Monday, March 25, 2013
Héloise and Abélard
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...