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Hildegard von Bingen, Theology of Music, Feminine Genius, Female Composers, Sacred Music


This paper examines the music of Hildegard von Bingen considering the shocking lack of female composers to come after her, particularly within the genre of sacred music. It begins by exploring the history of women and liturgical music in the Early Church before analyzing Hildegard’s prolific music career, including the vast range of genres she employed, the creativity and complexity of her compositions, her divinely feminine lyrics, and her theology of music and embodiment. It then investigates why so few female composers followed her, concluding that despite rare exceptions such as Hildegard, the Roman Catholic Church silenced women in sacred music for almost two thousand years. Although this is primarily a historical and musical analysis, it is influenced by feminist theology as well. Using Pope John Paul II’s concept of “feminine genius,” this paper ultimately argues that the Church today should seriously promote Hildegard as a creative role model to inspire more women to compose sacred music.