Blessed Jutta's cell was such an anchorage, except that there was a door through which Hildegard entered, as well as about a dozen of girls from noble families who were attracted there by Jutta's fame in later years. What kind of education did Hildegard receive from Jutta? It was of the most rudimentary form, and Hildegard could never escape the feelings of inadequacy and lack of education. She learned to read Psalter in Latin.
Though her grasp of the grammatical intricacies of the language was never complete - she always had secretaries to help her write down her visions - she had a good intuitive feel for the intricacies of the language itself, constructing complicated sentences fraught with meanings on many levels, that are still a challenge to students of her writings.
The proximity of the anchorage to the church of the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg (it was attached physically to the church) undoubtedly exposed young Hildegard to musical religious services and were the basis for her own musical compositions. After Blessed Jutta's death, when Hildegard was 38 years of age, she was elected the head of the budding convent, but continued to live in her anchorage.
During all these years Hildegard confided of her visions only to Jutta and another monk, named Volmar, who was to become her lifelong secretary. However, in 1141, a vision of God gave Hildegard instant understanding of the meaning of the religious texts. He commanded her to write down everything she would observe in her visions.
And it came to pass...when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming...and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books...
Yet Hildegard was also overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and hesitated to act.
But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness but out of humility, until weighed down by a scourge of god, I fell onto a bed of sickness.
The 12th century was also the time of schisms and religious foment, when someone preaching any outlandish doctrine could instantly attract a large following. Hildegard was critical of schismatics, and preached against them her whole life, working especially against the Cathars.
She wanted her visions to be sanctioned, approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She wrote to Saint Bernard who took the matter to Pope Eugenius who exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings. With papal imprimatur, Hildegard finished her first visionary work Scivias ("Know the Ways of the Lord") and her fame began to spread through Germany and beyond
Of all the books of her revelations, the most important was Scivias. It took ten years to complete, and deals with God, creation and redemption, in 26 visions. Pope Blessed Eugenius III got interested, had her writings-and herself-examined, and then gave her his positive encouragement to continue. The Spirit was speaking through her, he said.
Hildegard was by no means occupied only in receiving and recording visions. She built a new monastery near Bingen, to accommodate 50 nuns. It was well constructed, and had "water piped to all the offices." Later she established a daughter monastery at Eibingen.
As she grew in fame, Abbess Hildegard extended her contacts personally and by correspondence. Those who consulted her were St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Elizabeth of Schoenau, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, King Conrad III, ten archbishops, and many bishops, clergy and laity. As often as not, when she wrote to the high-placed, it was to pass on to them reproofs and prophecies she had received in her heavenly messages. She spoke frankly, for she was no respecter of persons.