Hildegard of Bingen vs. Romanos the Melodist

Only in Lent Madness will you find a 12th century mystic facing off against a 6th century hymn writer. Well, maybe you can find a matchup between the likes of Hildegard of Bingen and Romanos the Melodist elsewhere in the world. But we’re dubious.

In yesterday’s Biblical battle, Bartimaeus saw his way past Jude 54% to 46%. He’ll face the winner of Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Junia in the Saintly Sixteen.

Did you know that at the 2020 Rooted in Jesus conference in Atlanta, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry made his Lent Madness predictions? You can hear what he had to say as part of his Way of Love podcast in his conversation with Lent Madness creator Tim Schenck by clicking here. While we encourage you to listen to the entire 17 1/2 minutes, the Lent Madness conversation starts at minute 10.

Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard von BingenHildegard was born in 1098 in the Rhineland Valley and later wrote that she began experiencing visions of God as a child. When Hildegard was eight years old, her parents placed her under the care of Jutta, an anchoress, and she became part of a growing community of religious women attached to the male Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg. Upon Jutta’s death in 1136, Hildegard was elected as magistra of the growing community of women, whereupon she pressed the head of the Benedictine monastery to allow her community to form a new monastery in Bingen. Despite initial objections, Hildegard ultimately founded St. Rupertsberg monastery in Bingen in 1150 and later a second monastery in Eibingen in 1165.

When Hildegard died in 1179, she left behind three volumes of visionary theology, including her most well-known theological work, Scivias, as well as soaring liturgical compositions and the morality play Ordo Virtutum. Her 400 letters represent one of the largest collections to survive from this period, and her other writings include sermons from four preaching tours, volumes on natural medicine derived from her gardening and healing practice, an invented language, gospel commentary, and many more minor works.

Reviewing the various short biographies on Hildegard, it is apparent that she had a gift for getting what she and her community needed despite the ecclesiastical restrictions of her time. When Hildegard asked for permission to found a monastery in Bingen, she had already laid the groundwork with the Archbishop of Mainz. Later, Hildegard became famous when a papal blessing for a portion of Scivias was construed as papal approval for the wide range of her theological work. Was this an accident or an example of being as wise as serpents, innocent as doves? Either way, it was a milestone in clearing the pathway for Hildegard to become a much sought-after theologian, spiritual advisor, and preacher across northern Europe.

Much more could be said about Hildegard, including her theological notion of viriditas or “greenness,” her understanding of medicine as a form of gardening, and the uniqueness of her liturgical music, but what stands out is her visionary leadership in a time when this was very difficult to achieve.

Collect for Hildegard
God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory in the world; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Miguel Escobar

Romanos the Melodist
RomanosSaint Romanos the Melodist wrote hymns during the sixth century, the golden age of Byzantine hymnography. Most biographical information about him comes from the Menaion, a liturgical book of fixed-date propers in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is believed to have been born to a Jewish family in Syria and was baptized Christian as a young boy. Later he was ordained a deacon in Beirut, then moved to Constantinople to serve as the sacristan at the Hagia Sophia.

The most important legend about Romanos revolves around a vision of Mary and is indeed the origin story for a whole category of music in the Eastern Orthodox church: the Kontakion. The story goes that Romanos began as a lousy singer and reader of the liturgy, and his fellow clergymen made fun of him. Once, after reading from the psalter, he was so ashamed that he put his head down and fell asleep in the church. Mary visited him in a dream and commanded him to eat a scroll she held in her hand. When he awoke, he went to the pulpit and chanted the hymn for which he is best known, the Kontakion of the Nativity, which is largely a dialogue between the Mother of God and the Magi. The beauty of his singing and the wisdom of the theological lyrics moved all.

Romanos wrote his hymns in Greek, and they are renowned for their linguistic beauty and sophisticated style. Although he is believed to have written more than a thousand hymns, only sixty to eighty are still in existence—and not all of those can be verified as his compositions. Rather than esoteric theologies, the hymns are in language accessible to the laity, and they address the pastoral concerns of the average person, making beautiful and accessible the mysteries of the Christian faith. They celebrate feasts and holy other days as well as saints’ lives and biblical themes. In addition to the nativity, his other notable works include the Last Judgment, the betrayal of Judas, and the martyrdom of Saint Stephen.

He is remembered on October 1 alongside the feast day of the Protection of the Mother of God in the Orthodox Church and is the patron saint of liturgical singers.

Collect for Romanos
O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants like Romanus the Melodist who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Amber Belldene


Hildegard of Bingen vs. Romanos the Melodist

  • Hildegard of Bingen (75%, 5,769 Votes)
  • Romanos the Melodist (25%, 1,945 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,714

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Hildegard von Bingen: [Public domain]
Romanos: [Public domain]

128 Comments to "Hildegard of Bingen vs. Romanos the Melodist"

  1. March 11, 2020 - 8:01 am | Permalink
    • Brianne Willard's Gravatar Brianne Willard
      March 11, 2020 - 5:57 pm | Permalink

      I suppose you already know how many of us are loving your commentary. But I must add tp the praise, because you always crack me up!

    • Beth Parkhurst's Gravatar Beth Parkhurst
      March 11, 2020 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Hildegard of Bingen was one of the most prolific composers of sa red music — indeed of any music — the medieval period. I voted for her because of her music.


  2. Brixham Beth's Gravatar Brixham Beth
    March 11, 2020 - 8:27 am | Permalink

    This is rather hard on Romanos, any other day he would be my choice, but Hildegard has so many attributes as well as being a powerful woman at a time when women were more usually seen as chattels, that she has won today.

    • Jo's Gravatar Jo
      March 11, 2020 - 9:14 am | Permalink

      Veriditas! Greenness! Spring, spiritual and physical health! I would vote for Hildegard anytime but especially now! PS am playing a Hildegard CD as I type…guess this vote was a foregone conclusion…

      • Paul's Gravatar Paul
        March 11, 2020 - 5:33 pm | Permalink

        It’s too bad they didn’t go into detail. She was the first to document the use of Hops in brewing beer. Prior to that, a hops “tea” was used to clean out brewing equipment as it’s a natural anti-septic/preservative. From what I’ve read she also scientifically described several types of V.D. Very interesting lady.

    • March 11, 2020 - 10:25 am | Permalink

      I had not known of Romanos until today. So I voted for Hildegard, but I purchased Romanos!

    • Claire's Gravatar Claire
      March 11, 2020 - 2:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree! Both of them contributed to liturgy and music in unique ways. I voted for Hildegard, but really wished that Romanos could have appeared on another day, so I could vote for him, too.

  3. Ven. Neil's Gravatar Ven. Neil
    March 11, 2020 - 8:35 am | Permalink

    Pecorino Romano’s my favourite cheese. So, instead of an uppity woman, it’s the melodist that gets my vote.

    • Lola's Gravatar Lola
      March 11, 2020 - 9:31 am | Permalink

      an uppity woman?

      • Betsy H's Gravatar Betsy H
        March 11, 2020 - 9:45 am | Permalink

        Among many attributes, Hildegard could be considered uppity. Nasty, too. And she persisted!
        And she got my vote, although I do appreciate learning about Romanos, I too am ashamed of my singing voice.

        • Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
          March 11, 2020 - 12:09 pm | Permalink

          I know what you mean about being ashamed of one’s singing voice, Betsy H. I maintain that I am the only person of Welsh heritage who cannot carry a tune – even in a bucket! (Where is Our Lady with that scroll when I need her?) However, I still raise my voice to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, because, as the old rhyme teaches us, “All God’s children belong in the choir. Some sing low, some sing higher. Some sing like crows on a telephone wire, but all God’s children belong in the choir.”

          • March 11, 2020 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

            Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got…

          • Priscilla Szerdi's Gravatar Priscilla Szerdi
            March 11, 2020 - 9:50 pm | Permalink

            I have trouble carrying a tune also, but over the last few years decided to sing out anyway. Thank you for putting in the old rhyme. I don’t think I have heard it quite this way. I am in sympathy with Ramanos! He will probably get my vote.

      • Linda Meisner's Gravatar Linda Meisner
        March 11, 2020 - 11:33 am | Permalink

        Thank you for questioning!!

    • Leslie's Gravatar Leslie
      March 11, 2020 - 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Uppity? That’s a biased description of behavior that would be socially acceptable in a man. Hildegard accomplished much, especially considering the time and place. Acknowledge it, but don’t belittle it with a sexist comment.

  4. Jennie Lou Reid's Gravatar Jennie Lou Reid
    March 11, 2020 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    I am glad to meet Romanos and will try to find some of his hymn texts. I like that they make theology accessible to the laity. However, I had to vote for Hildegard, a female leader & preacher.

  5. Ellen's Gravatar Ellen
    March 11, 2020 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    Got to give it to Hildegard for her work in leading, writing, and gardening.

  6. Kim W's Gravatar Kim W
    March 11, 2020 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    This past Sunday I spotted a campaign sign in the garden of my church, and more signs decorated every table. The choir, our priest, and many of the congregation were wearing pins stating Vote for Hildegard of Bingen on March 11. These were the work of a member of the choir who was paying people $1 to wear the pin. I’ve had one of the signs hanging on my office wall all week and John – I just cast my vote for the composer of the offertory hymn we sang. Team Hildy all the way!

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 11, 2020 - 9:01 am | Permalink

      [I hate to see “ballot stuffing” this early in the bracket (perhaps pray for people who wear the pins? offer them a vision? bake “Bingen buns” for them?), but I hope that translates to genuine enthusiasm for this great saint, and I hope she takes the hal0.]

    • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
      March 11, 2020 - 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Nothing wrong with exhorting people to consider your chosen candidate, though I’m not sure about paying people to wear campaign signs. The problem is stuffing the ballot box which the Supreme Executive Committee seems fairly good at detecting.

  7. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    March 11, 2020 - 8:46 am | Permalink

    Natural medicine through gardening was part of Hildegards way of life as it should be for all of us .

  8. John McNeill Anderson's Gravatar John McNeill Anderson
    March 11, 2020 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    In my partially open morning eyes, my first thought he was “the Methodist.”

    • Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
      March 11, 2020 - 9:42 am | Permalink

      Me too! (Possibly because I am a Methodist.)

  9. March 11, 2020 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    I find hymn singing to be one of the best ways to feel closer to God, and I have been a long-time fan of Hildegard’s music, although I knew little about her other accomplishments. Now I’m interested in hearing some of Romanos’ music as well. He seems to have been a very accomplished musician and used his compositions to reach out to the laity and share his love in Jesus. I was listening to a Bible study podcast last night about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, and they said she was a perfect model for the Jesus Movement Bishop Curry is so enthusiastic about. I place Romanos in that category, now, as well. But Hildegard’s accomplishments are so diverse and so remarkable for a 12th Century woman, I have to vote for her. But I will be listening to beautiful music from both today.

  10. Kappa Waugh's Gravatar Kappa Waugh
    March 11, 2020 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    You had me at “invented a language” and “joy & jubilation.”

    • LA's Gravatar LA
      March 11, 2020 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes! “Invented a language” tugged at me as well. (I’m trying to write one of my own for a fantasy fiction novel I’ve been working on near 2 decades! It’s NOT easy! Mine probably won’t compare with hers and certainly not with the ones my literary hero and linguist Tolkien wrote!)

  11. Anne Maddden's Gravatar Anne Maddden
    March 11, 2020 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    I just want to thank everyone for Lent Madness and the fun of reading these comments every day. I am already dreading when it is over! What a lovely way to begin each day, realizing what clouds of witnesses we really do have around us, and how blessed we are!

    • Patricia Gordon's Gravatar Patricia Gordon
      March 11, 2020 - 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Me, too, Anne – you said it much more eloquently than I. Thank you for this comment. Definitely “like!”

    • Katharine KW's Gravatar Katharine KW
      March 11, 2020 - 6:01 pm | Permalink

      It really is hard to struggle through when Lent Madness is over, and you expressed it beautifully, Anne!

    • March 11, 2020 - 9:41 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I love the bloggers entries but I look forward to the comments as well. Maybe even more.

  12. Richard Jonathan Adams's Gravatar Richard Jonathan Adams
    March 11, 2020 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    The voting will be lopsided in this match up, but both are deserving. The church is deeply in debt to music and the other fine arts for their singular ability to bring us to experience a loving realm of fullness and empathy beyond legal propositions and doctrine.

    • Judith's Gravatar Judith
      March 11, 2020 - 12:58 pm | Permalink


  13. Nolan's Gravatar Nolan
    March 11, 2020 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    Hard choice, but knowing two different cats named after Hildegard I had to go with her.

  14. Karen Sculley's Gravatar Karen Sculley
    March 11, 2020 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    A very tough choice for me, as my favorite aunt is Hildegard and my son and his girlfriend are devout Orthodox believers 🙂 I have admired and been inspired by Hildegard of Bingen for many years (drawn to study her life because of my aunt), but went with Romanos today, because he wrote “in language accessible to the laity,” [addressing] “the pastoral concerns of the average person, making beautiful and accessible the mysteries of the Christian faith.” I just added a lot of variety to my main, very eclectic Pandora station so I can more regularly hear the various Kontakia sung today (I love rock ‘n’ roll AND Orthodox chants!)

    • Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
      March 11, 2020 - 9:20 am | Permalink

      Thank you for mentioning Pandora. I, too, love rock ‘n’ roll, as well as Kontakia, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and other varied music and musicians, so I’ll add Romanos to my Pandora station.

  15. ellie tupper's Gravatar ellie tupper
    March 11, 2020 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    On another day I would have voted for Romanos -I can relate to being an enthusiastic yet lousy singer. But after hearing this years ago, it’s always been Hildegarde for me: her O Viridissima Virga in a haunting, very modern setting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEhv3pUyy_s. She is supposed to have written some of the most difficult music for female voices.

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 11, 2020 - 9:22 am | Permalink

      Just listened to the youtube link. Wow! I had heard of Hildegarde but not heard her music. Thank you for posting the link.

    • Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
      March 11, 2020 - 9:28 am | Permalink

      I, too, can relate to not having the voice I’d like to have, since I have pretty good pitch but not much range. I pray that God will let allow me to become a coloratura in heaven. Still, I voted for Hildegard, but I’ll add Romanos to my Pandora station. Kudos to him for writing music accessible to us regular folks.

    • Su's Gravatar Su
      March 11, 2020 - 10:18 am | Permalink

      You caused me to go to the YouTube, lovely. I’ve subscribed so I will return to listen to more. Thank you.

  16. Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
    March 11, 2020 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    Love them both, but I’ve loved Hildegard longer, so she gets my vote.

  17. John B Blackwood's Gravatar John B Blackwood
    March 11, 2020 - 9:19 am | Permalink

    I admire them both but I’ve got to go with the female, who was active in her faith when it wasn’t easy (in those times) for a female to be much of anything.

  18. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 11, 2020 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    HILDEGARD: she is one of the most amazing figures in all of church history. That she could flower as a woman and a person of some authority in the early medieval church, an abbess, and now a DOCTOR of the church, indicates her acumen and her deep spirituality. In one of her visions she saw the world as a hazelnut lying in the palm of her hand. In my mind this parallels the Magdalene holding the egg in her hand. Both miraculous images are earthy, concrete, and available to all. Hildegard demonstrates how mysticism has a political valence: she throve within a masculinist hierarchy. I am also fascinated by how early monasteries held so many children; Benedict’s Rule includes chapters on managing the children who were left with them. Monasteries may have been secluded environments, but they were deeply connected to the world. Childrearing was only one of the tasks the brothers conducted as part of their heavenward journey. Later convents may have been more restrictive and world-renouncing, but Benedictine groups in this early medieval period were a form of city-building and community-gathering. I can’t presently think of anyone as exciting as Hildegard until the Beguines and Beghards in the 14th century. Go Hildegard.

    • March 11, 2020 - 9:53 am | Permalink

      I love you, Celia, but wasn’t that Julian of Norwich who saw the hazelnut in her palm?

      • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
        March 11, 2020 - 10:02 am | Permalink

        [Does frantic Internet search.] Gasp! This is why the lack of an “edit” button is cruelty. Some of us ordinary bozos on this spinning bus can’t go back and fix our errors. You know, I truly did “double check” that this morning (my body says it’s still 4 am!) but clearly missed a key detail. You are correct, and this is why I will never be a Doctor of the Church. (Weeps into soiled halo.) Thanks, Richard. Good catch.

        • March 11, 2020 - 1:21 pm | Permalink

          A fine catch, indeed; I am always overwhelmed by your intelligence and way with words. You’re not alone, everyone at work still seems to be reeling from losing an hour.

      • Chuck's Gravatar Chuck
        March 11, 2020 - 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for clearing that up. Found searching for “walnut visions” doesn’t do it but now I’ve got the right nut AND Saint. Still find it a good intersection between religion and science in light of the Big Bang theory

  19. Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
    March 11, 2020 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    Hildegarde would be a remarkable *person* in any century, not just the 12th abs bit just as a woman.

  20. Sylvia, Johanna & Lucia Miller-Mutia's Gravatar Sylvia, Johanna & Lucia Miller-Mutia
    March 11, 2020 - 9:29 am | Permalink

    Today was the hardest vote yet
    which saint should our allegiance get?
    we chose Hildegard as the winner
    at age eight she was a beginner
    with Jutta the sister
    Pope didn’t resist her
    she wrote sermon and song
    she brought people along
    they all sang together
    in all kinds of weather
    and that’s why we gave her our vote

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 11, 2020 - 9:39 am | Permalink

      Hildegard sends you celestial thanks
      from the foremost of the heavenly ranks.
      She hopes you can hear the mellifluous spheres
      as they play you choral music throughout your years.
      Perhaps at school and work you hear angels touch the ondes
      and voices singing your names as you make your daily rounds.

    • March 11, 2020 - 9:47 pm | Permalink

      I am loving your poems. Thanks.

  21. Amanda Williams's Gravatar Amanda Williams
    March 11, 2020 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    I voted Romanos. Like Moses, he offered his imperfect self to God’s work, in spite of his lack of talent. He worked and prayed. God loves all of us who are awkward and tone deaf, right along with our more gifted brothers and sisters.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 11, 2020 - 9:41 am | Permalink

      Maybe this year’s final round will set the “awkward, tone-deaf” musician against the clumsy brother who broke all the dishes. Will that round honor all the ordinary bozos on this world’s spinning bus, or will it be Abbott and Costello? We shall see!

      • LA's Gravatar LA
        March 11, 2020 - 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Oh, St. Celia I love reading your comments! And I would absolutely love it if the awkward, tone-deaf musician ended up against the clumsy dish-breaking brother!

  22. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 11, 2020 - 9:38 am | Permalink

    OK, so I went online and listened to a couple of hymns from each. Not what one would call an exhaustive comparison, but enough to get the feel of them both. As gorgeous as Hildegard’s music is, Romanos seems to have written hymns that could comfortably be sung by a “regular” church choir and congregation, such as the one to which I belong.
    So Romanos it is, at least this time.

    • Ruth Douglas Miller's Gravatar Ruth Douglas Miller
      March 11, 2020 - 10:20 am | Permalink

      This one convinces me. And Hildegard has been in Lent Madness before, and gotten fairly well along. At least some of her illustrated visions have been diagnosed by Oliver Sachs (has training) and my husband (suffers from) as migraine auras. But still, I would like to hear more about Romanos. Plus he’s Lebanese, like a good friend of ours.

  23. Beth Crane's Gravatar Beth Crane
    March 11, 2020 - 9:40 am | Permalink

    This is my first time voting, and I was inspired to vote for Romanos. I admire Hildegaard and am awestruck by her accomplishments (and I have all her hit records!) but when we adopted our son Roman from Russia, I got to know Mother Anastasia, a nun at a tiny Russian Orthodox Monastery in Richford, VT. Mother Anastasia took a great interest in Roman. She told me the story of St. Romanos and gave Ro a cross and an icon of his name saint. In memory of St. Anastasia and her kindness – here’s to St. Romanos.

  24. TJMannion's Gravatar TJMannion
    March 11, 2020 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    Romanos for the win. Music of liturgical grace speaks to all, sorry Hildy. Theology is for the learned primarily. Romanos speaks (and sings) to all.

  25. March 11, 2020 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’m an Orthodox Christian and St. Romanos is a very important saint in our life…music is the life of the Orthodox Church. The Kontakion is a very important hymn every Sunday and it changes seasonally. Too bad he is up against Hildegard but nonetheless, my vote is for our pal, St. Romanos!

  26. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
    March 11, 2020 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    It’s not fair to put two musicians/composers together in the first round! It was an easy decision for me, as I first met Hildegard in the course on Christian mysticism which was my first seminary course. I did not know at first that she was also a musician and a physician (using the products of her garden as medicine), as well as a preacher! When my husband and I were introduced to her music at a retreat, we immediately decided to add her to our list of composers for our “Three B’s and Beyond” program (of music by composers whose surnames begin with B). He now plays one of her compositions on the organ. All that said, I could not vote for anyone pitted against her!

  27. March 11, 2020 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    The large volume of Hildegard’s writings make her influence great, But I identify with Romanos, as my strong voice was off key and a detriment to worship until at age 22, I was befriended by a pianist who saw a tune in me. During the last 50 years, many people have expressed inspiration at my amateur but expressive voice.

  28. SharonDianneFosterPattison's Gravatar SharonDianneFosterPattison
    March 11, 2020 - 10:17 am | Permalink

    I know as a woman I should be voting for her, but, as a bad singer and love of music, I think you know where my vote went, too try to sing with full volume, with, I am sure is a distress to those around me, but that is the voice Gad gave to me and I will use it! I am I good, speaker, mostly impromptu. Subject,s of any level not needing to study for hours, just odd the top of my head. So to speak! While in High school I won many Oratory awards, mostly due to my impromptu subjects,!
    The secret, is to keep you finger where you are if, given a text, and to make eye co tact always with your listeners!
    Look out and pretend they are all naked and they are more embarrassment than you in the speaking pulpit! For those out there, never be afraid to use your voice when you are called!

  29. Cassandra's Gravatar Cassandra
    March 11, 2020 - 10:17 am | Permalink

    Some music from each to help us choose:
    Romanos the Melodist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHpP0V7F-TI
    Hildegard of Bingen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8MGiPo5IxU

  30. Linda MacDonald's Gravatar Linda MacDonald
    March 11, 2020 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    I thought I would choose Hildegard, for her many attributes and having been so influential in a period of time when women were so hugely discounted. However, I love Eastern Orthodox chant and the story of Romanos the Melodist really caught me by the heart! He likely has not chance against Hildegard, but I voted my heart this time, and not my head.

  31. Katrina S Soto's Gravatar Katrina S Soto
    March 11, 2020 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    I love learning so much here. I only knew Hildy as the writer of music that I find soothing and meditative. It is good to learn of her wide range of accomplishments.

  32. Evelyn's Gravatar Evelyn
    March 11, 2020 - 10:41 am | Permalink

    I think they are both holy.
    so it was hard.

  33. Chris's Gravatar Chris
    March 11, 2020 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    Judging from the comments here, it’s a pretty safe bet that Hildegard will be today’s winner, even though autocorrect does not recognize her name. 😉 However, I am voting for Romanos. Autocorrect doesn’t recognize him, either. I am a church choir member. Romanos’ spiritual awakening and composition suggests to me that God spoke directly to him to create music for the masses to be able to sing. I often feel closest to God when singing. Finally, Romanos’ collect very closely resembles the prayer with which my choir begins every rehearsal. Romanos for me today.

  34. Kit Decker's Gravatar Kit Decker
    March 11, 2020 - 11:02 am | Permalink

    As an Episcopal chorister I feel compelled to vote for the “patron saint of liturgical singers” although I’ve always held Hildegard in awe for her music and many talents

  35. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 11, 2020 - 11:02 am | Permalink

    As someone who doesn’t sing unless I can absolutely help it, I feel very drawn to Romanos. However, I have loved and admired Hildegarde for many years; her achievements given the time in which lived were extraordinary. I may not sing, but I can garden, and I do preach, so my vote goes to Hildegarde.

  36. Joanne B. Parrott's Gravatar Joanne B. Parrott
    March 11, 2020 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    Spring has sprung, the green grass is risen, to Hildegard my vote is given.

  37. Amy S.'s Gravatar Amy S.
    March 11, 2020 - 11:12 am | Permalink

    As Hildegard’s feast day is my birthday, I had no other choice but to vote for her.

  38. March 11, 2020 - 11:27 am | Permalink

    I voted for Hildegard. I recommend a book that I just read God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, MD. She practiced medicine at an alms hospital in California and much of the book and her story include references to Hildegard. It is a wonderful book that will make you think a great deal about how parts of our society are treated today.

    • Karen Sculley's Gravatar Karen Sculley
      March 11, 2020 - 8:36 pm | Permalink

      thanks for the book recommendation – added to Goodreads!

  39. Mary Lou's Gravatar Mary Lou
    March 11, 2020 - 11:29 am | Permalink

    While I’ve long been a fan of Hildegard (I continue to marvel at so many women who excelled in ancient times when all the odds were against them), but music, hymns, and singing have always made me feel closer to god. I admired Romanos for his determination. Despite his failings as a singer and liturgy reader, he persevered by writing hymns and making God available to all of the people. He gets my vote today!

  40. James Brzezinski's Gravatar James Brzezinski
    March 11, 2020 - 11:36 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed learning about Romanos the Melodist. I love the music of the church and have sung in choirs since I was in the Men and Boys Choir as a child. I continue to sing in community choral groups and feel very close to the Lord when, as a priest, I chant the Mass. I love chanting and singing daily Morning and Evening Prayer. Hildegard has a special place in God’s kingdom. I have been aware of her many accomplishments and her knowledge, experience, visions, writing, music, and extensive influence she had in the world. She is a truly remarkable person. I enjoy listening to her music which is uniquely spiritual, meditative, contemplative, relaxing, and heavenly. Her scientific and knowledge of herbology is interesting.

  41. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    March 11, 2020 - 11:45 am | Permalink

    I am in the choir at my church, and singing to God feeds my soul. Romanos, patron saint of liturgical singers, gets my vote today!

  42. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    March 11, 2020 - 11:56 am | Permalink

    For those who are curious, here is a page where English translations of some of Romanos’s lyrics can be read: http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/kontakia_of_romanos.html

  43. Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
    March 11, 2020 - 11:59 am | Permalink

    I am excited to learn about these two saints and, better yet – their music is available. It’s a remarkable thing to catch a glimpse of our ancient church mothers’ and fathers’ expression of faith.
    Another Lent Madness win!

  44. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 11, 2020 - 11:59 am | Permalink

    Would that Mary would feed a scroll to all lay readers – not for singing, just for good and accurate reading of the lessons. I voted for Romanos but it was a hard choice.

    • Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
      March 11, 2020 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Carol Buckalew, I, too,wish Mary would feed that scroll to all lectors. How often have congregations suffered through readings of the letter to the Galoshians (they were the people who lived on the flood plain), or Paul’s letter to the Phillipines (who knew he got that far in his travels?), and the Pentecost reading from Acts 2:1-13!

      • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
        March 11, 2020 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget “two Corinthians.” (They walked into a bar.)

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        March 11, 2020 - 7:29 pm | Permalink

        Omigosh How about the exhortation to “Prophecy! And again I say, Prophecy”!

  45. March 11, 2020 - 12:08 pm | Permalink

    The main reason NOT to vote for Hildegard is because her writings contain homophobic garbage that she claimed was given to her by God. This taints anything good she may have done. If all of God’s children, LGBTQ people included, are not viewed with love and respect, than she’s not a saint worth voting for.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 11, 2020 - 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Can you give an example or cite a passage if you don’t want to repeat it?

      • March 11, 2020 - 1:59 pm | Permalink

        In Scivias, Book II Vision 6, she quotes God as condemning same sex intercourse, including lesbianism: “A woman who takes up devilish ways and takes a male role in coupling with another woman is most vile in My sight and so is she who subjects herself to such a one in this evil deed.”

        • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
          March 11, 2020 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

          I’m not excusing the passage, but I do wonder how a child apprenticed to an anchorite at eight years old finds out such things.

          • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
            March 11, 2020 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

            Ooh, good question, St. C!

        • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
          March 11, 2020 - 2:39 pm | Permalink

          As I recall, Benedict’s Rule has boys and men sleeping alternately in their beds in communal rooms. I wonder if there isn’t a certain pro forma (if lurid) quality in some of these exhortations.

  46. Charles Stuart's Gravatar Charles Stuart
    March 11, 2020 - 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Hildegard of Bingen and Romanos the Melodist are evenly matched, but I voted for Hildegard just so I could boast of having backed at winner, finally.

  47. March 11, 2020 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    A togh choice. The German in me swayed me toward Hildegard, but I admire Orthodoxy. The writer in my appreicated both of them and their accomplishments.

  48. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 11, 2020 - 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Today’s contest was not a major struggle for me, having loved and revered Hildegard of Bingen since my childhood. I admire her for her common sense, no-nonsense approach to life, her deep and abiding faith, and because of her achievements – which are remarkable for any one in any era, but especially so for a woman of her time. Having cast my vote, I will now sally forth into the cold to walk the two blocks to Hildegard’s Bakery and Cafe for fair trade coffee and a sourdough bun.

  49. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 11, 2020 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Go Hildy Go!

  50. LA's Gravatar LA
    March 11, 2020 - 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Despite many connections with Hildegard—medicinal gardening?! writing a language?! writing sermons, stories, songs and a play?! her fortitude and leadership and persistence?!—it was Romanos with whom I found myself resonating more today. Because of the song, arts, theology and “for the lay people” aspects. So this “mimegirl” with her MAT in Arts Theology voted for the Melodist today.

    However, unless we see a dramatic upset, it looks like Hildegard will be the one to move on. In which case, looking ahead, I do foresee myself voting for her in the next rounds (until she would come up against Brother Lawrence and then I’d have a hard choice again)!

  51. john's Gravatar john
    March 11, 2020 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I am always impressed with those who get things done in spite of entrenched traditions. Her wide range of interests and accomplishments in a male dominated society was impressive.

    • Melani Tutt's Gravatar Melani Tutt
      March 12, 2020 - 12:43 am | Permalink

      Hildegard Hops Heavenly

  52. Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
    March 11, 2020 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Hildegarde. I am still not over Evelyn Underhill being eliminated, but at least one great female mystic can move forward in this competition. Evelyn quoted extensively from Hildegarde.

  53. James N Lodwick's Gravatar James N Lodwick
    March 11, 2020 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    An impossible matchup and an ag9onizing choice! Hildegard was absolutely brilliant as well as deeply devout of course and left behind a great legacy of letters and writings and music. Nevertheless, I voted for Romanos the Melode, partly because I knew he would be the underdog in this contest, but even more because I love the beauty and piety of his hymns. I wish that all the 1000 or more that he wrote had survived.

  54. Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
    March 11, 2020 - 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Both are worthy, and I hope that the next edition of the Episcopal Hymnal might include a contribution from either or both of them. I just went through the index of composers and sources for the 1982 edition and can’t spot anything by either, though I may have missed an attribution.

  55. Claire from Quincy, MA's Gravatar Claire from Quincy, MA
    March 11, 2020 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    A song for healthy habits in our anxious times, to the tune of “Tis a Gift to be Simple”:
    ‘Tis a gift to be healthy, tis a gift to be clean
    ‘Tis a gift to practice proper hand hygiene
    So scrub your hands with soap
    Longer than you think
    And use paper towels
    When you turn off the sink!”. (repeat)
    This was shared with me by a Unitarian Universalist friend. Song credits: Rev. Julie Hamilton, Stacey Stone and Claire Weichselbaum

    • Heather White's Gravatar Heather White
      March 11, 2020 - 3:23 pm | Permalink


    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 11, 2020 - 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Love it!

  56. Rufus's Gravatar Rufus
    March 11, 2020 - 3:18 pm | Permalink

    It seems undebatable that Hildegard is the more remarkable figure, her accomplishments are so varied: mystic, herbalist-healer, preacher, theologian, composer. Yet I voted for Romanos because he is the patron saint of liturgical singers. Having sung in church choirs the better part of my life, I feel a kinship there. Hildegard’s reputation won’t be dampened by sharing a bit of musical notoriety with Romanos.

  57. Barb's Gravatar Barb
    March 11, 2020 - 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Having been baptized as a Russian Orthodox and having gone to church with my Dad , who sang in the choir, I find the music very moving. Romanos got my vote today.

  58. Paul's Gravatar Paul
    March 11, 2020 - 4:00 pm | Permalink

    So much of our theology is shaped by our hymns, whether we realize it or not. With great admiration for Hildegard (from a fellow preacher), I give today’s nod to a writer of hymns that guides the faithful in the pews in their beliefs and living out those beliefs.

  59. Linda Maloney+'s Gravatar Linda Maloney+
    March 11, 2020 - 4:04 pm | Permalink

    In memory of the former abbess of my own house, the beautiful Hildegarde of Bakersfield (2005-2020).

  60. Robbin Zaleski's Gravatar Robbin Zaleski
    March 11, 2020 - 4:11 pm | Permalink

    “Your light never leaves me and burns in my soul”, it was this quote that introduced me to Hildegard. Now, as I drink my lungwort tea, grown in my garden, all thanks to Hildegard, she has my vote.

  61. Linda M.'s Gravatar Linda M.
    March 11, 2020 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Hildegard. I have been fascinated by her for a long time. Years ago, I went to a weekend retreat on her in N.C. I also have several books about her. I also have a book written by Mary Sharratt called “Illuminations” (https://www.amazon.com/Illuminations-Novel-Hildegard-von-Bingen/dp/0544106539). It’s very illuminating!

  62. Lisa Leadley's Gravatar Lisa Leadley
    March 11, 2020 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Romanos got my vote today because I see in his love of liturgical music the same sense of wonder some of the newer Episcopalians in my Bell Choir have towards our ringing ministry

  63. Lianna's Gravatar Lianna
    March 11, 2020 - 5:42 pm | Permalink

    As a member of our church choir, I’m voting for Romanos. “He who sings, prays twice.” I find that singing a hymn is a wonderful (and easy) way for me to praise God, or to feel comforted. Sometimes I struggle to find the words to say a prayer, but then I can usually think of an appropriate hymn to express what I want to say.

  64. Lianna's Gravatar Lianna
    March 11, 2020 - 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Correction: “To sing is to pray twice.” – St. Augustine

  65. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    March 11, 2020 - 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Voting for Romanos, as he is new to us, and we just finished eating our dinner of Parmesan and black pepper ravioli with meat sauce. Wish we could vote for both, as they’re worthy to move forward.

  66. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 11, 2020 - 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I really thought I would vote for Hildegard; I have long felt a kinship with my fellow singer of ancient times. Yet now I find there is another singer who is even more ancient. I love the story of Romanos’ falling asleep with shame at his caterwauling in church! Haven’t all of us singers had moments when we wish the sanctuary floor would open up and swallow us! How sad that so many of his melodies are lost to us. They echo somewhere out in space, and it gives me chills to imagine them. Against my own expectations, I have voted for the Kantakion. It wouldn’t be Holy Week without it. Thank you, Brother Romanos!

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 11, 2020 - 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your faithful witness to song itself.

    • Heather White's Gravatar Heather White
      March 12, 2020 - 1:42 am | Permalink

      I’m right there with you, Susan! I was sure I would be voting for Hildegard and had never heard of Romanos, but his story is compelling and his music is beautiful. Moreover, I teach elementary school music, which means a constant struggle to teach small children to match pitch (which gets harder every year as parents increasingly neglect their sacred duty to sing with their children). I would welcome Mary’s visit to one of my current 2nd grade classes with some of those scrolls!

  67. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 11, 2020 - 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Scientist, mystic, doctor of the church
    Hildegard’s plainchant grew from her research:
    Like Ordo Virtutum
    No one could dispute ‘em;
    So let her legacy no-one besmirch.

  68. March 11, 2020 - 11:05 pm | Permalink

    I empathize with Romanos’ difficulty with pitch! I suffer feom a similar difficulty. My beloved church musician admonished me to sing fully to God; despite what my pew .ates think. I do!

    But Hildegard’s use of natural medicine from her garden inspires me. I am completing my UC extension Master Gardener training and look forward to following in her footsteps.

  69. Gail's Gravatar Gail
    March 12, 2020 - 12:03 am | Permalink

    I read a novel based on her life, and saw a performance of her Ordo Vertutim. I admired her so much that I named my car Hilda, after her. I voted for her, but I will look up Romano’s hymns.

  70. Edwin Cooley's Gravatar Edwin Cooley
    March 12, 2020 - 12:15 am | Permalink

    The information about Romanos referenced that he worked at Hagia Sophia for a time. That reminded me of this piece on NPR from February 22 Morning Edition about the amazing sound qualities of the Hagia Sophia. Here’s a link to the piece. Worth a listen. And this is why I voted for Romanos!

  71. Gregory of Ravenna's Gravatar Gregory of Ravenna
    March 12, 2020 - 5:25 am | Permalink

    I know it’s too late, but I like this quote:

    “Perhaps most appealing, in a world dominated by men, and despite all of her apparent strengths, Hildegard expressed the vulnerability of a delicate and fragile nature.”


  72. Carol's Gravatar Carol
    March 12, 2020 - 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hildegard gets my vote today

  73. Foster Eich's Gravatar Foster Eich
    March 12, 2020 - 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Again a difficult choice. BUT

    Hildegard was a renaissance woman long before the renaissance. She:

    Was the first published woman physician. Her textbook of medicine was the standard for 200 years.

    Wrote an authoritative book on “Natural History” (i.e., biology, geography, etc.)

    Saw amazing visions.

    Designed a sewer system for her convent. It is still in use after 800 years.

    Composed music for the liturgy.

    Argued with (and sometimes scolded) archbishops, popes, and emperors–and prevailed!

    Since I am a physician and a priest, I voted for her!

    • Foster Eich's Gravatar Foster Eich
      March 12, 2020 - 2:17 pm | Permalink

      I am also a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists. She should be one of our patrons!

  74. March 14, 2020 - 7:22 am | Permalink

    I found Hildegard of Bingen vs. Romanos the Melodist
    very educational.
    I want to share with you how my children learned to love the piano: https://s96.me/ingenious-way-to-learn-piano-and-keyboard
    Kisses!! 🙂

  75. Elaine McCoy's Gravatar Elaine McCoy
    March 14, 2020 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

    6th century Romanos is a sympathetic melodist, but Hildegard is just so Magnificent!!!

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