To the left from the reception area one can walk toward St. Hildegard, an elaborately decorated building along the mannerist and Beaux Art influence, with its unconventional use of classical elements and asymmetrical layout. Built by Cesar H. Concio and inaugurated in 1938 in ceremonies graced by Vice President Sergio Osmeña, it houses the grand Social Hall made distinct by the huge columns and arches. This is probably the grandest-looking spot in the entire campus. The inauguration of St. Hildergard on June 25, 1938 was featured in four newspapers, The Philippines Herald, The Tribune, La Vanguardia and The Builders.
Hildegard of Bingen, the German Benedictine saint after whom the building was named, was a mystic, preacher, scholar, poet, composer, writer and environmentalist who lived in the 12th century. Today she would be considered an eco-feminist.
The front and back entrances to the social hall are also marked by massive arches – in sets of three – richly decorated with flower, zigzag and vitruvian scroll designs, statuettes and emblems. Slightly above the front and back arches are balconies that jut out. Heavy wooden doors open to the front driveway on one side and to the schoolyard on the other. The floor tiles form symbolic designs, among them, the Benedictine cross and the ubiquitous PAX.
On the façade of this building are the bas reliefs of St. Scholastica and St. Hildegard and on the building where the classrooms are located are those of St. Clodesindis and St. Withburga (namesakes of then Mother Prioress Clondesindis Leuken and pre-war dean Sr. Withburga Kilger).
On the ground floor of St. Hildegard are offices, and what used to be students’ dormitories on the second and third floors are now classrooms.
The arches of St. Hildegard have given the school its very distinctive look and have been replicated at the new St. Scholastica’s College-Westgrove in Laguna.
St. Hildegard also has graceful staircases leading to a roof garden and tall square towers on both sides similar to those in the chapel. The towers have long vertical windows that provide height and symmetry to the building.
A word about the arches. The decorations on the school’s many arches channel rainwater to the columns so that they are washed and give an interesting visual show of water flowing down the capitals which serve as the base of the arches, as rain would fall on vegetation.
Meant to Inspire
As building inhabitants tent to take their spaces for granted, the poetic intents and purposes are often ignored or lost. However, while it is people who shape buildings, buildings too, ever so subtly, shape the people who use them. The choice of architecture for the entire school was therefore an inspired one.
The grand architecture, so rich in artistic detail; the quiet, almost monastic ambience in some parts, the high ceilings and wide corridors, were meant to inspire discipline, a sense of order, prayerfulness, strength of character and inner peace. Add to these a sense of loyalty and independence of the mind that Benedictine education has imparted for a hundred years.
Beauty begets beauty. We cannot read the mind of the decision makers in 1914, but the effect is there.