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by The Song Company

Patriarche et Prophete 2 Qui sunt hi, qui ut nubes? Virtutes O antiqui sancti, quid admiramini in nobis? Verbum del clarescit in forma hominis, et ideo fulgemus cum illo, edificantes membra sui pulchri corporis. Patriarche et prophete Nos sumus radices et vos rami, fructus viventis oculi, et nos umbra in illo fuimus. Patriarchs and Prophets 2 Who are these, who seem like clouds? Virtues O ancient holy ones, why do you marvel at us? The Word of God grows bright in the form of a man, and so we shine with Him, building up the limbs of His beautiful body. Patriarchs and Prophets We are the roots, and you are the branches, the fruit of the living eye, of which we were the shadow in Him.
Querela Animarum in carne positarum 3 O nos peregrine sumus. Quid fecimus, ad peccata deviantes? Filie Regis esse debuimus, sed in umbram peccatorum cecidimus. O vivens sol, porta nos in humeris tuis in iustissimam hereditatem quam in Adam perdidimus! O rex regum, in tuo prelio pugnamus. Felix Anima O dulcis divinitas, et o suavis vita, in qua perferam vestem preclaram, illud accipiens quod perdidi in prima apparitione, ad te suspiro, et omnes Virtutes invoco. Virtutes O felix Anima, et o dulcis creatura dei, que edificata es in profunda altitudine sapientie dei, multum amas. Felix Anima O libenter veniam ad vos ut prebeatis michi osculum cordis. Virtutes Nos debemus militare tecum, o filia regis. Sed, gravata, Anima conqueritur O gravis labor, et o durum pondus quod habeo in vesto huius vite, quia nimis grave michi est contra carnem pugnare. Virtutes ad Animam illam O Anima, voluntate dei constituta, et o felix instrumentum, quare tam flebilis es contra hoc quod deus contrivit in virginea natura? Tu debes in nobis superare diabolum. Anima illa Succurrite michi, adiuvando, ut possim stare! Scientia Dei ad Animam illam Vide quid illud sit quo es induta, filia salvationis et esto stabilis, et numquam cades. Infelix, Anima O nescio quid faciam, aut ubi fugiam! O ve michi, non possum perficere hoc quod sum induta. Certe illud volo abicere! Virtutes O infelix conscientia, o misera Anima, quare abscondis faciem tuam coram creatore tuo? Scientia Dei Tu nescis, nec vides, nec sapis illum qui te constituit. Anima illa Deus creavit mundum: non facio illi iniuriam sed volo uti illo! Strepitus Diaboli ad Animam illam Fatue, fatue quid prodest tibi laborare? Respice mundum, et amplectetur te magno honore. Virtutes O plangens vox est hec maximi doloris! Ach, ach, quedam mirabilis victoria in mirabili desiderio dei surrexit, in qua delectatio camis se latenter abscondit, heu, heu, ubi voluntas crimina nescivit et ubi desiderium hominis lasciviam fugit. Luge, luge ergo in his, Innocentia, que in pudore bono integritatem non amisisti, et que avariciam gutturis antiqui serpentis ibi non devorasti. Diabolus Que est hec Potestas, quod nullus sit preter deum? Ego autem dico, qui voluerit me et voluntatem meam sequi, dabo illi omnia. Tu vero, tuis sequacibus nichil habes quod dare possis, quia etiam vos omnes nescitis quid sitis. Humilitas Ego cum meis sodalibus bene scio quod tu es ille antiquus dracho qui super summum volare voluisti – sed ipse deus in abyssum proiecit te. Virtutes Nos autem omnes in excelsis habitamus. Lament of embodied Souls 3 We are pilgrims here! What have we done, straying into sin? We ought to have been daughters of the King, but we have fallen into the shadow of sins. O living Sun, carry us on your shoulders back to that most just inheritance which we lost in Adam! O King of kings, we are fighting in Your battle. Soul, joyful O sweet divinity, O delectable life, in which I shall wear a bright robe, accepting that which I lost in my first formation – I cry to you and invoke all the Virtues. Virtues O happy Soul, O sweet creature of God, fashioned in the profound height of the wisdom of God, you show much love. Soul, joyful Oh, I come to you freely, that you may give me a kiss from your heart! Virtues We must fight with you, O daughter of the King. But a troubled Soul complained: O such heavy toil, and oh, what a harsh weight that I bear in the dress of this life: because it is too heavy for me to fight against my flesh. Virtues to Soul O Soul, you that were created by the will of God, you instrument of bliss, why are you so tearful in the face of the evil which God has crushed in a virgin being? In us you must overcome the devil. Soul Hasten to me, help me to stand firm! Knowledge-of-God to the Soul See the dress you are wearing, daughter of salvation, and be steadfast and you will never fall. Soul, sadly I know not what to do or where to flee! Oh, woe is me, I cannot perfect this dress I have put on! In fact I want to take it off! Virtues O unhappy conscience, oh, poor Soul, why do you hide your face in the presence of your Creator? Knowledge of God You do not know, or see, or taste the One who has set you here. Soul God created the world: I’m doing him no injury – I only want to enjoy it! Devil, shouting at Soul Foolishness! Foolishness! What use is it to you all this toil? Look to the world and it will embrace you with great honour. Virtues O wailing voice in which is the greatest sorrow? Ah, a certain marvellous victory already rose in that Soul, in the marvellous desire of God, in which the delight of the flesh was secretly hidden. Alas, alas! where previously the will had known no guilt and desire of man fled lust. Mourn for this, mourn, Innocence, you who did not give up your integrity in your fair modesty, who did not devour greedily with the throat of the ancient serpent. Devil What is this Power – as if there were no one apart from God? I say, whoever wants to follow me and do my will, I will give him everything. As for you, Humility, you have nothing that you can give your followers, because none of you even know what you are! Humility My companions and I know very well that you are the ancient dragon who wanted to fly higher than the Highest: but God Himself hurled you in the abyss. Virtues As for us, we dwell in the heavens.
Humilitas 4 Ego, Humilitas, regina Virtutum, dico: venite ad me, Virtutes, et enutriam vos ad requirendam perditam dragmam et ad coronandum in perseverantia felicem. Virtutes O gloriosa regina, et O suavissima mediatrix, libenter venimus. Humilitas Ideo, dilectissime filie, teneo vos in regali talamo. Karitas 5 Ego Karitas, flos amabilis – venite ad me, Virtutes, et perducam vos in candidam lucem floris virge. Virtutes O dilectissime flos, ardenti desiderio currimus ad te. Timor Dei 6 Ego, Timor Dei, vos felicissimas filias preparo ut inspiciatis in deum vivum et non pereatis. Virtutes O Timor, valde utilis es nobis: habemus enim perfectum studium numquam a te separari. Diabolus Euge! euge! quis est tantus timor? et quis est tantus amor? Ubi est pugnator, et ubi est remunerator? Vos nescitis quid colitis. Virtutes Tu autem exterritus es per summum iudicem, quia, inflatus superbia, mersus es in gehennam. Obedientia 7 Ego lucida Obedientia – venite ad me, pulcherrime filie, et reducam vos ad patriam et ad osculum regis. Virtutes O dulcissima vocatrix, nos decet in magno studio pervenire ad te. Fides 8 Ego Fides, speculum vite: venerables filie, venite ad me et ostendo vobis fontem salientem. Virtutes O serena, speculata, habemus fiduciam pervenire ad verum fontem per te. Spes 9 Ego sum dulcis conspectrix viventis oculi, quam fallax torpor non decipit – unde vos, o tenebre, non potestis me obnubilare. Virtutes O vivens vita, et o suavis consolatrix, tu mortifera mortis vincis et vidente oculo clausuram celi aperis. Castitas O Virginitas, in regali thalamo stas. O quam dulciter ardes in amplexibus regis, cum te sol perfulget ita quod nobilis flos tuus numquam cadet. O virgo nobilis, te numquam inveniet umbra in cadente flore! Virtutes Flos campi cadit vento, pluvia spargit eum. O Virginitas, tu permanes in symphoniis supernorum civium: unde es suavis flos qui numquam aresces. Innocentia Fugite, oves, spurcicias Diaboli! Virtutes Has te succurrente fugiemus. Humility 4 I, Humility, Queen of the Virtues, say: come to me, Virtues, and I will nourish you to be able to seek and find the lost drachma and to crown in felicity her who perseveres. Virtues Oh glorious Queen, and o most gentle mediator, we come gladly. Humility Because of this, beloved daughters, I will keep you in the royal wedding-chamber. Charity 5 I am Charity, a lovely flower – come to me, Virtues, and I will lead you into the radiant light of the flower of the rod. Virtues O dearest flower, we run to you with burning desire. Fear-of-God 6 I, Fear-of-God, prepare blissful daughters that they may gaze upon the living God and not die. Virtues O Fear, you can help us greatly: we are filled with a perfect longing never to part from you. Devil Bravo! Bravo! What is this great fear, and what is this great love? Where is the champion? and where is the giver of rewards? You don’t know what you are worshipping! Virtues But you were terrified by the supreme Judge, because, swollen with pride, were plunged into Hell. Obedience 7 I am shining Obedience – come to me, most beautiful daughters, and I will lead you to your fatherland and to the kiss of the King. Virtues O sweetest summoner, it is right for us to come with great zeal to you. Faith 8 I am Faith, the mirror of life: worthy daughters, come to me and I shall show you the healing fountain. Virtues O serene one, mirror-like, we trust in you: we shall arrive at the true fountain through you. Hope 9 I am the sweet beholder of the living eye, whom treacherous torpor can not deceive. So, O shadows, you cannot cloud my gaze! Virtues O living life, and o gentle consoler, y ou overcome the deadly shafts of death and with your seeing eye open the closed gate of heaven. Chastity O Virginity, you are inside the royal bed-chamber. O how sweetly you burn in the King’s embraces, when the Sun blazes through you, never letting your noble flower fall. O gentle virgin, you will never know darkness in a fading flower! Virtues The flower of the fields fails in the wind, the rain splashes it. But you, Virginity, remain in the symphonies of heavenly citadels: you are the tender flower that will never grow dry. Innocence Flee, flock, from the Devil’s rubbish! Virtues We shall flee, if you help us.
Contemptus Mundi 10 Ego, Contemptus Mundi, sum candor vite. O misera terre peregrinatio in multis laboribus – te dimitto. O Virtutes, venite ad me et ascendamus ad fontem vite! Virtutes O gloriosa domina, tu semper habes certamina Christi, o magna virtus, que mundum conculcas, unde etiam victoriose in celo habitas. Amor Celestis 11 Ego aurea porta in colo fixa sum: qui per me transit numquam amaram petulantiam in mente sua gustabit. Virtutes O filia regis, tu semper es in amplexibus quos mundus fugit. O quam suavis est tua dilectio in summo deo! Disciplina / Gratia Dei 12 Ego sum amatrix simplicium morum qui turpia opera nesciunt; sed semper in regum regem aspicio et amplector eum in honore altissimo. Virtutes O tu angelica socia, tu es valde ornata in regalibus nuptiis. Verecundia 13 Ego obtenebro et fugo atque conculco omnes spurcicias Diaboli. Virtutes Tu es in edificatione celestis Ierusalem, florens in candidis liliis. Misericordia O quam amara est illa duricia que non cedit in mentibus, misericorditer dolori succurrens! Ego autem omnibus dolentibus manum porrigere volo. Virtutes O laudabilis mater peregrinorum, tu semper erigis illos, atque ungis pauperes et debiles. Victoria 14 Ego Victoria velox et fortis pugnatrix sum – in lapide pugno, serpentem antiquum conculco. Virtutes O dulcissima bellatrix, in torrente fonte qui absorbuit lupum rapacem – O gloriosa coronata, nos libenter militamus tecum contra illusorem hunc. Discretio 15 Ego Discretio sum lux et dispensatrix omnium creaturarum, indifferentia dei, quam Adam a se fugavit per lasciviam morum. Virtutes O pulcherrima mater, quam dulcis et quam suavis es, quia nemo confunditur in te. Pacientia 16 Ego sum columpna que molliri non potest, quia fundamentum meum in deo est. Virtutes O firma que stas in caverna petre, et o gloriosa bellatrix que suffers omnia! Humilitas O filie Israhel, sub arbore suscitavit vos deus, unde in hoc tempore recordamini plantationis sae. Gaudete ergo, filie Syon! Contempt-of-the-World 10 I, Contempt-of-the-World, am the brightness of life. O wretched pilgrimage on earth, with all your toils – I let you go. O Virtues, come to me, and we will climb up to the fountain of life! Virtues O glorious lady, you always fight the battles of Christ; O great Virtue which treads the world underfoot, by which you victoriously live in heaven. Celestial Love 11 I am a golden gate set up in heaven: whoever passes through me will never taste bitter rebelliousness in her mind. Virtues O royal daughter, you are always held in the embraces which the world shuns. O how tender is your love to God in the highest! Discipline / Grace of God 12 I am a lover of simple ways which know nothing ignoble; but I always gaze upon the King of kings and, as my highest honour, I embrace Him. Virtues O you angelic companion, how comely you are in the royal nuptials! Modesty 13 I cover over, drive away, and trample underfoot all the rubbish of the Devil. Virtues You are in the building of the heavenly Jerusalem, flowering in shining white lilies. Mercy O how bitter in human minds is the harshness that does not soften and mercifully ease pain! I want to reach out my hand to all who are sorrowing. Virtues O praiseworthy mother of exiles, you are always raising them up, and anointing the poor and the weak. Victory 14 I am Victory, the swift, brave fighter. I fight with a stone, I tread the ancient serpent under foot. Virtues O sweetest warrior, in the cascade of the fountain that swallowed up the rapacious wolf – O glorious, crowned one, we will gladly fight with you against that deceiver! Discretion 15 I am Discretion, the light and dispenser of all creatures – the impartiality of God, which Adam drove away by acting wantonly. Virtues O most beautiful mother, how sweet you are, how gentle – in you no one can be confused. Patience 16 I am the pillar which can never be made to yield, because my foundation is in God. Virtues O you that stay firm in the rocky cavern, and O glorious warrior who bears all. Humility O daughters of Israel, God raised you from under the tree, so now remember how it was planted. Therefore rejoice, daughters of Jerusalem!
Virtutes 17 Heu, heu, nos Virtutes plangamus et lugeamus, quia ovis domini fugit vitam! Querela Anime penitentis et Virtutes invocantis O vos regales Virtutes, quam speciose et quam fulgentes estis in summo sole, et quam dulcis est vestra mansio – et ideo, o ve michi, quia a vobis fugi. Virtutes O fugitive, veni, veni ad nos, et deus suscipiet te. Anima illa Ach! ach! fervens dulcedo absorbuit me in peccatis, et ideo non ausa sum intrare. Virtutes Noli timere nec fugere, quia pastor bonus querit in te perditam ovem suam. Anima illa Nunc est michi necesse ut suscipiatis me, quoniam in vulneribus feteo quibus antiquus serpens me contaminavit. Virtutes Curre ad nos, et sequere vestigia illa in quibus numquam cades in societate nostra, et des curabit te. Penitens Anima ad Virtutes 18 Ego peccator qui fugi vitam: plenus ulceribus veniam ad vos, ut prebeatis michi scutum redemptionis. O tu omnis milicia regine, et o vos, candida lilia ipsius, cum rosea purpura, inclinate vos ad me, quia peregrina a vobis exulavi, et adiuvate me, ut in sanguine filii dei possim surgere. Virtutes O Anima fugitiva, esto robusta, et indue te arma lucis. Anima illa Et o vera medicina, Humilitas, prebe michi auxilium, quia superbia in multis viciis fregit me, multas cicatrices michi imponens. Nunc fugio ad te, et ido suscipe me. Humilitas O omnes Virtutes, suscipite lugentem peccatorem, in suis cicatricibus, propter vulnera Christi, et perducite eum ad me. Virtutes Volumus te reducere et nolumus te deserere, et omnis celestis milicia gaudet super te – ergo decet nos in symphonia sonare. Humilitas O misera filia, volo te amplecti, quia magnus medicus dura et amara propter te passus est. Virtutes O vivens fons, quam magna est suavitas tua, qui faciem istorum in te non amisisti, sed acute previdisti quomodo eos de angelico casu abstraheres qui se estimabant illud habere quod non licet sic stare; unde gaude, filia Syon, quia deus tibi multos reddit quos serpens de te abscidere voluit, qui nunc in maiori luce fulgent quam prius illorum causa fuisset. Diabolus Que es, aut unde venis? Tu amplexata es me, et ego foras eduxi te. Sed nunc in reversione tua confundis me – ego autem pugna mea deiciam te! Virtues 17 Alas, alas, let us Virtues lament and mourn, because a sheep of the Lord has fled from life! The Soul, lamenting, penitent and calling to the Virtues O you royal Virtues, how stunning and how brilliant you look in the highest Sun, and how delightful is your home, and so, oh what woe is mine that I fled from you! Virtues O fugitive, come to us, and God will receive you. Soul Ah! Ah! a burning sweetness swallowed me up in sins, and so I did not dare come in. Virtues Don’t be afraid nor run away, because the Good Shepherd is searching for His lost sheep – in you. That Soul Now I need your help to receive me, because I stink of the wounds where the ancient serpent has poisoned me. Virtues Run to us, and follow those footsteps where you will never falter in our company, and God will heal you. The Penitent Soul to the Virtues 18 I am a sinner who fled from life: covered in sores I will come to you so you can offer me the shield of redemption. O all of you warriors of Queen Humility, and O you, her white lilies with crimson purple, turn to me, who exiled myself from you like a stranger, and help me, that in the blood of the Son of God I may arise. Virtues O fugitive Soul, now be strong and clothe yourself in the armour of light. Soul And you, o true medicine, Humility, grant me your help, for pride has broken me in many vices, inflicting many scars on me. Now I am escaping to you, and therefore receive me! Humility O all you Virtues, receive this mournful sinner, with all her scars, for the sake of Christ’s wounds, and lead her to me. Virtues We want to bring you back and shall not desert you, and the whole host of heaven will rejoice over you: therefore it is right for us sound our music in harmony. Humility O unhappy daughter, I want to embrace you: the great Healer has suffered harsh and bitter wounds for your sake. Virtues O living fountain, how great is your sweetness: you did not turn you face away from these, but you acutely foresaw how you could avert them from the fall the angels fell, they who thought they possessed a power which no law allows to be like that. Wherefore rejoice then, daughter of Zion, because God is giving you back many whom the serpent wanted to separate from you, who now gleam in a greater brightness than would have been their state before. Devil Who are you? And where do you come from? You were in my embrace, and I took you for a ride. Yet now you are going back, defying me – but I shall fight you and bring you down!
Penitens Anima 19 Ego omnes vias meas malas esse cognovi, et ideo fugi a te. Modo autem, o illusor, pugno contra te. Inde tu, O regina Humilitas, tuo medicamine adiuva me! Humilitas ad Victoriam O Victoria, que istum in cela superasti, curre cum militibus tuis et omnes ligate Diabolum hunc! Victoria ad Virtutes O fortissimi et gloriosissimi milites, venite, et adiuvate me istum fallacem vincere. Virtutes O dulcissima bellatrix, in torrente fonte qui absorbuit lupum rapacem – o gloriosa coronata, nos libenter militamus tecum contra illusorem hunc. Humilitas Ligate ergo istum, o Virtutes preclare! Virtutes O regina nostra, tibi parebimus, et precepta tua in omnibus adimplebimus. Victoria Gaudete, a socii, quia antiquus serpens ligatus est! Virtutes Laus tibi, Christe, rex angelorum! Castitas 20 In mente altissimi o Satana, Caput tuum conculcavi, et in virginea forma dulce miraculum colui, ubi filius dei venit in mundum; unde deiectus es in omnibus spoliis tuis, et nunc gaudeant omnes qui habitant in celis, quia venter tuus confusus est. Diabolus Tu nescis quid colis, quia venter tuus vacuus est pulchra forma de viro sumpta – ubi transis preceptum quod deus in suavi copula precepit; unde nescis quid sis! Castitas Quomodo posset me hoc tangere quod tua suggestio polluit per immundiciam incestus? Unum virum protuli, qui genus humanum ad se congregat contra te; per nativitatem suam. Humilitas (pro Virtutes) O deus, quis es tu, qui in temet ipso hoc magnum consilium habuisti, quod destruxit infernalem haustum in publicanis et peccatoribus, qui nunc lucent in superna bonitate! Unde, O rex, laus sit tibi. Virtutes 21 O pater omnipotens, ex te fluit fons in igneo amore, perduc filios tuos in rectum ventum velorum aquarum, ita ut et nos eos hoc modo perducamus in celestem Ierusalem. The Soul, penitent 19 I recognized that all my ways were wicked, and so I fled you. But now, you deceiver, I will fight you face to face. And so, O Queen Humility, come with your medicine to help me! Humility to Victory O Victory, you who once conquered this creature in the heavens, run now, with all your warriors, and all of you bind this Devil! Victory to the Virtues O bravest and most glorious warriors, come and help me to vanquish this deceitful one! Virtues O sweetest warrior, in the cascade of the fountain that swallowed up the rapacious wolf – O glorious, crowned one, we will gladly fight with you against that deceiver! Humility Bind him then, O you shining Virtues! Virtues O our Queen, we obey you and we shall carry out your orders to the full. Victory Rejoice, O companions, because the ancient serpent is bound! Virtues Praise be to You, Christ, King of the angels! Chastity 20 In the mind of the Most High, Satan, I trampled on your head, and in a virgin form I brought forth a sweet miracle whereby the Son of God came into the world; therefore you are laid low, with all your blunder, and now let all who dwell in heaven rejoice, because your belly has been confounded. Devil You don’t know what you are nurturing, for your belly is devoid of the beautiful form that woman receives from man; in this you transgress the command that God enjoined in the sweet act of love-making; so you don’t even know what you are! Chastity How can what you say touch me? Because even your suggestion smirches it with foulness. I did bring forth a man, who gathers up mankind to Himself, against you, through His Nativity. Humility (for the Virtues) O God, who are You, who held such great counsel in Yourself, a counsel that destroyed the draught of hell in tax-collectors and sinners – who now shine in the goodness from above! Wherefore, o King, praise be to You! Virtues 21 O Almighty Father, from You flowed a fountain in fiery love: guide Your children into a fair wind, sailing the waters, so that we too may lead them in this way into the heavenly Jerusalem.
Omnes 22 In principio omnes creature viruerunt, in medio flores floruerunt; postea viriditas descendit. Et istud vir preliator vidit et dixit: Hoc scio, sed aureus numerus nondum est plenus. Tu ergo, patemum speculum aspice: in corpore meo fatigationem sustineo, parvuli etiam mei deficiunt. Nunc memor esto, quod plenitudo que in primo facta est arescere non debuit, et tunc te habuisti quod oculus tuus numquam cederet usque dum corpus meum videres plenum gemmarum. Nam me fatigat quod omnia membra mea in irrisionem vadunt. Pater, vide, vulnera mea tibi ostendo. Ergo nunc, omnes homines, genua vestra ad patrem vestrum flectite, ut vobis manum suam porrigat. All 22 In the beginning all creation was verdant, flowers blossomed in the midst of it; but later the greenness withered. And the Champion saw this and said: “This I know, but the golden number is not yet full. You therefore, behold Me, mirror of Your Fatherhood: in My body I am suffering exhaustion, even my little ones faint. Now remember that the fullness which was made in the beginning need not have grown dry, and that then You resolved that Your eye would never falter until You saw My body full of jewels. For it wearies Me that all My limbs are exposed to mockery: Father, behold, I am showing You My wounds.” So now, all you people, bend your knees to the Father, that He may reach you His hand.


One of the earliest-named composers in Western musical history and outspoken in her dealings with princes and popes in mediaeval Europe, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen created the earliest-known opera or music drama, Ordo Virtutum, for the female inmates of her Abbey at Rupertsberg. Recorded and filmed at Waterloo Studios Australia for Circle of Virtue, The Song Company presents a semi-staged performance – directed by Leonie Cambage – of Hildegard’s story of the internal struggle of a Soul battling for her mental well-being with seventeen Virtues on one side and the Devil on the other...


The Benedictine Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), is one of the very earliest composers known to us. As well as her fame as a medieval composer, she was and is renowned as a visionary, prophet (the ‘Sybil of the Rhine’), theologian, preacher scholar, physician, and poet – and was recently declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI. A tireless reformer of the Roman Catholic church, Hildegard tussled fearlessly with aristocrats, archbishops, prelates, popes, and princes, and in her later years travelled across Germany preaching and advocating for change. Having entered the monastery of Disibodenberg as an oblate at the age of eight, she was elected as magistra in 1136, later founding, against considerable opposition, her own convents of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165.

Hildegard’s output as a writer was prodigious, encompassing letters to the rich and powerful seeking action and to others providing advice and consolation, and texts addressing theology, medicine, astrology, and botany. Her musical compositions include seventy-seven songs, the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations) and the Latin sacred drama, Ordo Virtutum, regarded as the earliest surviving ‘morality play’.

Hildegard stated that from childhood, she experienced intense visions in which, through ‘the reflection of the living Light’, she heard the voice of God and saw powerful images revealing God’s message. In 1141, she stated God had instructed her to ‘write down that which you see and hear’. A trio of theological treatises followed over a thirty-year period – Scivias (Know the Ways of God), Liber Vitae Meritorum (Book of Life’s Merits), and Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works). In these treatises, Hildegard describes and interprets her vivid, strange visions in immense detail, and instructs how their insights should be applied to life. Scivias was written between 1141 and 1151; the manuscript produced at Rupertsberg was adorned with illuminations capturing in meticulous detail Hildegard’s descriptions of her visions.


It is in Book Three of Scivias that the text of Ordo Virtutum is found. In the Symphony of the Blessed, the thirteenth and final Vision, Hildegard tells the story of Devil tempting a struggling Soul, and her fall, repentance, and rescue by the Virtues. The Virtues’ exhortations are drawn from Vision Three (The Tower of Anticipation of God’s Will) and Vision Eight (The Pillar of the Word of God).

The play was composed around 1151 and may have been first performed by Hildegard and her community of nuns for the consecration of Rupertsberg convent, with her teacher and scribe Volmar, a Disibodenberg monk, perhaps cast as the Devil. Notwithstanding that Hildegard’s personification of the Virtues as females agrees with earlier models, the play’s subtext of what women can achieve through collaboration, perseverance, and courage would not have not have escaped its audience.

Ordo Virtutum is a powerful blend of poetic texts brimming with the vivid imagery of Hildegard’s visions, monastic restraint in the pace of the narrative, echoes of liturgical ritual, and peaks of musical and emotional intensity conveying that the Soul’s eternal salvation or damnation is at stake.

Music was a powerful weapon in Hildegard’s evangelistic weaponry, and she wields it very deliberately in the play. With the exception of the Devil, the characters sing together and as solo voices in plainchant throughout. During their rescue of the penitent Soul, the Virtues sing:

“Volumus te reducere et nolumus te deserere, et omnis celestis milicia gaudet super te – ergo decet nos in symphonia sonare”
“We want to bring you back – we shall not desert you, the whole host of Heaven will rejoice in you; thus it is right for us to sound our music – to play instruments in harmony.”

Denied singing or harmony of any kind, the Devil must deliver his evil persuasions by speaking or shouting – in this production, his utterances are elaborated with unpitched percussion, tritones (“diabolus in musica”) on the portative organ, and wholesale digital effects.

For this production the music has been transcribed anew from the original notation and rhythmic inflections inferred according to the burgeoning 12th-century system of rhythmic modes – contrasted with a much freer soloistic rhythmic interpretation by some of the main characters in the drama. Humility and three of the other Virtues introduce themselves with their “Ego” statements before the drama begins in a semi-improvised praelocutio. Drones and other harmonic and colouristic effects including “symphonia” – instrumental sounds from the time – have been added in a characteristic blend of moderation and exuberance.


In connecting with Hildegard’s play, its ideas of human vulnerability, forgiveness, healing, and the collaboration of women seemed to resonate most powerfully; diffused from their religious source, these ideas seem more relevant than ever. Equally, the Ordo Virtutum is a work whose author, and her remarkable visions, cannot be separated from its realization. As such, Hildegard’s visions and their illuminations inform the physical world of the play and our own ‘illumination’ of that world.

The vision titled the Trinity in the Unity (as featured on the album cover) in particular underpins the play’s environment, in which concentric circles of silver and gold represent the light of the Father and the flame of the Holy Spirit surrounding the Son of God. In the touring production from the filming of which this recording was made, this illumination is re-envisioned as a three-dimensional mandala, suggesting both the beauty and brilliance of the Palace of the Virtues (a place for contemplation and healing), and a battle ground for fighting the Devil. We play also with the refraction of light, and Hildegard’s use of colour in her imagery – for example, she describes a ‘wondrously bright light’ shining on Discretion’s breast, “...divided into many rays as is the splendour of the sun when it shines through an object’s many openings...”

In the course of the play, colour is in several key objects – the jewels on Humility’s crown and the red of Celestial Love’s flowers and Patience’s crown. The blue of Charity’s skin and tunic, the brilliant red of Faith’s necklace, and the purple of Discipline’s tunic are also enhanced with handheld colour filters and lighting washes.

Through these devices, and through transitions from utter darkness to brilliant light, audiences have experienced Ordo Virtutum immersed in Hildegard’s plainchant and imagery, with voices, sound, light, darkness, and colour conspiring to evoke the extraordinary richness of Hildegard’s visionary world. 


Ordo Virtutum falls into a number of sections that reflect textbook concepts of Latin rhetoric and the idea of an “arrangement” (dispositio) of a classical oration, as outlined by Cicero and others – whether or not these were known to Hildegard is a matter of conjecture, but they are helpful labels for understanding the structural division of the play into introduction (exordium), statement of facts (narratio), outline of the argument (divisio or partitio), proof (confirmatio), refutation of opposing arguments (confutatio), and conclusion (peroratio).

Hildegard on the Soul:

“...fiery globe that had no human lineaments... this human form... changed its colour according to the movement the globe made in that form...”

“...many whirlwinds assailed one of these globes in a body and bowed it down to the ground; but gathering back its strength and bravely raising itself up, it resisted them boldly and said with a groan, ‘A pilgrim, where am I? In the shadow of death...’”

The Soul describes its tabernacle “...of marrow, veins, bones, and flesh... but alas! Its sensibility gives rise to filth, licentiousness, and wantoness of conduct and every kind of vice... but when I think... of the leaden scale of sin, I condemn all those works that burn with carnal desire...”

Hildegard on the Virtues:

“...for each of these virtues is sweet and delightful, never weighing people down or constraining them, but softly instilling into their minds the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom.”

“...not that any virtue is a living form in itself, but a brilliant star given by God that shines forth in human deeds. For humanity is perfected by virtues, which are the deeds of people working in God.”

“...all these figures are uttering their individual speeches through the mystery of God, to admonish humans; for in all the virtues, God’s tenderness sweetly instructs the minds of the people and exhorts them to put aside evil and raise themselves up to good.”

Hildegard on the Devil:

“...Before the end of the world the Devil will perish and the truth be known.”

“A worm, wondrously large and long, which aroused an indescribable sense of horror and rage... black and bristly, covered with ulcers and pustules, and divided into five sections... like stripes... and they were full of deadly poison... eyes bloody... and burning within... ears round and bristly... nose and mouth of a viper, its hands human, its feet a viper’s feet, and its tail short and horrible...”

Hildegard on the Trinity in the Unity:

“...Then I saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the colour of a sapphire, which was all blazing with a gentle glowing fire. And that bright light bathed the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathed the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire poured over the whole human figure, so that the three were one light in one power of potential...”

Notes by Leonie Cambage and Antony Pitts

Scivias quotes from Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback) By: Saint Hildegard, C. Hart (Translator), J. Bishop (Translator), Published: 1st January 1990; ISBN: 9780809131303

Photographs by Christopher Hayles from Circle of Virtue in Cell Block Theatre, National Art School, Sydney, November 2020.


released December 1, 2021


The Soul (Anima)
Roberta Diamond

Humility, The Queen of the Virtues
Jessica O’Donoghue

Victory, and Knowledge of God, Discretion, Patience
Josie Ryan

Hope, and Charity, Fear of God, Obedience, Faith, Modesty, Mercy
Janine Harris

Chastity, and Innocence, Contempt of the World, Celestial Love, Discipleship/Grace of God
Pip Dracakis

Chorus of Souls
Iris Farrer, Ruby Bron, Annie Farrer (Santa Sabina College)

Patriarchs & Prophets
Ethan Taylor, Hayden Barrington

The Devil
Koen van Stade

Antony Pitts

Leonie Cambage – Concept & Design

Neil Simpson – Lighting Consultant

Pip Dracakis – Costume Co-Designer

Sue Carveth – Costume maker (Prophets)

Wendy Walker – Props Designer/Maker (sceptre & crowns)

Sarah Thompson – Lighting & Stage Manager

Hayden Barrington, Ethan Taylor – Stage Lighting

Portative Organ, maker: Ron Sharp – courtesy of Santa Sabina College

Timothy Chung – Artistic Director P-12 Santa Sabina College

Francis Greep – Vocal Coach

Koen van Stade – Language Coach & Assistant Musical Director

Matthew McGuigan (Hospital Hill) – Recording Engineer

Richard Smead – Film Director

Christopher Hayles – Photography

Antony Pitts – Music Editor, Recording Producer, & Musical Director


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The Song Company Sydney, Australia

The Song Company belongs to a land whose first peoples have always used songlines and vocal music to pass knowledge and culture from one generation to another. We bring together Australia’s finest voices in innovative performances, commissioning new music, emerging artist development, educational outreach, and collaborative music-making across art forms. ... more

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