Jeannette D. Jones
Louisiana State University

Viriditas in Hildegard of Bingen and Gregory the Great

The works of the abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) are noted for their idiosyncratic use of language and vocabulary, perhaps stemming from the mystical bent her writings acquired from her many visions. A recent edition of her last significant work, the Liber divinorum operum, written around 1170, includes an extensive source apparatus, prepared by Peter Dronke, linking references in Hildegard's works to other authors, which she herself did not cite. A particularly intriguing instance is the linking of the word viriditas, a word that figures prominently in her musical and prose works though with some ambiguity in meaning, to Gregory the Great (d. 604) as one of the few previous authors to make extensive use of such an unusual word.

Because of its extensive and unique use throughout her sung poetry and writings as a central image, the word viriditas has challenged translation by Hildegard scholars. Its literal English equivalent is "greenness," yet such a translation still remains enigmatic in its English form. Its main connotations in current scholarship range from the incarnational aspect of Christ, physical and spiritual beauty, holiness, fertility, paradise, and life.

In this paper I will examine and compare the use of the word viriditas in both Hildegard's Liber divinorum operum and Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job in an effort to come to a better understanding of the meaning and the use of the word. Such a comparison, I propose, establishes that Gregory and Hildegard both use the word viriditas to refer to a particular state of spirituality they see in the life of a Christian that is the perfect communion with God that can only be effected by the grace of God in the life of a Christian.

Back to program