A few decades ago the famous works and life of Hildegard von Bingen were known only by the esoteric and those in the Rhineland area where Hildegard lived between 1112 and 1179. Now more people around the world http://www.hildegard-society.org/p/faq.html#saint.
https://theherbalacademy.com/hildegard-von-bingen/ are interested in this remarkable woman’s knowledge.
As a teacher in the early Middle Ages she was one of the few women who was allowed to travel and teach, and today she is particularly famed for her music, knowledge of the interconnectivity between human and environmental health, and her personal approach to theology. The International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies, explains that she had a vast popular following and also gave council to famous people of her time, notably Frederic Barbarossa, yet oddly, only recently in 2012, was she canonised. (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_reg_20120527_pentecoste_en.html)
Now the first school, possibly in the world, dedicated to Hildegard von Bingen, has opened in Italy. The School of Hildegard; Nature and Counselling, is located in the mountain village of Amandola, in the foothills of the Central Apennine Mountains, Italy. Hildegard was known for her use of plants in relation to human health, linking people with the biosphere and natural, holistic healing, so perhaps it is no surprise this first school is in Italy because of all countries in Europe, Italy has one of the largest stores of biodiversity. Amazingly Italy accounts for half the plant species and a third of the animal species occurring in Europe (EEA 2015 https://www.eea.europa.eu/soer-2015/countries/italy).
This extraordinary richness of biodiversity is partly what has created a particularly strong and enduring history of using wild plants in foods and medicines, a tradition that continues today in Central Italy (Guarrera, Savo 2013). Currently, ethnobiological studies lead by Gary Nabhan at University of Arizona, suggest there is a link between biodiversity and cultural diversity. Perhaps Italy’s rich bounty of biodiversity is why Italy has been a focal point in European history pertaining to the role of women using wild plants for medicinal and dietary purposes (Maderna 2012).
The school’s founder and teacher, Dr. Rosa Brancatella explains:
‘Hildegard is an inspiration for people today because she unifies the classical Western division between man and nature.This dualistic way of thinking is increasingly challenged and discredited today. Here at The School of Hildegard; Nature and Counselling we work with the modality of Hildegard’s approach which perceives the spirit of humans and the universe as unified. We read and study the texts of Hildegard but we also use this knowledge in practice – in terms of communication techniques for counselling, in terms of eco therapy, working with nature and wild plants.’
The school is situated in an ancient palazzo, inside the inspiring the Monti Sibillini National Park, for a reason. Given that the learning experience is primarily experiential, the programme needs to be delivered in a place of vibrant ecological health. The Monti Sibillini is a location famed for ancient Italian traditions of foraging, and using plants for medicinal, alchemical, and dietary purposes, it is a natural location for this first school. Within the Monti Sibillini National park there are 18 sites of European Union Importance and five Special Protection Areas www.sibillini.net.
In September 2018, the 839th anniversary of Hildegard’s death, Dr. Rosa Brancatella with other teachers from the school – including Italy’s nationally recognised foraging expert, Maria-Sonia Baldoni, will be in Bingen to build on the existing partnership with Germany, with the hope of collaborating to open more schools devoted to the teachings Hildegard.
Guarrera, P., Savo, V. (2013) ‘Perceived health properties of wild and cultivated food plants in local and popular traditions of Italy: A review.’ Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 146, 659-680
Maderna, E. (2012) Medichesse, La vocazione femminile alla cura. Sansepolcro: Abbocca