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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Peter Abelard

French scholastic philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was the master of the cathedral school, where he found himself falling in love with Héloïse, a pupil of his, who was 20 years his junior. They married covertly but their secret was discovered after the birth of a son and Héloïse's uncle sent her away to a nunnery and had the unfortunate Abelard castrated. Their story was sung by the Medieval minstrels and troubadours of the Middle Ages.

Abelard was later recognized as one of the major Christian thinkers of his day. His scholastic text, Sic Et Non (Yes And No), which discussed the relationship between faith and reason, was read by learned men throughout western Europe, and his lectures attracted crowds of students.

Peter Abelard spent his final months at the priory of St. Marcel, near Chalon-sur-Saône. He passed away from a combination of fever and a skin disorder, most likely scurvy on April 21, 1142. He is said to have uttered the last words "I don't know", before expiring.

Statue of Abelard at Louvre Palace in Paris by Jules Cavelier

It was Josephine Bonaparte, so moved by their story, who in 1817 ordered that the remains of Abelard and Héloïse be entombed together at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

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