A selection of Hildegard's illuminations
The link below allows you to view a slide show of some of the illuminations from Hildegard's texts.
Click here for slide show
Hildegard had her texts "illuminated", or illustrated. This common practice for the hand-written books in the medieval period was not only decorative. The pictures were thought to be as strong or stronger than the words themselves. While she did not make the illustrations herself, it is thought that she oversaw their production. An interesting comparison is with church related sculpture. Large cathedrals would have statuary around the outside that told the Passion story or other important parts of the Bible. Since the majority of the medieval population was illiterate, these sculptures served to educate as well as be ornamentation. Books, on the other hand, were incredibly expensive luxury items, as they were hand-copied, often by monks. A text of Hildegard's writing could only be bought by a very rich, and almost certainly literate person. While the illustrations could serve as a sort of social leveling agent, they become more ornamental. For a further discussion of how art can function as a philosophical tool, please go to the discussion page.
The images contained in the slide show come from Matthew Fox's book, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen. For this and other references and citations, click here.