Hildegard’s Medicine: A Systematic Science of Medieval Europe

Hildegard’s Medicine: A Systematic Science of Medieval Europe

By Kevin Anthony Hay

The Proceedings of the 17th Annual History of Medicine Days, March 7th and 8th, 2008 (University of Calgary, 2008)

Abstract: The modern view of the Middle Ages is largely paternalistic, with a general understanding that ‘thought’ essentially died during these so-called “Dark Ages”. Recently, however, a post-modern desire to pursue a more holistic view of life has rediscovered the Middle Ages as a source of understanding the world, including medicine, in a holistic light.

Leading from the rise of feminism, studies into women’s lives and work in the medieval period reveals a more complex picture of how women contributed to the development of a holistic medicine than previously considered. A study of Hildegard of Bingen’s life, her influences and her contributions to medical thought demonstrates that women were active in the medical community and developed new concepts.

To call Hildegard productive would be a serious understatement. Over her lifetime she wrote over eight book-long texts and seventy Gregorian chants, as well as creating musical dramas and a secret language and script. Her medical work, Causae et curae, synthesizes ancient Greek medical ideas with Germanic folk lore to produce a text unique to her time. Not simply a regurgitation of these separate traditions, Hildegard’s work represents a holistic systematization of knowledge involving complex thought and understanding.

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