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Artist inspired to keep memory alive of St. Hildegard.

by Megan Quinn, Boulder Daily Camera

Though she lived more than 900 years ago, St. Hildegard of Bingen has influenced the art and life of at least one modern-day local performer.

Jeannine Goode-Allen, a Boulder playwright and musician, has long been influenced by the work of the 12th-century saint from Germany. On Sunday, St. Hildegard will be recognized by Pope Benedict XIV as a Doctor of the Church. The recognition is rare -- in the history of the Catholic Church fewer than 40 people have received the designation.

To honor the distinction and Hildegard's continuing creative and spiritual influence, Goode-Allen will present an exhibit, "St. Hildegard's Journey Through The Senses," at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Creator Mundi Gallery, 2910 E. Third Ave. in Denver. The event will include a presentation of St. Hildegard-inspired art, and Goode-Allen will sing traditional songs.

The exhibit also will include calligraphy, stained glass and herbal remedies, which draw from the saint's creative influences, as well as actual recipes she used for her own healing methods. And several reproductions of st. Hildegard's paintings will be on display.

The art embodies the saint's "beauty, warmth and power," said Goode-Allen, who noted that Hldegard's story is unique even by today's standards.

In years when women held no power in most of society, Saint Hildegard made a name for herself as an herbalist, healer, writer, artist and religious visionary. She became prioress of her monastery in Germany, then started her own when more and more women became interested in the Benedictine order.

St. Hildegard's followers said she had visions from a young age, and those visions eventually were made known to then-Pope Eugene III. With his blessing, St. Hildegard traveled to spread the word about her spiritual visions.

Goode-Allen said some of St. Hildegard's letters still survive. The letters, she said, paint St. Hildegard as not only a powerful spiritual leader but as a kind, gentle woman who helped guide people through faith and healing.

"There was always a message of hope," Goode-Allen said.

St. Hildegard was well-loved even after her death, said Dave Darling of the Creator Mundi Gallery, where Goode-Allen will perform. The gallery has a special love of St. Hildegard's writings, said Darling, and the gallery owner, Hildegard Letbetter, was named after the saint.

St. Hildegard of Bingen was not granted sainthood until earlier this year, said Darling, "after her death (in 1179), people already began to call her a saint."

St. Hildegard was an inspirational figure to many, including Goode-Allen, who says much of her artistic side is influenced by St. Hildegard.

Goode-Allen said she discovered St. Hildegard's story as she struggled with her own religious beliefs in her 20s. She received a piece of monumental advice when she met Matthew Fox, a former Catholic priest and theologian who is now a member of the Episcopal church:

"Forget about the Vatican. Go find St. Hildegard."

Goode-Allen said she was so inspired by St. Hildegard's life and multifaceted talents that she felt her own health and faith improving. And aftter reading about the saint's accomplishments, Goode-Allen developed a can-do perspective on life.

"It even inspired me to take up tap dancing," she laughed. "If St. Hildegard could travel and preach well into her 60s, I can go out and buy a pair of tap shoes."

Goode-Allen also performs a multimedia work titled, "Feathers on the Breath of God," which tells St. Hildegard's story through song, monologues and multiple projection screens that serve as backdrops.

"Her main message to me," Goode-Allen said, "was that someone who has faith can be inspired to do anything."

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