Herrada de Hohenbourg

1125/30-c. 1195

"Herrada […] abadessa de l’església de Hohenbourg. […] us ofereixo aquest llibre, intitulat El jardí de les delícies, que he compendiat, a partir de les flors de diversos escrits sagrats i filosòfics, com una abella inspirada per Déu. […] és important que us nodriu sovint amb la dolça lectura d’aquest llibre per tal que alleugeriu el vostre ànim cansat amb les seves gotes de mel"

Herrad of Hohenbourg, magistra of the Augustine community of the Alsacia region, was the editor of the Hortus deliciarum, a theological and encyclopaedical work written approximately between 1176 and 1196. The Hortus deliciarum was written and illustrated in Hohenbourg, with the collaboration of the community’s sixty canonesses. The Hortus is also linked to Relindis’s (d. 1176) teachings; she was abbess and second founder of the abbey due to the structural and spiritual reforms she conducted centuries after Odile of Alsace (c. 662–c. 720) founded it in the first place. This feminine genealogy is present in the first pages of this work, which is also one of the most representative pieces of Middle Age teachings.

The Hortus’ narrative core is the story of salvation and it is elaborated by means of a selection of texts written by Latin authors, as well as several glosses by these same authors, and numerous miniatures. Among these sources we find references to Greco-Latin authors and themes, as well as a few Patristic writings, all the way until the writings of some of the scholastic magisteri of the time, such as Peter Lombard. Other than her citation of a great variety of sources, Herrad stands out from other female Medieval writers due to the smaller importance she grants divine inspiration in her creative process, as well as the attention she gives philosophy and the liberal arts in her works.

One of the Hortus’ miniatures represents the liberal arts: they are represented as feminine figures inserted into a rose window composed of seven windows which encircle Philosophy, the central figure—and identified with Wisdom—, and at the foot of whom are Socrates and Plato. Herrad gives a favorable conception of philosophers, which, she states, use both the mundana sapiente and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. In the lower part of the image are the poets, the ars of which aims at charming and doesn’t orient itself towards the search for truth, according to Herrada. In conclusion, the author shows an open interest in the study of philosophy and is innovative in introducing it in the cura monialium.

Selected Works

1979, Hortus deliciarum, 2 vol., ed. Rosalie Green (dir.), Michael Evans, Christine Bischoff & Michael Curschmann, col. T. Julian Brown & Kenneth Levy, London – Leiden: The Warburg Institute – University of London – Brill.

Secondary Literature

GRIFFITHS, Fiona J., 2007, The Garden of Delights. Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century, Filadelfia (PA): University of Pennsylvania Press.

POGGI, Claudia, 2000, “Los textos del Hortus deliciarum”, en: MARTINENGO, Marirì et al., Libres para ser: mujeres creadoras de cultura en la Europa medieval, trans. Carolina Ballester Meseguer, Madrid: Narcea, pp. 51-112.

RABASSÓ, Georgina, 2013, “El cielo y la tierra en el Hortus deliciarum de Herrada de Hohenbourg”, in: MUÑOZ, María José et al. (eds.), La compilación del saber en la Edad Media, Oporto: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Mediévales, pp. 429-446.

RABASSÓ, Georgina, 2014, “The Universe, a Space of Knowledge in Hildegard of Bingen and Herrad of Hohenbourg”, in: BARRERA, Noemí et al. (eds.), Spaces of Knowledge. Four Dimensions of Medieval Thought, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 127-138.

SANTINI, Marina, 2008, “Palabras e imágenes: alimento de libertad. La relación educativa en Hildegarda y Herralda”, trans. María-Milagros Rivera Garretas, in: Duoda. Estudis de la Diferència Sexual, 35, pp. 119-139.

STURLESE, Loris, 1990, “L’‘ape nel giardino delle delizie’ della Scolastica: Herrad di Hohenbourg”, in: Storia della filosofia tedesca nel medioevo. Dagli inizi alla fine del secolo XII, Florence: Olschki, pp. 176-182.

Back to Philosophers