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Extended Audio Sample Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, by Mary Sharratt Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (537 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mary Sharratt Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt's redemptive novel, Illuminations, brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Tavia Gilbert delicately voices von Bingen, maturing the character appropriately as the listener follows her from childhood into old age. Jutta von Sponheim…is graced with hushed, ethereal tones, while Volmar, the young monk hopelessly in love with Jutta, has warm, deep inflections that reflect the good soul he truly is. Seamless shifts in tone along with exhaustive research into the correct pronunciation of obscure German names and places elevate the literary experience as only great audio can. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • [A] gripping story. Publishers Weekly
  • “Masterful.”

    Saint Paul Pioneer Press

  • “One could not anticipate this majesty and drama…Riveting…Von Bingen…emerge[s] as one of the significant voices of the twelfth century…Unforgettable.”

    January Magazine

  • “Though confined primarily to the abbey and peopled by a small cast, Sharratt’s gripping story…is primarily about relationships forged under pressure.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Psychological insight, passages of moving spirituality, and abundant historical detail—from straw bedding and hairshirts to turtle soup and wooden dolls—make this a memorable addition to the genre of medieval historical fiction.”


  • “Sharratt brings the elusive Hildegard to vivid life, underscoring her ability to evade or transcend Church censure while espousing a proto-feminist agenda.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jen | 2/16/2014

    " I really liked this book. It was fascinating to learn how some young girls were walled into a life within a monastery. I liked the first part of the book better than the last part and I thought her visions were a little weird but as I looked at the back of the book and saw the research that went into the book I appreciated that. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Alison | 2/12/2014

    " A nice way into the life of Hildegard. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Pam | 2/12/2014

    " I really enjoyed this historical fiction novel about the real life 12th century Benedictine nun, Hildegard von Bingen. I've always been interested in medieval history, and getting a glimpse into the life of Hildegard and her contemporaries was fascinating. Hildegard herself was a very accomplished woman, especially for her time. She was a composer, herbalist and visionary and an extremely independent thinker. In 1170, at the age of 71, she famously stood up to the corruption in the Church on the steps of Cologne Cathedral, at great risk to her life. An interesting read about a fascinating woman. 4 stars - I really liked it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kelly | 1/24/2014

    " I fully admit to having no knowledge whatsoever about how much of this novel is historically accurate, but I would probably read a shoebox if someone told me that it was about Hildegard. I think she is a fascinating visionary that has left us some of the most beautiful vocal music you will ever hear. So, I am confessing to being a sucker for the subject matter. The writing was fine, and the author dug through some interesting sources in producing this novel. Worth a look, if you like medieval music, history, or art. If you don't find these things particularly interesting, the storyline is not especially rollicking and so this might not be for you. "

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