Monday, March 25, 2013

Héloise and Abélard

Through this book, some of my favorite Paris moments were possible.  On my last day, it led me to the site of "one of the greatest love stories of all time, that of Héloise and Abélard" at # 9 Quai aux Fleurs.

The author, Leonard Pitt, told the story better than I could so, again, I quote:
"In the early 1100s Canon Fulbert lived on this spot with his niece Héloise, age seventeen.  In 1118, the canon took in Abélard, age thirty-nine, to instruct young Héloise.  The tutor was handsome and talented, a poet and musician educated in rhetoric and dialectic.  Love between the student and teacher ensued.  By the end of the year, Héloise delivered a baby.  The canon, furious, had Abélard apprehended and - gulp! - castrated.

The two were separated.  Héloise took up life in a convent, while Abélard went to a monastery.  Their love endured for years through a correspondence that rings as fresh today as it did in the 12th Century.  When Abélard died at age sixty-three in 1142, Héloise had his body secretly transported and interred at her convent in Paraclet.  She died in 1164, also at age sixty-three.  The two lovers were placed in the same coffin and from there began a circuitous voyage.

About three hundred years later, with the convent in ruins, their coffin was moved to a church in Petit Moustiers.  In 1630, a well-intentioned yet misguided hand separated their remains into different coffins and re-interred them in a small chapel at a distance from each other.  In 1792, the bodies were placed in the same coffin, but were separated by a lead partition and take to a church in Nogent-sur-Seine outside of Paris.

In 1800, their coffin and monument were transported to Paris, to the Museum of French Monuments, where they were first buried in a garden then moved to a courtyard.  In 1817, the museum closed and they were moved for a short time to Church of Saint-Germain des Prés and then finally to
Pére-Lachaise cemetery;  where they reside today and hopefully forever after."

My favorite line:  "Their love endured for years through a correspondence that rings as fresh today as it did in the 12th Century."  Is that not a beautiful concept?  I do love letters.  Like everything else, they're are available online...

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