In her third and final installment on Hildegard von Bingen, Lori Erickon (aka The Holy Rover) describes her visit to an abbey that keeps the spirit of Hildegard alive. The fifty nuns that currently dwell in the abbey have noticed a marked increase in visitors interested in Hildegard since the 1970s. She is a saint that appeals to modern minds while imparting ancient truths.
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Today we cross the Rhine River (it only takes about five minutes by ferry) to explore Hildegard of Bingen’s legacy in the town of Rüdesheim, Germany. Remember I told you that Hildegard founded a second convent here when her Bingen abbey was full? Like her original abbey, her second one was destroyed hundreds of years ago. But I’m pleased to report that Hildegard’s legacy is flourishing at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, which is built on a hill overlooking the towns of Rüdesheim and Bingen.
I’ve visited a lot of abbeys, and this is among the loveliest I’ve seen. Surrounded by vineyards, it has expansive views of the lush Rhine River valley. The building itself lives up to its dramatic setting. It was built between 1900-08 by Prince Karl of Lowenstein, who (during an era when Hildegard was largely unknown to the larger world) wanted to celebrate her spiritual legacy near the site of her original abbeys. He contacted an order of Benedictine nuns in another part of Germany and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: if they agreed to move to the new abbey and name it after Hildegard, he would give it to them.
The Benedictine nuns happily moved into their new home and in their own quiet ways honored Hildegard’s memory, singing her music, researching her history, and welcoming the trickle of guests who came on the Hildegard Trail.
That trickle began to swell in the 1970s and has been growing every since. Today many pilgrims make their way to the Abbey of St. Hildegard, some for a brief visit and others for longer retreats. About 50 nuns live here, following the rhythms of Benedictine life that haven’t changed much since the days of Hildegard. In addition to hosting retreats, the nuns of the abbey have a variety of enterprises that support the community, including making wine from the vineyards and repairing books.
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Click here to read part one of the series.
Click here to read part two of the series.
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