Hildegard von Bingen

O presul vere civitatis, sequence for St Disibod

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    Saint Hildegard of Bingen's career in the church began early and powerfully: her investiture as a nun at age eight was not unusual, but the mystical visions which came to her in the monastery were more vivid and potent than most. As she progressed from novice to full sister to abbess (and even to founding a new religious house), Hildegard's visions and her writing continued apace. By the time she had been leader for a few years of her own community of nuns, she had already composed (in addition to several learned treatises) an extensive collection of musical and poetic compositions for the nuns' use in worship. She wrote many of these in praise of the Trinitarian beings of the godhead, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but she also reserved a nontrivial fraction of her compositional attention to various saints and virgin martyrs to the faith for whom she apparently paid particular devotion. In our own time, Hildegard's music for St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins has attained popular fame, but for the "Sybil of the Rhine" in her own work, the otherwise obscure saint named Disibod occupied a prominent place. Disibod might have remained, in fact, deep in historical obscurity if it were not for Hildegard: he happened to have founded, according to tradition, the monastery that several centuries later would be led by this most prolific medieval woman.

    Hildegard's O presul vere civitatis serves as a Sequence in the liturgical plan, and thus would have been sung during the Mass of the day in honor of the saint. Specifically, it would have been sung in the theologically rich part of the Mass at the center of the service of the word, after the other Biblical readings and the Gradual proper to the day, just before the Gospel lesson and the sermon. Thus, her poetical Latin text (presumably original) takes on extra liturgical weight as it describes the particularly virtuous actions of the saint who was believed to have brought the good news of the Christian faith to her corner of the Rhine valley: his leadership of the city that would become her monastery, his placing of the community before God, and his devotion to the love of Christ. Hildegard's music for the chant inhabits a relatively intimate melodic mode, frequently shifting between the powerful half-step of a Phrygian cadence and the more ascendant leaps up a fifth and continuation to the half-step upper neighbor to this aspirant pitch.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2012 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88697983052
    2010 Hyperion 30009
    2006 Hyperion 44251/3
    2006 Regis Records 1064
    2004 Celestial Harmonies 131292
    2003 Hyperion 21039
    2001 Dorian 93232
    2000 Ars Musici 1203
    1998 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77505-2
    1998 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77378
    1997 Delos DE3219
    1995 Naxos 550998
    1985 Hyperion 66039
    1985 Hyperion 20039
    Hyperion 66039
    Naxos 8506024