vox inauditae melodiae

Latin for "the voice of the unheard melody."

Hildegard of Bingen is by some considered a saint of the Catholic church (though she was never officially canonized), a 12th century abbess (though she was never officially recognized as such by her archdiocese), and a medical writer, philosopher, and composer who from a very young age, experienced divine visions (which may or may not have been migraines). She was tithed to a German nunnery at the slender age of eight.

She invented her own language, wrote a variety of medical and botanical treatises, and created a large body of music, much of which is extant and performed today. Occasionally some lyrics are written in this lingua ignota (unknown language), the alphabet of which is totally freaky looking. It is written for mostly females (because, in the nunnery, who else would perform it?) and the occasional male role (often playing the devil). Many of the words sung in the songs using the lingua ignota remain untranslated today. When choirs perform these songs, they don't know what they are singing, except that the words are derived from eight hundred year old visions from God.

How cool is that?

The first time I heard the music performed, I knew it belonged to my story. Listen to yourself to the song entitled: "O Virtus Sapientiae" (O, strength of Wisdom). It's a little like Gregorian chant...if Gregorian chant were ecstatic and feminine.

I know, I know, what does contemporary urban fantasy have to do with 12th century German nuns? Man, I hope this thing holds together.


Kalayna-Nicole Price said...

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the music performed before, but I never knew the history.

I’ll admit, I’m intrigued about your story and how everything ties in…

Anonymous said...


I apologize, but as far as I know, the lyrics for O Virtus Sapientae are in plain Latin not including any instance of Hildegard's Lingua Ignota. You can check the lyrics at ChoralWiki. Please provide the alternate lyrics and source if I'm not right.

Cheers from Spain,