Seeing the Invisible: Theory of Vision in Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias II.6


  • Yael Barash


Augustine’s followers – Hildegard of Bingen, among them – inherited an unclarity about the possi-bility of knowing the invisible God through the visible nature. On the one hand, Augustine discussed how the physical visible world points to God as its creator. On the other hand, he demonstrated that knowledge derived from sensory perceptions of the visible is limited and inferior to inner learning. Although Hildegard embraced Augustine’s opinion that sensory perceptions are limited, she still considered them important for believers. Vision 6 in Scivias II depicts a complex relationship between the visible and the invisible with regard to the Eucharist: Christ’s blood and body are not only superior to the wine and the bread, but are also identical to the latter and complete it. Thus, visible objects are not mere creations of the invisible but also reflect the invisible reality. In the first two sections of this article, I examine these theological dissimilarities. The last sections of the article suggest that the importance of the visible affected the structure of Vision II.6. Moreover, the illustrations of Vision II.6 present the complex relationship between the visible and the invisible. These illustrations display how an invisible concept may be reflected in a visible depiction.

Keywords: Eucharist, inner seeing, physical world, image-text relationship, Scivias.

Medieval studied Authors: Hildegard of Bingen, Augustine of Hippo.