Throughout history, certain people have had a great impact on the world around them, an impact that affects events hundreds of years in the future. Often, these people are remembered by their accomplishments and are praised for their unparalleled success. Two such people, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Hildegard of Bingen, were particularly significant during the Middle Ages.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, granddaughter of William IX of Aquitaine, was greatly important to the people of her time. At a young age, she showed great intelligence, will, and love for the arts. "Unlike most of her contemporaries, male and especially female, Eleanor was carefully educated and she was an excellent student." (Joan, www.xs4all.nl/~kvenjb/favour.htm) At fifteen, Eleanor was married to Louis VII of France. Soon, Louis became King and Eleanor was put into a position of power. However, soon after their return from the Second Crusade, their marriage ended on the premise that they were related. Eight weeks after she was divorced, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet of Normandy. This marriage combined two of the largest kingdoms in Europe, giving Eleanor more power than ever. It was in this time that the majority of Eleanor's accomplishments were achieved. First, she wielded power from Henry to make small changes in laws that favored women. Later, she moved her court to the French city of Poitiers. Here, Eleanor created a haven for artists, musicians, poets, and the great minds of the time. She especially encouraged intelligent women to use their talents, even sponsoring the education of several young girls. Also, in a time when travel-especially for women-was rarely done, Eleanor of Aquitaine was constantly running from one end of Europe to another (Reese, http://home.earthlink.net/~womenwhist/EofAreturns.html). At eighty-two, Eleanor died in 1204. She left behind her two kings, two queens, and a legacy in education and the arts that would endure for many years to come. In all, Eleanor of Aquitaine was a revolutionary for her time, a nonconformist who caused the world around her to realize that change was in order.
Another revolutionary, Hildegard of Bingen, made her mark in the Christian Church. From a very young age, Hildegard supposedly had visions of light coming through trees, but it was not until her vision of God in 1141 that she gained understanding of what Christian life should be. Also, Hildegard had a great appreciation for music and composed many chants, hymns, and even an entire score for her own play. Already closely tied to the Church, Hildegard had little trouble gaining recognition for her visions and music. Soon, she was, "…recognized as Germany's leading visionary and mystic…her music…played and sung in all the best choirs." (Cantor 88) If that were not enough, Hildegard also wrote several philosophic books. Some dealt with interpreting the Bible, while others called the people to action against corrupt Church officials. Hildegard was a feminist, and against the way the Church was run. However, she believed that the frequent schisms of Christendom were bad, and that all should heed the power of the Pope. Also, Hildegard had a very naturalist way of looking at health. She believed in the four elements- fire, air, water, and earth-with their complementary qualities of heat, dryness, moisture, and cold, and the corresponding four humors in the body-choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile)(Lerman tweedledee.ucsb.edu/~kris/music/Hildegard.html). She taught others about the healing powers of herbs and the positive effects of meditation and incense on the body. In these ways, Hildegard of Bingen became a very notable woman who would be remembered for centuries to come.
Both women of greatness and great importance, Hildegard of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitiane were unusually strong-willed and intelligent. Their creativity and desire to help others while improving the world around them led them to encourage of the arts and advance women's rights or to compose music and write philosophical works. Both women were, undeniably, quite significant in the Middle Ages and should be respected as much now as they were in their own time.