PETER & HELOISE: WE’LL HAVE THE QUIZ TOMORROW! ASSIGNMENT: PETER LOMBARD by Pope B16
Héloïse d'Argenteuil Born 1090/1100? – died May 16, 1164 was a French nun, writer, scholar, and abbess, best known for her love affair and correspondence with Peter Abélard. was a brilliant scholar of Latin, Greek and Hebrew She had a reputation for intelligence and insight. Abélard writes that she was, "most renowned" for her gift in reading and writing. Not a great deal is known of her immediate family except that in her letters she implies she is of a lower social standing (probably the Garlande family, who had money and several members in strong positions) than was Abélard. What is known is that she was the ward of an uncle, a canon in Paris named Fulbert. Some writers say, that she was his natural daughter; but that, to prevent a public scandal, he told everyone that she was his niece by his sister, who upon her death- bed had charged him with her education. In one letter to Abelard she said that she was from a poor family and that he married beneath his state when he married her. She was renowned throughout Western Europe for her scholarship. By the time she became the student of Pierre Abélard (Peter Abelard), who was one of the most popular teachers and philosophers in Paris, she was already a reputed scholar. She was eighteen and he was in his late 20’s when they met. Educated by Abelard in medicine and other traditional subjects taught in higher- education at the time, Heloise gained quite a reputation as a physician in her role as abbess of Paraclete.
Peter Abélard Born in 1079 – died April 21, 1142 in Brittany (Northwest of France) A medieval French scholastic philosopher, theologian and preeminent logician. Known to be a sharp thinker and boldest theologian of the 12th Century He was also a musical composer. His father, a wealthy lord called Berengar, encouraged Pierre to study the liberal arts, wherein he excelled at the art of dialectic (a branch of philosophy using a specific method of argument), which, at that time, consisted chiefly of the logic of Aristotle transmitted through Latin channels. Instead of entering a military career, as his father had done, Abelard became an academic. During his early academic pursuits, Abelard wandered throughout France, debating and learning, so as (in his own words) "he became such an one as the Peripatetics.“ (Peripatetic = The Peripatetic school was a school of philosophy in Ancient Greece founded by Aristotle.)
Peter was intelligent, argumentative, bold and proud. He opened his own schools and was easily disgusted by the teachings of others at the time (remember your homework reading!) Distinguished in figure and manners, Abélard was seen surrounded by crowds – it is said thousands of students – drawn from all countries by the fame of his teaching. Enriched by the offerings of his pupils, and entertained with universal admiration, he came, as he says, to think himself the only undefeated philosopher in the world. But a change in his fortunes was at hand.
Around 1100, Abelard's travels finally brought him to Paris. In the great cathedral school of Notre- Dame de Paris (before the current cathedral was actually built), he was taught for a while by William of Champeaux, the disciple of Anselm of Laon (not to be confused with Saint Anselm) a leading proponent of Realism. Retrospectively, Abelard portrays William as having turned from approval to hostility when Abelard proved soon able to defeat the master in argument; Abelard was, however, closer to William's thought than this account suggests. It was during this time that he would provoke quarrels with both William and Roscellinus. Against opposition from the metropolitan teacher, Abelard set up his own school, first at Melun, a favoured royal residence, then, around 1102-4, for more direct competition, he moved to Corbeil, nearer Paris. His teaching was notably successful, though for a time he had to give it up and spend time in Brittany, the strain proving too great for his constitution. On his return, after 1108, he found William lecturing at the hermitage of Saint-Victor, just outside the Ile-de-la-Cite, and there they once again became rivals, with Abelard challenging William over his theory of universals. Abelard was once more victorious, and Abelard was almost able to hold the position of master at Notre Dame. For a short time, however, William was able to prevent Abelard from lecturing in Paris. Abelard accordingly was forced to resume his school at Melun, which he was then able to move, from c1110-12, to Paris itself, on the heights of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, overlooking Notre-Dame. From his success in dialectic, he next turned to theology and in 1113 moved to Laon to attend the lectures of Anselm on biblical exegesis and Christian doctrine. Unimpressed by Anselm's teaching, Abelard began to offer his own lectures on the Book of Ezekiel. Anselm forbade him to continue this teaching, and Abelard returned to Paris where, in around 1115, he became master of Notre Dame and a canon of Sens (the cathedral of the archdiocese to which Paris belonged).
Peter & Héloïse Living within the precincts of Notre-Dame, under the care of her uncle, the secular canon Fulbert, was Héloïse. She was remarkable for her knowledge of classical letters, which extended beyond Latin to Greek and Hebrew. Abélard sought a place in Fulbert's house, and then in 1115 or 1116 began an affair with Héloïse. The affair interfered with his career, and Abélard himself boasted of his conquest. Once Fulbert found out, he separated them, but they continued to meet in secret. Héloïse became pregnant and was sent by Abélard to be looked after by his family in Brittany, where she gave birth to a son whom she named Astrolabe after the scientific instrument.
To appease Fulbert, Abélard proposed a secret marriage so as not to mar his career prospects. Héloïse initially opposed it, but the couple were married. When Fulbert publicly disclosed the marriage, and Héloïse denied it, Abelard sent Héloïse to the convent at Argenteuil, where she had been brought up, in order to protect her from her uncle. Heloise dressed as a nun and shared the nun's life, though she was not veiled. Abelard would often sneak into her convent to be with her. Fulbert, most probably believing that Abélard wanted to be rid of Héloïse by forcing her to become a nun, arranged for a band of men to break into Abelard's room one night and castrate him.
Abelard, ashamed by what had happened, decided to become a monk and hide from the world in the monastery of St Denis, near Paris. Before doing so he insisted that Heloise take vows as a nun. Héloïse sent letters to Abélard, questioning why she must submit to a religious life for which she had no calling. It was Peter’s jealousy that forced Heloise to take monastic vows before he did. She became a nun at 22 years of age. Life at the monastery did not work well for Abelard, who was disgusted by the “loose life” of the monks there. He left and started a school in Champaign. His popularity as a teacher drew students from all over the world. Envious fellow teachers falsely accused Peter of heresy. He was condemned at a council with the archbishop without being given the chance to defend himself. He was condemned to “home imprisonment’ in a monastery and was no longer allowed to write. He wrote that this was a greater suffering for him than was his castration.
Peter returned to St. Denis where he was hated by many of the monks. After stirring up problems once again at St. Denis he fled to another monastery, where again he ran into troubles because he was outspoken against monks who where not true to their monastic vows. Finally he resolved to found a new society, consisting chiefly of monks. To this purpose he chose a solitude in the diocese of Troies, and upon some desert ground which was given by permission of the Bishop, he built a little house and a chapel, which he dedicated to the most Holy Trinity. Scholars from around the world sought him out. They came to live with him, they built little huts, and they paid Peter well for his lectures. The scholars were content to live on herbs, and roots, and water, that they might have the advantage of learning from so extraordinary a man; and with great zeal they enlarged the chapel building and built their professor's house with wood and stone.
Upon this occasion Abelard, to continue the memory of the comfort he had received in this at this place, dedicated his new built chapel to the Holy Ghost, by the name of the Paraclete, or Comforter. The envy of other teachers, which had long since persecuted him, was strangely revived, upon seeing so many scholars flock to him from all parts, notwithstanding the inconvenience of the place, and in contempt of the masters who might so commodiously be found in the towns and cities. The gossip and cruelty of these men overwhelmed Peter and even made him consider leaving his faith. However, he moved and was elected an abbot at a new monastery in the diocese of Vannes. Again, at this new monastery Peter was appalled by the dissolute life of the monks (who had mistresses and children.) When Peter spoke out against these abuses, the monks tried to poison his food. When that didn’t work, they tried to poison him by putting poison in the Sacred Chalice at Communion. Meanwhile, Heloise, as abbess of her monastery, was in trouble. Her nuns were also living dissolute lives. The abbey of St. Denis banished these sisters from their Monastery and took it over themselves.
Heloise petitioned her husband for help. Peter, by permission of the Bishop Troies, gave her the house and chapel of the Paraclete, where she founded a new monastery. As the new abbess, Heloise was very popular with the sisters and the people. After Abelard had settled Heloise here, he made frequent journeys from Britany to Champaign, to take care of the interest of this rising house, and to ease himself from the vexations of his own abbey. People gossiped that Abelard still was in love with Heloise. He mocked them saying that even the most jealous husband entrusts his wife to a eunuch. Heloise still pined for Peter. This began the series of letters between the two which we have today. Finally, he begged Heloise to “let him go” from her heart and accept their separation. He admonished her to follow Christ as her spouse.
The Letters They were originally written in Latin, and are extant in a Collection of the Works of Abelard, printed at Paris in the year 1616. After Peter was castrated, he was perpetually involved in sorrow and distress, and in vain sought for ease and quiet in a monastic life. The Letters between Peter and his beloved Heloise were not written till long after their marriage and separation, and when each of them was dedicated to a life of religion.
Their Last Days Peter retired to a monastery for ten years, where once again he was accused of heresy. Again, he was not able to defend himself and he was condemned to never teach or write again. All of his writings were to be burnt. However, the Abbot of Clugni petitioned the Pope to allow Peter to join his monastery. Here Peter lived about the remainder of his days. Peter died there at age 63. His corpse was sent to the chapel of Paraclete, to Heloise so that she might bury it there. Heloise outlived Peter by 20 years, and grew to be a very devout religious, and a great teacher of languages. She died May 17 th, 1163. “'Tis said she desired to be buried in the same tomb with her Abelard, though that probably was not executed. Francis d’Amboise says, he saw at the convent the tombs of the founder and foundress near together. However a manuscript of Tours gives us an account of an extraordinary miracle which happened when Abelard’s grave was opened for Heloise’s body, namely that Abelard stretched out his arms to receive her, and embraced her closely, though there were twenty good years passed since he died.”
The Tombs of Peter and Heloise in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.
Selection from Alexander Pope’s Poem: POPE'S 'ELOÏSA TO ABELARD' See in her cell sad Eloïsa spread, Propt on some tomb, a neighbour of the dead. In each low wind methinks a Spirit calls, And more than Echoes talk along the walls. Here, as I watch’d the dying lamps around, From yonder shrine I heard a hollow sound. 'Come, sister, come!' (it said, or seem’d to say) 'Thy place is here, sad sister, come away! Once like thyself, I trembled, wept, and pray’d, Love's victim then, tho’ now a sainted maid: But all is calm in this eternal sleep; Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep, Ev’n superstition loses ev’ry fear: For God, not man, absolves our frailties here.'
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