... When you take a train up the Rhine valley from Mainz, before you enter the breakthrough of the river through the mountains, on the eastern side of the river high up on the slope you can see a formidable neo-romanic church and monastery: that is a Benedictine nunnery even today, devoted to St. Hildegard, and open to visitors. There is a small shop there where one can buy lots of books, slides, music etc. related to Hildegard. But this place is not too well known in the region, it's just a small shop ... in the church Hildegard's story is depicted along the sides of the central alley. Above the altar is a towering Christ. This is what is left today in terms of Hildegard on the Rhine. The monastery in Eibingen that she founded isn't there anymore, but there is a small parish church of Eibingen, and in that church is a very richly decorated shrine with her remains. Some of her symbols and images, like the blue man in the trinity vision, play a role in the images in that church. Of the Rupertsberg convent nothing is left, the French destroyed the last remains in 1689, I believe. But Bingen itself is a wonderful place. That is something that strikes me: what a very exceptional geographical location she chose. To one side is the wide valley called the "Rheingau", where some of the best wine grows. In the distance, barely visible, is Mainz with its huge cathedral (you can see a picture of it on my Web page). To the other side are the mountains, steep sides rising up from the Rhine. In Hildegard's time the river also was a little more turbulent than it is today, with all the rocks removed ... But what I want to tell you about especially is Disibodenberg, the hill or small mountain where the monastery stood where Hildegard spent her youth with Jutta and where she began writing Scivias. This place is most enchanted today. The monastery is in ruins. But some ruins remain! Maybe you've been there -- but probably not. So envisage the crest of a gently sloped small mountain/large hill that is elongated horizontally. At its tip two rivers meet: the Nahe river and the smaller Glan. Between where the rivers meet and the mountain there are meadows and vineyards. The mountaintop today is covered with trees. You can park at the base of the mountain and take a small path up this large hill, through an apple orchard, entering into the woods. And suddenly you are in the midst of this large area covered with ruined walls, broken vaults, columns, stairs ... stones everywhere, covered by leaves and moss, in some places more than man(woman)-high, in other places only very low. In the center you can discern the outlines of a very large church. Only some remains of the entrance remain, the core of the wall there, not its outside. Directly behind that entrance, inside the "church", is a mighty, three-stemmed beech tree. But there is the foundation of all the walls, and the columns ... so you can walk up through the church under its present roof of trees. Where the altar stood there is a simple stone altar in form of a table once more, in this day. So you can stand and look at these remains in the woods. But there are also the ruins of numerous other buildings belonging to what once was a sizeable monastery. You can find the well, the courtyard, the bakery with an oven, some houses ... all over that hilltop. There is one place where supposedly Hildegard lived, but this location is not really secured by fact (I have an archeological report from the survey of the site conducted in the 1980ies, a book that is). One of the things I brought with me to Boston is a stone from this place Disibodenberg, to remind me of it. The place belonged to the family that owned the vineyards and the farm on the foot of the hill; but they have allowed public access. And some years back they formed a foundation that now administers the land. I can tell you that the wine from that vinery, grown on Disibodenberg, is very tasty indeed. This winery tries out environmentally concious methods of wine making.

Wolfgand Wanner