I have returned from St. Hildegard’s Homeland with much news to share. The ten days the community of 32 pilgrims experienced were unforgettable.
The staff of the Hotel Jagdschloss Niederwald fell in love with our group of pilgrims. When David and I departed after our two week stay, the staff reported they felt like they’d been on vacation for the time our group was in the hotel. Indeed we had been a pleasure to host.
The food was out of this world and the conference rooms were beautiful and comfortable. They were the perfect support for our group’s rituals and lectures.
We were surrounded in beauty and the views from the top of the hillside inspired us daily. We had snow, rain, sunshine and rainbows.
And yes, there were deer that came right up to the hotel! Some of the does had fawns. There was even one sacred white (albino) deer to remind us daily that St. Hildegard’s work is about the sacred and that our Birthing Visions retreat was in sync with the birthing process of nature.
In our exploration of St. Hildegard’s Germany we started by visiting the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey at Disibodenberg. Here we saw first hand how this huge structure had been part of St. Hildegard’s daily life. The size was most impressive with the infirmary being three floors high. We understood better how Nature played a fundamental role in St. Hildegard’s life as the beautiful Nahe River runs at the base of the Disibodenberg Abbey creating a true sense of peace, beauty and sacred energy. Yet even 900 years later we can only intuit what St. Hildegard’s life was really like back then.
The restaurants where we dined for lunch opened their doors and hearts to us in spades. Attention was paid to every detail to create an atmosphere of beauty for us. Candles, flowers and tableside presentations on the history of the region by the restaurant owners personally showed us that the Benedictine adherence to hospitality is as alive and well in our time as it was in Hildegard’s.
One special experience was The Hildegard Forum which is a restaurant and conference center. (http://www.hildegard-forum.de) It’s all “eco-green”, employs 40% handicapped workers, and has a store filled with all things “Hildegard.”
We also were treated to a wine tasting in the Eibinger Zehnthof where we sampled five different regional wines from the Rheingau. The Zehnthof is owned by the Ketzer Familie, and sitting in this 500 year old cellar, I fell in love again with the warmth and beauty of the Rheinland. Frau Ketzer’s enthusiasm and generosity were contagious. What fun we had!
The second day of the pilgrimage took us to the cellar of St. Hildegard’s Rupertsberg Abbey built when St. Hildegard was in her forties and fifties.
The Rupertsberg Cellar is now actively managed by the RupertsbergerHildegard-GesellschaftBingen.de. and can be rented for special events such as meditation services and conferences. How different it is today than the last time I visited! Just five years ago finding the Rupertsberg Abbey was like finding a needle in a haystack! There were no signs in town directing you, and admission was strictly controlled by the head of the International Hildegard Society who would provide entrance to you personally. Now, the town has directional signs everywhere. The tourist information office ladies in Bingen have a key. To learn more visit: http://www.Rupertsberg.de.
All three days of our pilgrimage were led by our wonderful tour guide, Herr Thomas Zimmerman. He is an art historian at the Museum am Strom which houses the Hildegard Exhibit.
For me the highlight of being in the Museum was seeing all of Hildegard’s Illuminations displayed in “illuminated” cases on the top floor. I could spend years on that top floor.
Herr Zimmerman used his personal connections to arrange for our group to have private entry into the Rochuskapelle which was a special treat for me, since I had never been inside the Kapelle before. In the photo below you can see the Shrine that contains a piece of St. Hildegard’s rib bone and of her Benedictine habit.
Part of the retreat was an optional singing circle which met at 6:30 am and 8:30 pm daily. The group sang St. Hildegard’s Kyrie, Psalm 91, the chorus of O Virga Ac Diadema and we created our own chants. For me the highlight of the pilgrimage was a moment in the main Relics Church when after giving us an uplifting presentation on St. Hildegard, Sister Hiltrud invited us to sing around the relics. Of course we sang her Kyrie! I know St. Hildegard was greatly honored & touched by our efforts.
All the retreat participants put their hearts and souls into the experience. The artwork that the group created to bring expression to their own Visions was gorgeous and touched me deeply. Many members of the group returned home with life transforming healings, inspired to expand out into the world in new and powerful ways.
For me it was a great honor to be the shepherdess of this flock for ten days. Our group was courageous, kind and very committed to learning about St. Hildegard and growing spiritually. Amazing….
And now I am back home in Boulder, taking care of my two children and diving into the work on Feathers with David. I trust all of you are expressing Viriditas in your own beautiful and powerful way in your lives. I will close with a few lines of the lyrics of O Viridissima Virga to inspire us on our paths:
“Hail, O greenest branch!
You came forth in the windy blast
Of the questioning of saints.
When the time came
For you to blossom in your branches,
“hail” was the word to you,
for the heat of the sun distilled in you
a fragrance like balsam.
For in you bloomed the beautiful flower
That gave fragrance
to all the spices
that had grown dry.
And they all appeared
In full verdure.” –St. Hildegard of Bingen