St Hildegard of Bingen  – Dr Annette Esser

St Hildegard of Bingen – Dr Annette Esser

Posted by Colm, With 0 Comments, Category: Church News, Church Reform, Latest News, Women in the Church,


Dr Annette Esser is a theologian, artist and teacher. She spent 2 ½ years translating Barbara Newman’s book an St Hildegard of Bingen into German. And she has written 3 books herself with St Hildegard as the main theme.

St Hildegard (1098 – 1179) was famous for her visions which she published in her mystical books: Liber Scivias; Liber Vitae Meritorum and Liber Diviniorum Operum. As well as her mystical books Hildegard published books covering many areas such as Geology, Medical Herbs and Music. Hildegard was known as the German Prophetess and she perceived herself as the Trumpet of God called to denounce the social and political state of her time. Annette likened her to the recent speech given by Mary McAleese in Rome on International Women’s Day. In an address to the clerics of Cologne Hildegard famously rebuked them saying they were “night extolling darkness”; “like a snake that has lost its skin hiding in a cave in filth”; “you ought to be day but you are night.”

Hildegard entered the monastery at Disibodenberg, named after an Irish/Scottish Saint Disibod. In an early vision from God Hildegard was told to write down everything she saw and heard. Hildegard wrote a biography of St Disibod.

Dr Esser showed us many of the images from the Liber Scivias, a copy of which is kept in the abbey of St Hildegard.

Dr Esser is the Director of the Scivias Institute

The English version of her “PILGERBUCH” will be published later this year.

Colm Holmes

10 March 2018






Dr Esser described this as a picture of Paradise. Adam can be seen lying beside the tree of Knowledge and the tree of Light; he is looking into a dark hole where he can see the flames of hell; Eve is the green cloud coming out of Adam’s rib and shown as containing all the future people of the world; note the black serpent is touching Eve.












In this image a pregnant women with the baby’s soul arriving from heaven; also attending the woman are people bringing cheese cakes to sustain the body of baby and mother.; the 5 panels on the right show the trials of life (capture; literally being pressed; attacked by wild animals; a tidal wave) until in the top image shows arrival at the tabernacle in heaven.



This is the story of Salvation all in one image. In the centre the 6 circles show the 6 days to create the world; the golden image at the bottom is Christ rising from the dead; the red man to whom Christ is reaching out is the fallen Adam; and top right we have Adam near heaven sniffing the flowers (seen as a passive gesture as he is not picking the flower)


Dr Annette Esser’s “Pilgrim Book” (Publisher Verlag Matthias Ess) which is beautifully illustrated in colour and will be available in English later this year. The book (300 pages) gives details of St Hildegard of Bingen as well as giving details of the Hildegard Pilgrim Route.


Dr Annette Esser read this poem for us:



Each of us has a bright side and a shadowy side,

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses,

Each of us has sides that we like and sides that we do not like.

This is even true for ourselves.

For, neither do others like all about us nor do we like all about us ourselves.

But it is also true:

We are loveable,

We have got talents.

We are worthy to be treasured by others as well as by ourselves.

What does that mean for our teamwork, for our co-operation?

We have got three options:

We can either stress our own strengths and harp on the others’ weaknesses.

Or, we can admire others and their talents and belittle ourselves.

Or, we perceive in us and in others both talents and weaknesses.

And, in our co-operation, we use our strengths and talents wisely in order to balance the weaknesses and deficits of others, and vice versa.

Others are present where we have weaknesses, deficits and shortages and help us up.

Only this way, something positive, something constructive, something loveable can arise.

Perhaps, this is what Hildegard of Bingen calls synergy, the co-operation of humankind in building the City of God.

In a book for children, I have found this image:

What is Heaven and what is Hell?

In hell, all are sitting around a cauldron of flavorsome soup. Everyone has got a long spoon in their hand. But the spoon is so long, that nobody can feed themselves. So, everybody is starving in front of the full cauldron.

And what about heaven?

In heaven, all are sitting around a cauldron of flavorsome soup. Everyone has got a long spoon in their hand. But the spoon is so long that nobody can feed themselves, so people feed each other. So everyone is full up.

So what is good co-operation?

It is not about what kind of soup we have got, it is rather about how we manage to spoon our soup together!