When Janet and I decided to visit Hildegard sites in Germany we were initially pretty confused since there is more than one way to pursue her history. We felt it was most important to visit the living community of nuns who sing daily services in the Abbey of St. Hildegard. We were not disappointed. The nuns sing Gregorian chant beautifully and the Abbey is a turn-of-the-century version of a medieval monastic building. We spoke with several of the nuns in the gift shop, and made many purchases: CDs, books, printed music and wine.
If you want to visit the Abbey and you’re on foot, you need to take the train to Rudesheim. This little German town is well set up for tourists and famous for its Rudesheimer coffee. It would be completely picturesque, but there are freight trains rumbling through town constantly. Eibingen is the northern part of the town, so don’t be confused by references to Hildegard’s Abbey in Eibingen. You can easily – well OK not easily – you can walk on foot all the way up to the Abbey, but it is an up hill climb. The best service to attend is Vespers at 5:30, after a wine tasting in the gift shop which closes at 5:00 pm. If you have two days to spare you can visit the parish church of St. Hildegard in the town below which houses her relics, centrally displayed at the high altar. Then take the ferry (the foot ferry that is, not the car ferry) to Bingen, the town across the river and the site of Hildegard’s original monastery called The Rupertsberg. There’s nothing left to see of this medieval building, but there is an excellent museum. Janet and I spent three hours there reading every word of the exhibit. If we had a chance to go back by car, we would visit the ruined monastery of Disibodenberg, where Hildegard grew up, about an hour’s drive away.