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Old house of Abelard and Heloise, photo by Tomislav Šola.
Old house of Abelard and Heloise, photo by Tomislav Šola.
Old house of Abelard and Heloise, photo by Tomislav Šola.
Heloise (illustration)
Abelard and Heloise, Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
Farewell of Abelard and Héloise, Angelica Kauffman, 1780.
Tomb of Abélard and Héloïse, photo by Patrick T. Power.

 

 

Heloise, the niece of Notre Dame’s Canon Fulbert, was a bright girl that lived in 12th century Paris. Her family decided to give her the best possible education, which meant that Abelard, a famous scholar at that time, was engaged to be her tutor. Teacher and pupil soon found themselves so deeply in love that neither could resist the spiritual and physical cravings for one another. They knew that the law forbade such a relationship, but their passion was too strong to resist. Heloise soon became pregnant, and it was not safe for her to remain in Paris. So they fled to Brittany, Abelard’s place of birth. In a scheme to protect the dignity of his fallen niece, Canon Fulbert arranged a secret marriage between Heloise and Abelard. Shortly after the two lovers were wed, they discovered Fulbert’s plan to ruin Abelard and keep Heloise for himself. Heloise again had to escape, this time to the convent at Argenteuil, but it was too late for Abelard and he got caught in Paris.
As a result of this tragedy and humiliating punishment of castration inflicted upon him by Canon Fulbert, Abelard felt he shouldn’t continue his former life. Heloise and Abelard finally agreed to take Holy Orders as Monk and Nun. Heloise had to give up her child, knowing that she would never see him again. The lovers wrote to each other for twenty years, and in spite of their separation remained deeply in love. Heloise and Abelard briefly saw each other at a ceremony in Paris and though they had been apart for years, they realized that their love still burned as strongly as ever. They never met again afterwards. Six hundred years later, Josephine Bonaparte, moved by their story, ordered that their remains be entombed together at Pére Lachaise. To this day, people from all over the world visit the tomb where the two lovers rest eternally together.