Viriditas (Latin, literally "greenness," formerly translated as "viridity"[1]) is a word particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen, although it was used by earlier writers, particularly Gregory the Great. It was also used by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson with a somewhat differing meaning.

Use in earlier writers

"Viriditas" appears several times in Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job, to refer to the spiritual health to which Job aspires. Augustine uses the term exactly once in City of God, to describe mutability. In a collection of over a hundred 12th-century love letters between a teacher and his student with whom he was in love, the term was used three times from the woman and not at all from the man.[2]

Use by Hildegard von Bingen

Viriditas is one of Hildegard's guiding images, used constantly in all of her works. It has been suggested that the lushness of the imagery is possibly due to the lushness of her surroundings at Disibodenberg. Her extensive use of the term can be frustrating in its diversity of uses.[3]

In Scivias, Hildegard focused foremost on viriditas as an attribute of the divine nature.[4] In her works it has been translated in various ways, such as freshness, vitality, fertility, fecundity, fruitfulness, verdure, or growth. In Hildegard's understanding, it is a metaphor for spiritual and physical health, which is visible in the divine word.[2]

Use by Kim Stanley Robinson

The science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson used it nontheologically to mean "the green force of life, expanding into the Universe."

"Look at the pattern this seashell makes. The dappled whorl, curving inward to infinity. That's the shape of the universe itself. There's a constant pressure, pushing toward pattern. A tendency in matter to evolve into ever more complex forms. It's a kind of pattern gravity, a holy greening power we call viriditas, and it is the driving force in the cosmos. Life, you see."[5]


  1. Constant Mews, in Newman, 211, note 24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Constant Mews, "Religious Thinker", in Newman, 58.
  3. King-Lenzmeier, 6-7.
  4. Mews, 57.
  5. Robinson. Green Mars. Spectra, 1994, page 9.


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