Traces of Augustine of Hippo in Hildegard of Bingen’s Visual Thoughts on Eternity and Time


  • Georgina Rabassó


Geometry has proven to be a valuable resource in the history of philosophy for representing a range of concepts in the semantic domain of time. A series of segments, lines, circles, polygons and other figures have been used to translate visually and symbolically the ideas of time and eternity for the purposes of understanding them better, fostering reflection, and explaining them in a didactic manner. Time is central to Augustine of Hippo’s thought, and Book XI of the Confessiones is the main vehicle for its transmission. While it is not known whether Hildegard of Bingen read these pages, the Rhenish magistra’s vision of eternity and time shows a notable affinity with aspects of Augustinian thought. The visual representations in Hildegard’s Liber diuinorum operum (I, 2-3; III, 5) are used here to illustrate this possible influence (or confluence). In the visions and the miniatures that accompany them, the circle represents eternity, the diameter represents time, and the dot represents the present instant that connects both.

Keywords: time; eternity; visual translation; Confessiones; Liber diuinorum operum.

Ancient and medieval authors: Augustine of Hippo; Hildegard of Bingen.