Experiencing the Scivias, Book 2: Hildegard's Visions of the Church

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Thu 15 Jun
  • Thursday, 15 June 2023
  • 7:00pm - 8:00pm
  • Online - Zoom



Course overview

The medieval polymath and woman mystic, St Hildegard of Bingen, is an intriguing figure. She is perhaps best known today for her talent and formidability: her visionary theology once commanded her the ear of popes and emperors; and her artistic output remains striking and beautiful even today.

She is also a deep and rich thinker, weaving together a lush view of the cosmos in which the soul, aided by the virtues and glimpses of higher realities in the world around it, seeks to return to God through living a rigorous moral life.

She was also a woman of her time, and her view of the world is in many ways strange to the modern reader. Yet this only serves to make her all the more beguiling, if perhaps at times also frustrating, calling us to see the world through eyes separated from us by almost a millennium of social transformation.

Join us as we explore Hildegard’s visionary theology, focusing on her first major work, the Scivias. Experiencing the texts and images, we will attempt to cross the gulf of time and culture, and explore how Hildegard can touch us even today.


This course revolves around reading Hildegard’s Scivias. For copyright reasons we are not able to provide scans of each week’s reading, so students will have to provide their own copy. We will be using the Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 1990) edition. 

Students are advised to leave sufficient time for their copy to arrive before the start of the course, which will begin with a reading set a week in advance of the first session.

Students will also benefit from owning a copy of Sarah Salvadori’s Hildegard Von Bingen: A Journey Into the Images (Skira, 2019), which includes high-quality annotated versions of the images in the Scivias. However, this is not a requirement.

For students in the London area, copies of both books are available for loan from the Heythrop Library. 


Course outline

Week 1
The Redeemer and the Trinity

This week will focus on the first two visions of book two of the Scivias. These explore the nature of the Trinity and Christ as redeemer.

Students will also have an optional lecture which will help to contextualise Hildegard’s work and introduce them to the basic ideas that underlie her theology. This latter material is optional, but highly recommended for students who did not attend the prior course, as well as those who simply wish to recap this material.

Week 2
The Church and Confirmation

This week will focus on the second two visions of book two of the Scivias. These explore the nature of the Church and the sacrament of confirmation.

Week 3
The Orders of the Church

This week will focus on the fifth vision in book 2 of the Scivias. This explores the distinctive natures of priesthood, professed religious life, and lay life, as well as questions of authority, obedience, and discipline.

Week 4
Christ’s Sacrifice and the Church

This week will focus on the Scivias book 2 vision 6, which covers the relationship between the Church and the Passion, including a focus on the Eucharist, priesthood, and the sacrament of Penance.

Week 5
The Devil

In this session, we will look at the final vision of the Scivias, book 2, which focuses on the Devil and his temptations.

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