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Peter Abelard
Birth: 1079
Le Pallet
Departement de la Loire-Atlantique
Pays de la Loire, France
Death: Apr. 21, 1142
Departement de Saône-et-Loire
Bourgogne, France

Religious Figure. His extensive correspondence with Heloise shed light on medieval French beliefs in romance, philosophy, and social mores. Born Peter le Pallet in the village of Pallet, about ten miles east of Nantes, in Brittany, France, he was the oldest son of a minor noble Breton family. His father encouraged him to study liberal arts and he excelled in philosophy, which at that time, consisted mostly of the logic of Aristotle and taught in Latin. Although he was encouraged to enter the military, as was expected of French nobility, he chose an academic career instead. In pursuit of his academic study, he wandered about France, and was taught by the famed Roscellinus of Compiegne, France. While still in his teens, he entered Paris, and continued his education at the cathedral school of Notre-Dame. It was here that he changed his surname from Pallet to Abelard. As a philosopher, he soon mastered the best of the philosophical arguments, and over a period of several years, his theory of Conceptualism (also called Nominalism) replaced the then prevailing theory of Realism. At the age of 22, he set up a school to teach his version of philosophy, quickly becoming noted throughout France. In 1108, he challenged his former instructor, William, and Abelard was considered victorious in the debates, with his philosophy winning new adherents. In 1115, he took over the chair of Dean of Philosophy at Notre Dame, and reached the height of his career. He first met Heloise when she was sent to his philosophy school at the age of 13. He would later write of her, "A gift of letters is so rare in women that it added greatly to her charm and had won her renown throughout the realm." They did not become lovers until nearly three years later, when she was 16, and eventually Heloise bore him a son, whom she named Astrolabius. Abelard then had Heloise sent to the convent of Argenteuil, where he secretly married her. Heloise's uncle and legal guardian, Fulbert, ordered some of his friends to revenge her loss of honor by having him forcibly castrated. After he was castrated, Abelard became a monk, to hide the shame of the attack, since monks were supposed to be chaste. In 1129, when Abelard's order took possession of the Argenteuil convent where Heloise was a nun and evicted all of the nuns, Abelard arranged for her transfer to the Oratory of the Paraclete in the Champagne area of France, where two years later, Heloise became the Abbess. After an absence of ten years, the two met again, and decided to write to each other, exchanging letters over several years, in which they discussed love, romance, philosophy, politics, and the goings on of Parisian social life. Eventually, Abelard confessed in one of his letters that he never loved Heloise, but only lusted after her, and that he considered their relationship a sin against God. After that admission, all of their correspondence addressed professional and theological subjects rather than romantic love. Several of their letters were later published in the book "Problemata Heloissae" (Heloise's Problems) in which she asks 42 questions of Abelard, and he replies to each of them. In 1141, when Abelard's teachings were condemned by the French Catholic Church, Abelard decided to travel to Rome to appeal to the Pope. Shortly after his arrival in Rome, he became ill and died the following year. Upon his death, his body was returned to Paraclete, France for burial. Heloise continued to serve as abbess at the Paraclete for twenty additional years, until her own death. Their story inspired the poem, "The Convent Threshold" by Victorian English poet Christina Rossetti, and another poem, "Eloisa to Abelard" by Alexander Pope, as well as the movie "Stealing Heaven" (1988). Although the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is believed to be the most likely resting place of the two lovers, their final burial spot remains in dispute, with the Oratory of the Paraclete also claiming to be their final resting place. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) 
Family links: 
  Héloïse d'Argenteuil (1101 - 1164)
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
City of Paris
Île-de-France, France
Plot: Division 7, #1
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1635
Peter Abelard
Added by: William Bjornstad
Peter Abelard
Added by: Mary McBain
Peter Abelard
Added by: Mary McBain
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