Hrotsvitha: Raising a mighty voice

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Likely born an aristocrat between 940 and 950, Hrotsvitha entered the convent of Gandersheim at a young age. The convent was known for its asceticism and for its pursuit of knowledge. The young woman’s talents were nurtured by teachers at the convent, especially Gerberg, a niece of Otto I, who helped her develop her muse.

That imagination and talent led Hrotsvitha to be regarded as the first German woman poet.

Her works, however, were lost for centuries following her death in about 1002. Poet laureate Conrad Celtes found them in a monastery, and they were published in 1501.

Though she wrote poems and legends taken from Biblical and Latin sources, her plays gathered the most attention, written as they were as an alternative to the works of Terence, a Roman comedic playwright. She explained her reason for writing the plays.

There are many catholics, from whom we can not be excluded, who prefer the vanity of gentile [pagan] books for the eloquence of their cultured speech to the utility of sacred scriptures. There are others who adhere to the sacred pages and scorn other works of the gentiles but nonetheless frequently read the fictions of Terence and, while they take delight in the sweetness of his speech, they are tainted by acquaintance with impious things. That is why I, the Strong Shout of Gandersheim, have not refused to imitate him in composing whom others revere in reading.

Hrotsvitha’s name has been interpreted as clamor validus, which has been translated as “the mighty voice” in English. She’s also been called the “Nightingale of Gandersheim.” She raised that mighty voice in her writing which served to draw her audience to the higher concepts of virtue rather than the pagan themes of secular drama.

As a writer, I think about what ideas, values and concepts I leave with my reader. In my day job, do I write stories that inform the public and offer information that fairly depicts both sides of an issue? When I write a blog post, do I offer thoughts and questions that will make the reader think more deeply whether I am writing about faith, books or the great outdoors? Do my social media posts lift people up instead of dragging them through the muck of the medium?

In short, what can we do to help other stop think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely or whatever is admirable?


This is the fifth post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.

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