milk.38

The image of the woman before the altar in front of the eyes of God that I saw earlier was now-also shown to me again so that I could also see her from the navel down. From the navel to the groin she had various scaly spots. In her vagina there appeared a monstrous and totally black head with fiery eyes, ears like the ears of a donkey, nostrils and mouth like those of a lion, gnashing with vast open mouth and sharpening its horrible iron teeth in a horrid manner.

From that head to the knees the image was white and red, bruised as with many a beating. From the knees to the two white transverse zones which crosswise seemed to touch the bottoms of the feet from above, the image appeared to be bloody.40 Lo, the monstrous head removed itself from its place with so great a crash that the entire image of the woman was shaken in all its members. Something like a great mass of much dung was joined to the head; then, lifting itself upon a mountain, it attempted to ascend to the height of heaven.4* A stroke like thunder came suddenly and the head was repelled with such strength that it both fell from the mountain and gave up the ghost. After this a stinking cloud suddenly enveloped the whole mountain. The head was surrounded with such great filth in the cloud that the people standing by were struck with the greatest terror as the cloud stayed upon the mountain somewhat longer. The people standing there beheld it and struck with much fear said to each other: "woe! Woe! What is this? What does that seem to be? Who will help us, unfortunate as we are? Who will deliver us? We are ignorant of how we have been deceived. Almighty God, have mercy on us. Let us, oh let us return. Let us prepare the covenant of Christ*s Gospel, since we have been bitterly deceived."42 Behold, the feet of the aforementioned female image appeared to be white, giving out a brightness above that of the sun. I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: "Even though all things on earth are tending toward their end, so that the world with all its powers now weakened and oppressed by many hardships and calamities is bowed down to its End, nevertheless, the Spouse of my Son, though much weakened in her children, will never be destroyed either by the heralds of the Son of Perdition or by the Destroyer himself, however much she will be attacked by them. At the End of time she will arise more powerful and more secure; she will appear more beautiful and shining so that she may go forth in this way more sweetly and more agreeably to the embraces of her Beloved. The vision which you saw signifies all this in mystic fashion."

Translated from the edition in PL 197, cc. 709AŚ710C.