Opening Talk for the New Voices Summer Session

8th May 2024, 4.30pm, Dr. Giulia Guidara: From Body to Soul: Mental Disorders in Hildegard of Bingen’s Cause et cure

On Wednesday May 8th, at 4.30 pm we are pleased to hear Dr. Giulia Guidara on From Body to Soul: Mental Disorders in Hildegard of Bingen’s Cause et cure

The Cause et cure of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is both a cosmological text and a medical handbook. This double aspects, so to speak, of the work is not surprising: in medieval Europe human beings and nature are deeply interconnected. As the title Cause et cure suggests, most of the work focuses on the causes and natural treatment of several diseases. Hildegard’s idea of disease is very different from the present one: sickness always derives from a physiological change of the body. The reference framework is the humoral theory, according to which the four humors, or bodily fluids, (i.e. blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) affect temperament, physical qualities and health. However, some diseases described in the Cause et cure mainly affect mood and behaviour and, in this regard, they can be assimilated to the modern concept of mental disorders. Indeed, the DSM-5 of the American Psychiatric Association (that is the reference book for mental health and brain-related conditions) defines mental disorder as a behavioural or psychological syndrome or pattern, which is characterized by an important disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behaviour. My lecture will analyse the passages of Cause et cure devoted to diseases that affect mood and behaviour, with a special focus on their causes and their possible treatment. This allows to highlight both Hildegard’s ideas on the relationship between soul and body, and medieval concept of mental illness.

This Summer Term Talk Series 2024 is organised by  Dr. Jil Muller, Deputy of the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists,  in cooperation with Dr. Fabrizio Bigotti, director of the Center for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

To register and to receive the zoom invitation, please send an email to

Back to top  

You cannot copy content of this page