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The Art of JAMA
December 8, 2015

Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works): Hildegard von Bingen

JAMA. 2015;314(22):2336-2337. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12133

There is a delicate moment in the film Vision—Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, which tells the life story of the 12th-century philosopher, composer, and visionary Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). In a pivotal scene, Hildegard has been called before a tribunal of ecclesiastics to defend her claim that she has been blessed with a vision from God. As she stands before the tribunal, she is fearful. In the Middle Ages it was presumptuous and potentially dangerous to assert that one had been singled out by God; a doubtful claim could lead to an accusation of heresy and the threat of severe punishment. With her confident but humble responses to the tribunal’s questions, Hildegard convinces the church authorities that her vision was divinely inspired and that God has commanded her to record its substance in the form of an illustrated manuscript (JAMA cover, July 7, 2010).