Short address of this page:
    Héloïse, the eternal lover of Abélard
    - and her mother Hersende de Champigné -

    1. Introduction: the tumultuous life of Heloise of Argenteuil
    2. Images from the life of Heloise.
    3. Uncertainty about the identity of Heloise's father
    4. Hersende de Champigné, Héloïse's most likely mother / Summary
    5. Hersende's parents, their descendants and ancestors / Summary
    6. Héloïse's two stays at Notre-Dame d'Argenteuil
    7. The short youthful letters of Heloise and Abelard
    8. The Abbey of Paraclet founded by Abelard and Heloise
    9. Heloise as seen by Abelard in "Histoire de mes malheurs"
    10. Heloise's love for Abelard (excerpts)
    11. Heloise and Abelard's long middle-aged letters (summaries)
    12. Heloise and Abelard in Their Time and Beyond / Summary
    13. Abelius' doubt, the couple's lust, their actuality / Summary
    14. Images of Heloise and Abelard through the centuries
    15. The Mausoleum of Heloise and Abelard
    16. Appendix: Loose Images (on adjacent page)

    Summary of the Letters of Heloise and Abelard
    • 113 short early letters from Heloise and Abelard: chapter 7
    • 8 long letters exchanged: chapters 9 (letter #1), 10 (excerpts), 11 (summaries)
      • Letter #1. Letter from Abelard to a friend, "History of my misfortunes": chapter 9.
      • Letter #2. Letter #1 from Heloise to Abelard: excerpts, summary
      • Letter #3. Letter #1 from Abelard to Heloise: extracts, summary
      • Letter #4. Letter #2 from Heloise to Abelard: extracts, summary
      • Letter #5. Letter #2 from Abelard to Heloise: extracts, summary
      • Letter #6. Letter #3 from Heloise to Abelard: extracts, summary
      • Letter #7. Letter #3 from Abelard to Heloise: summary.
      • Letter #8. Letter #4 from Abelard to Heloise: abstract
    • 2 short letters (5 and 6) from Abelard to Heloise (#9 and #10): excerpts (end of chapter 10)
    Complete long letters in pdf format: Wikisource version

    Subchapter summary

    Chapter 4 - Hersende de Champigné, the very likely mother of Heloise
    1. My research from May 2015
    2. Werner Robl's 2002 research
    3. Hersende, of the Champigné lineage
    4. The life and work of Hersende de Champigné
    5. Did Heloise want to surpass the model of her mother Hersende?
    6. Consolidation of the Hersende hypothesis
    7. The powerful support of Queen Bertrade de Montfort
    8. Fulbert, brother (or half-brother) of Hersende
    9. Hersende and Raingarde, the mother of Peter the Venerable
    10. From Fontevraud to the Paraclete, from Robert d'Arbrissel to Abelard
    11. Perspectives and Summary
    12. Could Robert d'Arbrissel be the father of Heloise?
    13. Hersende's two husbands and two children

    Chapter 5 - Hersende's parents, their descendants and ancestors
    1. Héloïse, a family name
    2. The children of Hubert III de Champigné, the father of Hersende
    3. The children of Agnes de Clairvaux, Hersende's mother
    4. The ancestry of Hubert III de Champigné
    5. Héloïse de Pithiviers, a prominent figure in Hersende's ancestry
    6. Agnès de Clairvaux's ancestry
    7. Which distant cousins supported Heloise
    8. The self-serving support of Thibaut of Blois/Champagne.

    Chapter 12 - Heloise and Abelard in their time and beyond
    1. Chronology of the Life of Abelard
    2. Chronology of the Life of Heloise
    3. Abelard and Heloise, individualists and loners
    4. The guardian angels Thibaut of Champagne and Peter the Venerable
    5. The Ayatollah Bernard of Clairvaux, controversies and opinions
    6. Roscelin of Compiègne's insulting letter to Abelard
    7. Abelard and his students, from St. Genevieve's Hill to the banks of the Ardusson
    8. Abelard, from Brittany to Burgundy by way of Paris
    9. Abelard a castrated monk, Heloise a young nun: what relationship?
    10. The life of Astralabe, son of Heloise and Abelard
    11. Would the long letters come from a vast affabulation?
    12. Did Heloise truly convert?
    13. Was Abelard's old age a shipwreck?
    14. Sites, books, exhibitions, symposia...
    15. Romanticism with the impulses of Pope and Rousseau
    16. In songs of the past and present
    17. In Humor and Comics

    Chapter 13 - Abelard's doubt, the couple's lust, their actuality
    1. Sic and not, weighing the pros and cons
    2. Doubt and the search for truth
    3. Abelard between Berenger of Tours and Rene Descartes
    4. Was Abelard a wolf and Heloise a sheep?
    5. Abelard, Heloise, and Sadomasochism
    6. Abelard and Women
    7. Abelard, liberalism, secularism, and individualism

  1. Introduction: the tumultuous life of Heloise of Argenteuil

    General disclaimer: this file presents, on a slightly shaded background such as here, several translations into French of texts written in German by Werner Robl. They were made by the author (Alain Beyrand) with the help of the DeepL program in October 2022. Their material and formal accuracy has only been partially verified. The German original can be found at and/or Unless otherwise noted, the original texts are also in this dossier-pdf of about forty pages, translating Werner Robl's 2004 study "Hersendis mater," "The Hersende mother, new on the history of Heloise's family" (dossier-pdf German).

    Heloise and Abelard, mythical lovers as famous as Tristan and Yseult, Rodrique and Chimène, Romeo and Juliette... They are not fictional characters, but celebrities of the twelfth century, having lived a love at the same time very ardent and very thwarted. The present dossier started from the research of the maternal ancestry of Héloïse, generally considered as an orphan. It has expanded to include her life, her correspondence with Pierre Abélard, her marriage to him, what is known about them, and how they have been perceived for over nine centuries. On maternal ancestry, I found myself in full agreement with the conclusions of the German historian Werner Robl in 2004, which will lead me to quote him often, starting in this introduction:

    Few couples in the history of European thought are as well known and studied as Heloise and Abelard. This keen interest is not only justified by Peter Abelard's epochal thoughts, but also by the unique opportunity of an epistolary inner vision of two sensitive souls of the Middle Ages. This is how, for centuries, each generation of culture lovers, scientists and artists has rediscovered this subject: as a field of identification, as a field of research, as a literary scene. The abundance of literature on this theme proves its permanent topicality, but implies a certain risk : that, insofar as the protagonists are reflected in the intention of their authors, some gaps in their biography, which historical research has not managed to fill, are dressed in clichés.

    Clichés abound, especially in the iconic, too-often anachronistic illustration of this dossier... Let's start by setting the scene : a summary of the life of Héloïse d'Argenteuil. (Eloysa in Latin), wife of Pierre Abélard (1079-1142) (or Abailard or Abeilard, Abaelardus in Latin), relying on the Wikipedia page dedicated to her.

    Heloise lived from 1092 to 1164. Born to parents who are assumed to be unknown (it is not certain that they were at the time, but they were at least distant, if not dead young) but of high social standing, she was entrusted to the prestigious Benedictine abbey Notre Dame d'Argenteuil, near Paris, welcoming daughters of princely families who did not always embrace the monastic life for all that. Her education was directed by an uncle, brother (or half-brother...) of her mother, the canon Fulbert.

    1883 engraving after Pat le Carpentier (link). (another engraving by Mauduit frères in 1820, link).
    1841 engraving after Charles Gleyre (Chafsclat and Migneret, link) (in black and white: 1 2 3).

    As a canon member of the cathedral chapter of Saint-Etienne, Héloïse's tutor took in pension, under the same roof as his goddaughter, the schoolmaster of the cathedral school of the Cloister of Paris, Pierre Abélard, whom he supported for many years in his modernist approach. If the solar beauty of the young woman is not exceptional without being of the least, if only by her high stature, her rank, her engagement in studies, something unheard of for a woman, more still her audacity to devote them to a non religious field, are worth to her to be one of the most seen personalities of Paris. Her intelligence and her knowledge in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, especially that of the ancient authors, still ignored by the official teaching, astonish. Her songs, taken up by the goliards, made her the feminine figure of an emancipated student youth. Abélard, a bachelor famous for his beauty and recognized by his peers as the most eminent teacher of dialectics, seeks to become her private teacher with the calculated aim of seducing her. At the age of thirty-four, Abelard, the eldest son of a Poitevin knight, was born in Le Pallet (Loire Atlantique).

    Sermon of Abelard, by Adolphe Steinheil (Granger, link).

    All Paris already sang of Héloïse, jealous of women, when in the autumn of 1114 Abélard initiated with her, under the pretext of lessons, a correspondence, a means of seduction preferred to the only conversation, as learned as gallant. The wax tablets returned by the professor, after he added his answer, are recopied by Héloïse, perhaps already with an editorial ulterior motive of what became "Letters of the two lovers". . The formulas of greetings, diverted by play of their only function, are the occasion for the pupil, beyond the conventional testimony of affection, of a rhetorical exercise and a literary innovation mixing the intimate allusions with theological references.

    Between the student and his teacher, thirteen years his senior, begins a transgressive affair, inflamed, but inconsistent, from which violence is not excluded : "how many times have I not used threats and blows to force your consent ?". The nights of passion exhaust and lead the two intellectuals to sadomasochistic excesses  "I sometimes went as far as hitting her, blows given for love, (...) for tenderness, (...) and these blows exceeded in gentleness all balms. (...) everything that passion can imagine of unusual refinement, we added it". Discovered it seems at the beginning of the year 1116, the scandalous affair turns into a vaudeville. Fulbert sends back his boarder, fanning the flame of the separated bodies. The professor is then caught one night in flagrante delicto, in the middle of the couple's lovemaking, and the young girl is removed in turn. Upon his return, "Once the shame passed, passion took away all modesty" and Héloïse becomes pregnant soon after.

    To remove her from the French authorities, her lover organized her kidnapping, provided her with a nun's disguise, took her away one day when her uncle was away, and drove her to her homeland, Le Pallet. It was the garrison south of the Loire that guarded Nantes against France. In the autumn of 1116, Héloïse gives birth to a son at the home of Abélard's sister, Denyse, to whom she gives the non-Christian name of Astralabe, that is, in modern French, Astrolabe, implying "Puer Dei I", that is to say "first son of God", according to the esoteric anagram thus formed of Petrus Abaelardus II. Abélard returns alone to Paris to negotiate the forgiveness of Fulbert, who obtains a promise of marriage without Héloïse, who has remained in Le Pallet, having been consulted.

    In the following weeks, the marriage was pronounced in Paris before witnesses, but at dawn and secretly, so as not to compromise the husband's chances of obtaining a canonry which required celibacy considered as the proof of the domination of his senses and thus of a moral superiority. Beyond this careerist calculation, Héloïse, opposed to her marriage because she considered herself both unworthy of her husband and a hindrance to her destiny as a reforming teacher, makes the denial of her condition as a wife an ethical issue: according to her, getting married would be like a prostitution of the woman, a material interest of the wife in an all-male social condition, which may suit one who "if the opportunity arose, would certainly prostitute herself to an even richer man," but not to a woman truly in love with the person herself, as if the one were exclusive of the other.

    For Fulbert, the family honor is repaired by the marriage. So he betrays the agreement made with his almost son-in-law and makes the marriage public, whereas Héloïse persists in denying it in public as well as in private. If she acts in this way, it is because she is concerned to preserve the secrecy that protects her husband's career, but also because she has not given up an independent life.

    Fulbert beat his ungrateful niece at every sign of obstinacy, a method of education quite ordinary at the time, at least for boys. To escape the beatings, she, now emancipated by her marriage from the guardianship of her uncle, but unable to settle down with her husband without revealing the secret to the public, returns as a boarder to the very worldly convent of Saint Mary of Argenteuil. More than ever, appearances hide the most scabrous: Abélard does not hesitate to jump the wall of the convent and the spouses do not cease their fornication to resume, even if it is in a corner of the refectory.

    Colored copperplate engraving by Migneret, after Chasselat, published in "Le Plutarque français," 1836 (links: 1 2).
    Heloise at the Paraclete. Illustration from "Alexander Pope, the poet," 1720, London. (link).

    The next morning, the crowd flocked to the scene of the crime. The bourgeois of Paris, considering the honor of their city in question, perhaps less by the wound inflicted on a schoolmaster than by the insult made to the second personage of the State that is the Chancellor Étienne de Garlande by attacking one of his close relations, seize the suffragan Girbert, to whom the canon belongs. The bishop judges that the damage is not only physical, but that what is damaged, it is the notoriety of Abélard, deprived to see his public without feeling shame. Also the episcopal court condemns, according to the law of the talion, the valet and one of the executors to the castration, but also to the enucleation. The other accomplices could not be arrested. Fulbert was removed from his canonry and his property was confiscated. The old man having denied his involvement, a doubt remained on the motive and the intentions of the sponsor. Abélard renounced to appeal, but he probably received a material compensation from the seized goods, the use of which thus went to his wife.

    At the beginning of the following year, her husband still convalescent, Héloïse, overwhelmed by guilt, took the veil with great pomp from the hands of the bishop of Paris Girbert himself. The ceremony is thus of importance but it is against her will that she complies with it, only by obedience to Abélard, who will enter in his turn in the orders, in Saint Denis, three leagues upstream on the Seine, but only after having made sure that she made it herself. She will bitterly reproach him for this lack of confidence in her submission. This taking of the veil, the marriage no longer being secret, opens again to Abélard the prospect of continuing in the orders his career, which visibly only matters, and it is thus well to this one that Héloïse sacrifices herself. The tribulations which her husband must endure do not return her lover to Héloïse and she feels betrayed by his taking of the veil. After about ten years of this frustrating monastic life without a vocation, she becomes prioress of her abbey.

    In 1129, Heloise was ruthlessly driven out of her monastery with her Benedictine sisters by Suger, an enemy of both the Montmorency family and Abelard, and the new abbot of Saint-Denis, who wished to expand his foundation and house brothers under his orders. The girls found refuge in the abbey of Notre-Dame d'Yerres. Abelard had meanwhile returned to Brittany. Having become abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys, he had his introductions to the sovereign, Duke Conan the Fat, while the prioress Heloise, in transit at Yerres, was faced with the alternative of embracing the condition of converse or finding herself on the street. He offered to found a new abbey in place of the hermitage he had built in 1122, for the woman who still considered herself his wife as well as Christ's. It was a small building constructed on land that Count Thibault had granted him two years after his enthronement, in Quincey en Champagne, above Nogent, between Provins and Troyes. Many young men, setting up a camp of huts, had joined him to reinvent a life close to nature and to follow his teaching, but he had abandoned them in 1127, fleeing to Rhuys the threat of a new condemnation by his Cistercian and Premonstratensian rivals. Heloise settled there with half of the sisters of Argenteuil.

    How can one speak of penance for sins, no matter what treatment is inflicted on the body, if the mind still retains the will to sin and burns with its old desires? It is easy to acknowledge one's faults and accuse oneself, or to inflict corporal punishment that remains external. It is much more difficult to turn one's heart away from the desire for the greatest pleasures. [...] All the more so as these voluptuous pleasures dear to lovers that we tasted together were sweet to me and I can neither hate them, nor chase them from my memory. Wherever I turn, they impose themselves to my eyes with the desires which accompany them. Even when I sleep they do not spare me their illusions. In the middle of the solemnity of the mass, when the prayer must be purer, the obscene representations of these voluptuousnesses totally captivate my soul so much that I abandon myself more to these turpitudes than to the prayer. While I should be moaning about the faults committed, I rather sigh after the lost pleasures. Not only the acts performed, but also the places and times when I lived them with you are so fixed in my mind that I do everything again with you in the same circumstances, and even in my sleep they do not leave me in peace. Often the thoughts of my heart can be understood at the movements of my body, words escape me despite myself."
    [a famous excerpt from the second letter from Heloise to Abelard, other letters] (and here all letters in pdf format, Wikisource)

    Right, image of a positivist calendar from the chapel of Humanité (5 rue Payenne, in Paris). (link). Of the 14 portraits of famous figures, supporters of humanism, without Abelard, Heloise is the only woman with the words "The moral superiority of women" (link).

    After a year of extreme poverty, the gifts Abelard had solicited finally flow in. Héloïse, having felt abandoned by her lover, emerges from these last three years "exhausted and shaky" but the abbey of Paraclet is a success, which will last until its alienation as national property on November 14, 1792.

    Abelard, aged fifty-four, abandoned Rhuys for good in 1133, where his brothers had tried to murder him. The correspondence in Latin exchanged as early as 1132 between the superior and her director, former lovers of body, is a monument of French literature. Beyond the Carolingian and compassed fashion of a rhymed prose, the three long letters of Héloïse, all of smoothness, already announce very clearly, by their logical and already French grammatical structure, the great style inherited from Cicero. The author delicately mixes references and puns and shows herself to be astonishingly modern both in the depth of the psychological analysis and in the freedom of the subject. Heloise denies nothing of her intellectual love (dilectio) for an embarrassed Abelard, nor even of her sin of concupiscence. At less than forty years of age, she does not cease to stir up the afterimages of their lived fantasies, even in dreams and waking prayer. Not without reluctance to transgress an appearance that propriety commands, she makes the sincerity of the confession a delightful exercise in style. While regretting not to have been castrated of the organ of the pleasure, she reveals complacently the guilt of the desiring woman that the religious hypocrite hides.

    In 1136, Heloise took over the direction of the Paraclete alone. Abelard was called by the chancellor Étienne de Garlande, whose disgrace Suger had obtained in 1127 and who had just regained his title of dean of the abbey of Sainte-Geneviève, to take up again the teaching he had initiated there in 1110, three years before his meeting with Heloise. The latter had the joy of learning that her son Astralabe had successfully completed the liberal arts curriculum that he was pursuing under the guidance of his paternal uncle Porchaire in Nantes. Heloise, eighty years before St. Clare, was concerned about a specifically feminine monastic rule.

    On May 26, 1140, the positions professed by Abelard, regarding the effects of Grace and the Holy Spirit or sin, were condemned at the Council of Sens. The accuser is Bernard de Clairvaux. Heloise was not directly involved, but the theses condemned, as to the example of the innocence of a woman who would sin by amorous intent, were the same ones that presided over the conception of "love by esteem" (dilectio) that she had expressed twenty-five years earlier. This triumphant moralism, making Heloise the servant of a heretic, will spread in a popular tradition, peddled by preaching and sermons, and will last in the doctrine until the 20th century. Abelard, ill, had to give up taking his appeal to Rome in person and retired to the priory of Saint-Marcel-lès-Chalons and then to the motherhouse of Cluny. He died in the spring of 1142.

    Héloïse obtained the transfer of the remains of her husband. The body was stolen one night around All Saints' Day, 1144, by a team led by the superior in person and travelled clandestinely under his guard from Saint-Marcel to Le Paraclet. He was welcomed on November 10 in the chapel of the Petit Moustier, which stood apart from the abbey church. In accordance with Abelard's wishes to be buried at Le Paraclet, his widow had a tomb built in front of the altar.

    Héloïse, however, by far the most learned of women in a time when the most favored among them had to be content with playing music, succeeded in establishing herself as an exceptional case among the rare minds who dominated their time by their wisdom, strength, and ability to manage a religious community. Renowned from her youth for her musical compositions and successful songs, Héloïse was sought after by princes for her advice and listened to by ecclesiastics.

    In 1158, she had to suffer the tribulations of her son Astralabe in the aftermath of the disappearance in Nantes of Count Geoffrey Plantagenet. It is plausible that she received the consolation of his visit while he was on his way to his exile in Cherlieu. Twenty-one years after her husband and seven years before her son, on Sunday, May 16, 1164, surrounded by the very young future prioress Melisende and her daughters, she died "of very resplendent doctrine and religion" and her coffin was buried under that of Abelard, the last act of her submission. She lies with Abélard in the Père-Lachaise cemetery (division 7) since June 16, 1817.

    Let's end with the look of Véronique Maurus, in a article from the newspaper "Le Monde" of March 20, 2005, entitled "Héloïse et Abélard, deux êtres d'exception hors du temps..." :

    Héloïse has understood that Abélard, paranoid and more narcissistic as ever, can be of no help to her. From then on, she invests herself in the future of her community and no longer addresses him except for practical details. The Order of the Paraclete spread throughout the region and had six establishments until the Revolution. Heloise, its abbess, assumed her spiritual, educational and political role so well that even Bernard de Clairvaux (future saint), Abelard's sworn enemy, bowed to her merits. She has the austere faith but stubborn tenderness: when Peter died in 1142, she had him buried in the Paraclete, then, twenty-two years later feeling his end coming, she demanded to be buried beside him.

    No sooner has the century ended than the true story has already become a legend, a symbol of impossible love here on earth. The sublime abbess, crushed by Abelard's shadow, only plays a secondary role, to the point that her letters will long be considered apocryphal. for a long time for apocrypha. "I kept nothing for myself", she wrote to Pierre. Nothing, except her mystery. Who was she? Where did she get her knowledge? And, above all, why did this exceptional woman impose on herself a whole life of rigor for the love of a man?

    Bernard of Clairvaux at the Council of Sens

    Abelard's appeal to the pope (link).

    The death of Abelard

    Heloise at Abelard's tomb. François Marius Granet (1775-1849) ca. 1817-1820 Watercolor on paper 13.7 x 12.3 cm, Jean-Baptiste Fauchon d'Henneville collection (link).

    A summary appeared in two double-page spreads from the book "Legends of Paris - Under the Pavements, the Mystery", Guillaume Bertrand 2020 (link).

    "Eloisa en el sepulcro de Abelardo," Raymond Quinsac Monvoisin (1794-1870),
    circa 1840, 141 x 86 cm, Cousino Palace, link. Above, three portraits of Abelard (links: 1 2 3).

  2. Images from Heloise's life

    With illustrations less well known in France than those in the following chapters let us trace again the life of Heloise of Argenteuil, wife of Peter Abelard, abbess of the Paraclete, in approximate chronological order. The images marked ** are from the British Museum (page), clicking on them provides a high magnification.

    After Jean Gigoux 1839 (link). John Ogborne, after John Opie, 1793 (link **).

    Engraving by John Raphael Smith 1777 (links: 1 2 **). Thomas Watson 1776 (link **) (+ variations: 1 2 3 4 ).

    Professor Peter Abelard as a young man, according to 19th century engravings (link picclick) (+ engraving b&w, link).
    Below center, engravings by Oleszigynski, after Armand Guilleminot

    Heloise by Francis Wheatley 1770, engraver Edward Fischer (link **). William Hamilton 1782, engraver Francis Haward (link **)

    Left, Etienne Richoux circa 1860, oil on wood. Quilliot Museum of Art in Clermont-Ferrand (link)

    Date and origins undetermined (link) and see the following image.

    Henri Jean-Baptiste Fradelle 1833, engraver Thomas Lupton (link **)

    Date and origins undetermined (link).

    Heloise loves, Heloise burns; but there rise icy walls; there everything is extinguished under insensible walls; there eternal flames or endless rewards await her fall or triumph. There is no accommodation to be hoped for; the creature and the Creator cannot dwell together in the same soul...
    [François-René de Chateaubriand in "The Genius of Christianity, link]

    Charles Harvey Weigall 1847 (link **). At right, Richard Cosway 1787, engraver Isaac Jehner (link **).
    + photo (link) + engraving by Joseph Severn 1868 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, link).

    Anonymous 1787 (link **).
    Henry Thomson 1803, Peltro engraver William Tomkins (link **).

    Giuseppe Calzi (1846-1908) 111 x 84 cm (link).

    Auguste Gaspard Louis Desnoyers, shortly after 1800 (link **) (+ maps: 1 2).
    Heloise in Her Cell, by Samuel Shelley 1792, engraving by Charles William Taylor (link **).

    Heloise and her infant, after Jean Gigoux 1839 (link).
    The reunion of Abelard and Heloise in the Elysian lands.
    Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Austria (link).

    Undetermined origins and dates (link).

    Engraving by John Raphael Smith 1792 (links: 1 ** 2) (+ zoom)
    Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune, ca. 1796, engraver Rémi Delvaux (links: 1 ** 2) (other engraving).

    Joseph Severn (1793-1879), Victoria and Albert Museum, London (link).
    Heloise, book illustration by Alexander Pope, 1892 (link **).

    Abelard and Heloise at Paraclete, by Vittorio Callegari (link).

    Héloïse and Abélard (Bourdet and Langlois); b&w: 1 (BnF, link) 2. Heloise and Bernard of Clairvaux (Quartlev and Gigoux) + reprise.

    Heloise and Bernard of Clairvaux

    In 1139, Heloise had to endure an inspection by Bernard of Clairvaux, who denounced the patenôtre and the Eucharist as practiced at the Paraclete. Based on the text of the Gospel, the Paraclete ritual contravened tradition. For the party of a conservative morality, the model is the mystical woman who devotes herself to asceticism, like Hildegard of Bingen whom Bernard of Clairvaux will inspect in his turn in 1141, and not the learned woman who devotes herself to exegesis.

    At the instigation of Heloise and Abelard, the Paraclete was the first monastic order with a specifically feminine rule. The Gregorian reform would work to ensure that this model did not outlive them and that nuns no longer became "learned women." [page Wikipedia]

    Heloise weeping at the tomb of Abelard, by Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger, engraving by Bocher 1882 (link **).
    Engraving after Richard Westall between 1800 and 1820 (link **).

    The Death of Heloise by Caroline Watson, 1802 (link **). At right, a nun at the tomb of Abelard and Heloise, by
    Laurent Guyot (link). The statue of the Holy Trinity recalls the first name of the Paraclete: the Priory of the Holy Trinity.

  3. Uncertainty about the identity of Heloise's father

    As will be seen in chapter 8, it was through my wife's maternal Champagne genealogy that I first looked at the Abbey of Paraclet and thus its founders Peter Abelard and Heloise. In 2015, I returned to Heloise thinking that her supposed father, Gilbert de Garlande the Younger, was an ancestor of mine (link), some thirty generations above us. I also had his supposed maternal grandparents as ancestors.

    These were only hypotheses, however, because officially, for centuries, we have not known Heloise 's parents: she was an orphan abandoned at the Argenteuil convent, hence her usual name "Heloise of Argenteuil." Her only family would be reduced to an uncle, Fulbert, a monk in Paris, brother of her mother, whose origins are hardly known. We don't even know Heloise's date of birth, she is now said to have been born after 1092, which would make her more than twenty years old when she met Abelard, who would have been about forty. We will return to this in chapter 6. The only strong clue to the mother is her first name : Hersende. All this happened nine centuries ago and Werner Robl thus makes the point about the difficulty of research at that time :

    Who they were, where they came from, where they were going
    The research reported here attempted to find new and unconventional answers to these old questions. The task has not been easy, for all documents seem to have been examined, all manuscripts deciphered, all leads followed to the end. Moreover, there are no family books, no parish registers, no birth or marriage certificates from the period in question, and therefore no documents of a conclusive nature. This is why the following tour, through a large part of the cartularies and obituaries of France, is not intended to give definitive opinions or to establish new dogmas. Rather, it is a matter of redrawing the contours of well-known figures by methodically collecting and linking marginalia - that is, small historical details that have hitherto escaped attention and which, in isolation, would be insignificant - and giving them some fresh blood and life. To this end, the attempt to penetrate the family history of Heloise was not without results. The following presentation gives an overview of the results, with perspectives on the family of Pierre Abélard. [...]
    In the couple's correspondence, including the Historia Calamitatum ["History of my misfortunes"], there is little indication of the origins of Héloïse and Fulbert, but everything leads us to believe that they were both from the nobility: Héloïse had been brought up from an early age in the convent of nuns Sainte-Marie d'Argenteuil. An early monastic education of this type was a great privilege in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and generally required the granting of generous benefits. It was therefore open only to wealthy nobles. The same was true of Fulbert's ecclesiastical career. His status as such already indicates his membership of the upper classes. Obtaining a benefice in the cathedral chapter of Notre-Dame was a costly task. It was a very complex affair which required not only donations in kind, but also influential lawyers. The same was true for ascension to the cathedral chapter, which in Fulbert's time was made possible by the payment of promotion fees, called hominia. Pope Paschal II put an end to this simonist practice shortly after Fulbert's entry into the cathedral chapter of Paris. Moreover, the nominalist Roscelin of Compiègne, Abelard's former teacher at Tours and Loches and his future intimate enemy, had described Fulbert in a letter as "noble man and cleric, canon of the church of Paris." The fact that Héloïse had benefited from an early monastic education at Argenteuil further proves moreover a certain affinity of her family with the monastic milieu.

    As far as Héloïse's father is concerned, it is not much clearer, and much less certain than what we will take into account for the mother. He could be Gilbert de Garlande the younger, a high character, great bottler of France from 1122 to 1127. A writing even speaks of his daughter Heloise, as Thierry and Helene Bianco point out on their page Heloise :

    Theodore Evergates developed R-H Bautier's hypothesis that Heloise's ties to Argenteuil came from her father, suggesting that they would belong to this lineage. Guy Lobrichon followed this same hypothesis by proposing that Heloise's father was Gilbert de Garlande, the king's bottler between 1092 and 1122. Without entering into the debate, let us note a sentence by Eric Bournazel in his book "Le gouvernement capétien au XIIe siècle", page 39. From a charter of the abbey of the Holy Trinity of Tiron listing the children of Gilbert de Garlande : "Gilebertus quondam regis pincerna uxorque Eustachia fillique ejus Guido et Manasses et soror Alvisa nomine", Eric Bournazel wonders : one may wonder, in view of this text, if Heloise is indeed the sister of Gui and Manasses. In his book, Guy Lobrichon explains that the Garlande always protected Pierre and Héloïse but he does not give any other clue as to Gilbert's paternity.

    In the accompanying tree, Heloise, if she is Heloise d'Argenteuil, would be an illegitimate daughter and would only be a half-sister to Gui and Manassès, legitimate children from the womb of the wife Eustachie de Possesse. The Wikipedia page of Heloise presents this hypothesis by pointing out that Gilbert de Garlande "was denounced as a 'libertine' before his time by his detractor Yves de Chartres." On the page "Héloïse, a controversial ancestry" of the site, one finds a similar explanation :

    So there are four Garlande brothers who will take turns being seneschal. A fifth brother, Gilbert de Garlande, will be bouteiller du roi, that is, in charge of supplies, which is a less prestigious position but a source of great profit. However, another clan competed for the king's favors: that of Guillaume de Champeaux, the schoolmaster of the Notre-Dame cloister, an opponent of Abelard, that of the monks of Saint-Victor, the bishops of Paris, Galon and Etienne de Senlis, and the abbots of Saint-Denis, Adam and Suger. The career of the Garlande clan thus knew periods of prosperity and phases of disgrace. But the advent of Louis VII in 1137 will be the hour of their final elimination.
    It is in this Gilbert de Garlande that Guy Lobrichon, taking the step and adopting the hypothesis of Professor Theodore Evergates, sees the father of Lady Heloise. Th. Evergates had published in 1995 "Nobles and Knights in twelfth-century France". Three brothers of Héloïse are known; one of them, Manassès, became bishop of Orléans. This thesis is in line with the remarks of François d'Amboise in 1616 who made Héloïse a noble descendant of the Montmorencies because the links between the Montmorencies and the Garlande are known. This noble ancestry of Héloïse, daughter of Gilbert de Garlande, would explain well the support that the couple was able to receive throughout their eventful existence. "The protection granted by the Garlande family to Pierre Abélard is not only explained by the companionship of Etienne de Garlande and Pierre within the cathedral chapter of Paris: it becomes closer when Pierre meets Héloïse." Guy Lobrichon op. cit. p.127

    I add that the genealogical chart of Gilbert de Garlande shows that he may have had a granddaughter named Helvis (variant of Heloise), who may have gotten her first name from her aunt (and godmother ?) Heloise d'Argenteuil...

    Werner Robl is reserved on this Gilbert de Garlande hypothesis  "T. Evergates thought Heloise was a sister of Bishop Manassès of Orleans and thus a relative of Etienne de Garlande, but he gave up testing this hypothesis and was probably wrong by a whole generation." It is true that Heloise died in 1164 at the age of 72, her father would have died 10 years earlier and her brother Manassès 21 years later; but she could have been born in her father's youth... The additional explanations, in note, are more convincing :

    Theodore Evergates has repeated without seeing them the data of E. Bournazel: "Le gouvernement capétien au XIIème siècle, 1108-1180", Paris 1975, p. 39. According to this document, a daughter of Gilbert de Garlande, royal cupbearer between 1112 and 1124/27, from his marriage to a certain Eustachia de Baudement, bore the name Heloise. Her brothers were called Guido and Manassès. If we examine the exact text of the source, a deed of gift concerning a meadow near Villemigeon, we come to the conclusion that E. Bournaz conclusion that E. Bournazel has misquoted the passage in question and has therefore misinterpreted it. He says : "Gislebertus quondam regis pincerna uxorque ejus Eustachia filiique ejus Guido et Manasses insuper et soror eorum Aloisa nomine [...]". [...] In the charter appears besides also a "Petrus magister" and one thinks at first involuntarily of Peter Abelard. It is however largely excluded that there is any mention of Heloise and Peter Abelard in this charter :
    1. Nothing is known about Heloise's possible brothers.
    2. The mother is here clearly identified as Eustachia, although her name is attested by the Paraclete Book of the Dead as Hersindis.
    3. Aloisa is a relatively independent variant of Heloisa and therefore should not be equated with the latter without further explanation.
    4. The abbey of Thiron was not founded until 1114; the present document is dated by L. Merlet, for good reason, to about 1135. By this date Heloisa had long been head of the convent of Paraclet, which should probably have been reflected in the mention.
    5. The "quondam regis pincerna" further proves that Gilbert's abdication, which took place in 1124 at the earliest, more likely in 1127, must have been several years old already.
    Moreover, the family tree of Gilbert de Garlande, constructed by E. Bournazel over four generations, does not at any time contain the names of Fulbert or Hersende.

    Thus Evergates' 1995 hypothesis, never consolidated, is based on a misreading of texts. It is for this and other reasons explained in part 12 of the next chapter that I abandon this hypothesis, which I had nevertheless adopted in 2015. I am not, however, ruling it out. The Héloïse, a controversial ancestry page on the website takes stock of the various hypotheses put forward concerning the identity of her parents. Regarding the father, in addition to the Garlande hypothesis, that of Roland Oberson is presented: it would be Fulbert. Here again, this is not to be dismissed out of hand, but there is not enough evidence to support it. We will mention other hypotheses in part 12 already indicated.

    In 2015 and also October 2022, Wikipedia, Roglo, and also other reference sources present the Garlande hypothesis first. Similarly, for the mother, the hypothesis that will be presented in the next chapter is rallied by these sites (between 2015 and 2022 for Roglo, link). We will see that adopting these two assumptions at the same time does not really appear to be coherent...

    For the mother, before presenting the preferred hypothesis, it is good to know that other hypotheses put forward remain plausible. But the clues that underlie them seem to me to constitute a framework that is too fragile to understand the tribulations and writings, all in all numerous and well known, of Héloïse and Abélard. In particular, the hypotheses Hersende de Sainte-Marie-aux-Bois and Hersende de Saint-Eloi.

  4. Hersende de Champigné, the very likely mother of Heloise

    Hersende de Champigné or Hersende de Champagné or Hersende de Champagne, we will see in part 3 the reasons why I chose the first appellation. This chapter provides an introduction to such a fascinating personality as Héloïse. It is divided into a dozen parts, the details of which are presented, at the beginning of the file, in the subchapter summary..

    1. My research from May 2015

      I initially cross-referenced two pieces of information to find out what the mother's family is:
      • The Héloïse, a controversial ancestry page of a site devoted to Pierre Abélard. The latest research in this field was exposed there. Among the hypotheses exposed, one of them showed that Hersende would be "Hersende de Champigné", first prioress (to be considered even as abbess) of the abbey of Fontevrault, in Anjou (also spelled Fontevraud). This information was repeated by Wikipedia, always in the conditional tense.
      • The Les sires de Montsoreau (1000 - 1600) page by Thierry and Hélène Bianco. This very thorough and unpublished study of the seigneury of Montsoreau, on the borders of Touraine and Anjou, next to Candes where Saint Martin died, drew up, among other things, the genealogy of "Hersende de Champigné" (or "Hersende de Champagné"), lady of Montsoreau who became the first prioress/abbess of Fontevrault Abbey, a place very close to Montsoreau. I had already studied this page which had allowed me to position my ancestors (including the husband of Hersende and his first wife). This table had been very precious to me:

      We find "Hersende", her husband "Guillaume" (of Montsoreau), their son "Etienne", the son of Guillaume from a first marriage "Gautier" (married Grecie de Montreuil -Bellay, hence descendants), his father "Hubert de Champigné", his brother "Hubert" (who, we will see, would be the canon Fulbert), his mother "Agnès de Clairvaux", his paternal grandfather "Hubert d'Arneto", his paternal grandmother "Ne de Lude", daughter of "Isembart de Lude" and "Ne de Montevrault", his maternal grandfather "Hugues de Clairvaux" and his maternal grandmother "Hersende de Vendôme", daughter of "Hubert de Vendôme" and of "Emeline". If Hersende is not my ancestor, her father and mother are (each by another spouse). This tree was already in my genealogy, so it was easy for me to add Héloïse, her supposed father, since rejected (he remains my ancestor), her husband and her son. In a way, Heloise was entering my family and my field of study...

      The name Montsoreau first appears in a charter of 1089 in the form "castrum de Monte Sorello", vassal of the counts of Anjou, husband of Hersende de Champigné (photo from 2014, knowing that the actual castle dates from 1450).

      After the death of the lord of Montsoreau in 1088, Hersende, a young 38-year-old widow, joined a religious community organized around the preacher Robert d'Arbrissel (1047-1117). She became his most important collaborator (prioress) in the creation of what would become the abbey of Fontevraud.

      "Fontevraud Foundation. Robert d'Arbrissel preaches (engraving by Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune, 1778, links: 1 2).
      In the foreground : aristocratic ladies, including Hersende de Champigné... In the back, the abbey under construction.

      Hersende "de Champigné" (a commune in the Sarthe near Durtal of which Hubert III d'Arnay was lord) or "de Champagné" or "de Champagne" (a rather vague area in Anjou, near Maine) was therefore, before her daughter, a high-ranking nun, who died around 1114 (so she could not have known about the scandal of Heloise and Abelard, in 1116/1117) (the date of death in 1109, sometimes given, appears to be wrong).

      Before entering the orders, she had had two husbands. With the first, whose first name Foulques is known, she had no children. With the second, Guillaume de Montsoreau, she had one, Etienne, who became canon of Candes St Martin and then archdeacon of St Martin de Tours. And so, with a mysterious lover, she would have given birth to Héloïse.

      As Heloise's ancestry was my own, I wanted to go back in time more and did more digging into the available documentation. This led me to find new elements that I will now present. This will strengthen the hypothesis that I have chosen.

      Church of Notre-Dame la Neuve of Chemillé-Melay (49). Petronille de Chemillé, who succeeded Hersende de Champigné
      as the first grand prioress, received her abbess's baton from the hands of Robert d'Arbrissel, in 1115 (list of abbesses).

      Gaignières Collection, Louis Boudan 1699

      Fontevrault Abbey arriving from Candes Saint Martin, through the woods (photo from 2014)

      Other points:
      1. Héloïse would have been born around 1092 (as indicated on Wikipedia) and not around 1101 as sometimes indicated. She would have met Abelard in 1113 (and not around 1115). They are then 21 and 34 years old. So it is not 17 and 36 years old...

      2. Hersende de Champigné's second husband, Guillaume de Fontevraud died between 1087 and 1089. His widow was in the early 1090s a converse sister, following the preacher Robert d'Arbrissel, before he founded the Abbey of Fontevraud around 1100 / 1101 on land that was donated by Gauthier de Montsoreau, son of Guillaume and Hersende.

      3. Hersende de Champigné, the prioress of Fontevraud died on November 29, November 30, or December 1 (according to various sources). The death of Hersende, mother of Heloise, was celebrated at Le Paraclet every December 1 ("Hersindis mater domine Heloise abbatisse nostre"). As already indicated, and we will come back to this, this is the first cause of bringing these two Hersende together.

      4. On the side of Hersende's supposed lover, Heloise's father, in case it was Gilbert de Garlande, the tree was already provided and recognized by most genealogists, so I had not had to look any further on that side.

      5. The other candidates for Heloise's paternity and maternity seem unlikely to me. I will therefore not mention them, except later, Robert d'Arbrissel, who has some assets...

    2. Werner Robl's 2002 research

      In a second step, I took into account the work done by Werner Robl in the early 2000s. The texts that follow (shaded background) are taken from his study "Hersendis Mater," mentioned in the introduction (pdf translated into French and original pdf into German, both with biographical notes that I have not included in the extracts below). He considers that Heloise knew both her parents. Abelard would also have known them, his entourage too.

      Héloïse had been raised from an early age in the convent of nuns Sainte-Marie d'Argenteuil. An early monastic education of this type was a great privilege in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and usually required the granting of generous benefits. It was therefore open only to wealthy nobles. wealthy nobles. The same was true of Fulbert's ecclesiastical career. His status as such already indicates his membership of the upper classes. Obtaining a benefice in the cathedral chapter of Notre-Dame was a costly task. [...]

      Another clue about the family is provided by a letter from Abelard: "If you had not been given to me in marriage before, you could easily have led a worldly life when I entered the convent, either at the instigation of your parents or through the lure of carnal desires." More than fifteen years after the fact, Abélard thus asserts for the first time verbatim that Héloïse's parents, or at least her first-degree relatives, were alive at the time of her marriage and could have prevented her from entering the convent. Once again, the question arises as to why they were not present at Heloise's wedding. [...]

      Werner Robl "s book on the origin of Heloise and her mother Hersende (2002).

      I am willing to assume that the two lovers kept this information confidential, but, for the father, I doubt that it was known around them. It seems to me that Heloise's father refused to recognize his daughter and that her mother died when she was a young child. The mother delegated her parental authority to her brother Fulbert. The father is voluntarily absent, while perhaps maneuvering behind the scenes to protect his illegitimate child. The father's estrangement would therefore not be geographical, as Robl suggests. Thus, while Abélard only once speaks, vaguely, of Héloïse's parents, this does not appear significant, as far as the father is concerned. The parents' absence from their daughter Héloïse's wedding is much more significant.

      Thus, during Heloise's lifetime, it seems to me that her mother was known to her entourage, notably because of Fulbert, who had no reason to hide his sister's identity. On the contrary, her father's name was confidential and could only be guessed at by the support she received, in particular to enter the monastery of Argenteuil, to become its abbess, to develop the Paraclete... Consequently, nine centuries later, it must be a little easier to find traces of the mother than of the father. Starting with the knowledge of the first names Hersende and Fulbert.

      No matter how you look at it, the hypothesis that Heloise's family was from Paris or the surrounding area has lost its exclusivity because of the absence of relatives at the wedding ceremony. Where did Heloise's family come from? Geographical indications of their origin are obtained from the following information :
      • The Latin Book of the Dead of Paraclete refers to two direct relatives by name, Heloise's mother and her brother, with corresponding dates of death : "December 1 : Hersindis, mother of our lady abbess Heloisa" And : "December 26 : Canon Hubert, uncle of the lady Heloisa". Whether the name Hubert is a deformation of Fulbert must remain an open question; at least it seems that they were the same person, for the death of Fulbert, Heloise's uncle, is also mentioned in the same temporal setting in the Book of the Dead of Notre-Dame de Paris: "December 23 : of Notre-Dame Cathedral died the subdeacon Fulbert [...]". This temporal shift is easily explained. The message announcing Fulbert's death will have traveled about three days from Paris to the Paraclete.
      • Thanks to this data, we now have four names associated with Heloise's maternal family : Heloise herself, Hersende and Fulbert/Hubert. These are all given names: no cognomen, patronymic, or gender name is known in this family by Abelard.
      • Given that given names were often repeated as surnames in different noble families at the time and had regional emphases, we examined the distribution and weighting of names in a range of contemporary cartularies and obituaries. Although one must be very careful with quantitative data, as the sources do not allow for representative cross-sections, the research did record some surprising phenomena. [...]

      These discoveries put into effect the need to extend the research of Heloise's family far beyond the Ile-de-France and to include from now on as a priority the Loire and its bordering counties. If Heloise's parents came from a noble house in this region, it should be possible to identify the corresponding family using the names cited : Heloise, Hersende, Fulbert, Hubert.

      This brings us to an essential point, which I pointed out in point "c" of part 1 of this chapter. I wrote in May 2015  "This is the first cause of bringing these two Hersende together" and this essential connection was first established by Werner Robl in 2002, with some enthusiasm. The following passage is decisive in the highly probable designation of Hersende as the mother of Heloise :

      A page from the obituary of the abbey of Neufmoustier (link). + link Gallica to the obituary of Paraclete.
      After much research, an interesting lead was found: in a critical study of the itinerant preacher movement in Anjou at the end of the eleventh century 67 , a noble nun named Hersende is mentioned as the first prioress of the monastery of Fontevraud. The author has indicated the day of her death as day of her death as November 30, in accordance with the ancient martyrology of that convent.

      This was indeed an exciting message! Compare:
      Two ladies had the same name, their entry in the death register varied by only one day of the year! Were they identical ?

      The variance of one day for the date of commemoration of one and the same person is common in early medieval death records. [...]

      There is therefore every justification for considering the memorial dates of the two Hersende ladies to be identical. This is impressively confirmed in other obituaries of the corresponding period. Two obituaries from Chartres also refer to the date of death of the nun from Fontevraud. In one case, complete correspondence with the death register of Le Paraclet is even attested :
      • Obituary of Saint-Jean-en-Vallée: "December 1, day of the death of Hersendis de Fontevraud".
      • Obituary of Saint-Père-en-Vallée: "November 29, Hersenda, nun of Sainte-Marie at Fontevraud".

      This was thus an extremely rare case of concordance of dates and names in obituaries written at a distance from each other - and, as far as Heloise's family was concerned, the only case we could find in our research. The year 1109 indicated in the Gallia Christiana for the death of the nun of Fontevraud is not confirmed by the other sources on the history of Fontevraud; the year 1114 is more likely. Here, too, we find congruence with the death of Heloise's mother, who in all likelihood must have died sometime before 1116.

    3. Hersende, of the Champigné lineage

      Werner Robl talks about Hersende de Champagne, Wikipedia (page) names her Hersende de Champagne, Roglo (page) names her Hersende de Champagné, acknowledging the validity of Hersende de Champigné and Hersende de Montsoreau. I have chosen, here, to call her Hersende de Champigné. And I even designate her graphically, in the 19th century engraving presented at the beginning of this chapter, as the first of the noble women who listen to Robert d'Arbrissel. Her stature, very upright and purposeful, makes her the preacher's first associate.

      These are the reasons that lead me to favor the patronymic "de Champigné" :
      • Roglo, a reference genealogical database, names his father Hubert de Champigné, recognizing him as lord of Champigné.
      • His paternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather may also be designated as Hubert de Champigné. These are Hubert I, Hubert II, and Hubert III de Champigné, although they may be designated otherwise, less continuously.
      • Champigné (Campi[g]niacum) is a town in Anjou, near Maine, about ten km from Le Lude. Unrelated to the names Champagne / Champagné / Campania.
      • Hubert III, father of Hersende, was lord of Champigné. It is likely that Hubert I and Hubert II were also. Hubert III was also Lord of Champagne, Vihers, Saint-Martin-de-Parcé, Bailleul, Avoise and Pescheseul. Roglo adds  "The fortress of "La Primaudière" in Durtal was entrusted to him by Geoffroi d'Anjou. He died fighting, like his father and grandfather".
      • Hersende's paternal grandfather was lord of Durtal, a commune near Champigné, bordering the department of Sarthe / province of Maine.
      • Champagne / Champagné was, it seems, an Angevin terroir southeast of Montreuil-Bellay (49), 67 km from Le Lude. The page on the seigneury of Durtal refers unconvincingly to the region of Parcé, trying in vain to justify the name, unable to "discover the sort of chaos that exists on this subject". This name is practically lost, use a search engine, you will not find...
      • Champagne is obviously a huge source of confusion with the region (County) of Champagne.

        The old Champigné (link)
      • Hersende's older brother was called Hubert (IV or II) de Champigné (his page Roglo). He had a son Hugues de Champigné, lord of Mathefelon and Durtal. About the latter, Roglo (page) indicates that he most likely had a daughter named Hersende, called Hersende de Mathefelon. The genealogist J. B. de la Grandière further states : "A big mix was made, from the 15th century to confuse the great family of the lords of Champagne (Sarthe) (Pescheseul etc) with that of the lords of Champigné (Maine-et-Loire) and the genealogical authors systematically confused Champigné (Maine-et-Loire), close to Mathefelon, with two other beautiful lordships of Champagne (Sarthe)".
      • On a vanished Roglo page, I had noted in 2017 : ""The de Champagne family forged several false genealogies between the 14th and 16th centuries...The members of the "Champagne" family who appear here are in fact from the de Champigné family, a seigneury adjoining Durtal...".
      • The name Champigné is certainly less used in Hersende's time, but it is justified by its use up and down a true genealogical line. It is accurate and without confusion, unlike Champagne / Champagné.

      Hersende, her father Hubert III, her paternal grandfather Hubert II, and her paternal great-grandfather Hubert I, as they are named on Roglo. While the denominations Champagne or Champagné appear very temporary, Hersende's male ascendant line is named "de Champigné" for a long time, as are her older brother and a line of his descendants.

      The Durtal Castle owned by the Lords of Champigné. Foulques Nerra built the first foundations in
      1040. In the mid-11th century, his son Geoffroy de Martel completed the construction. The present castle dates from the 15th century.
      Right, castle fresco featuring a battle scene, as experienced by Hersende's ancestors.

    4. The life and work of Hersende de Champigné

      Hersende, the first prioress of Fontevraud, was from the house of Champagne, in Latin Campania, originally located in northern Anjou. Although this woman left no authentic written testimony in her own hand, analysis of known sources has made it possible to trace her life and an almost complete family tree of her family. We will not go into the details of this sometimes very interesting genealogy.

      View of the choir (photo Aurore Defferriere 2010, link)
      Let's say it right away: Hersende de Champigné is one of the most important female figures of the early French Middle Ages, who has been incomprehensibly forgotten or misunderstood by posterity. In the few years of her life after 1100, she accomplished the incredible feat of founding and organizing Fontevraud, the largest convent of women and the greatest social project of the time. It was under her direct direction that the church of Fontevraud I and the choir of the Abbey of Fontevraud II, which earned the name "Hersende's choir", were built. This magnificent choir [opposite, Wikipedia], with its slender columns that already prefigure the Gothic style and its luminous interior, is a masterpiece of Angevin Romanesque art. It owes its magic to the pastel-colored tufa stone from the Loire region with which it was built. Today, this choir is admired by countless visitors from all over the world, without them learning anything essential about its true author in Fontevraud. In contrast to the other buildings, this choir has become the symbol in stone of the founding idea of the convent.

      All the achievements mentioned for the foundation of Fontevraud were attributed by the hagiographers of the Convention exclusively to the itinerant preacher Robert d'Arbrissel, in order to increase the chances of his canonization. Hersende was not mentioned posthumously - wrongly, as the sources prove.

      Hersende de Champigné, daughter of the great Angevin vassal Hubert III de Champigné, Hubertus de Campania, and Agnes de Mathefelon et Clairvaux, grew up after 1060 in the castle of Durtal. This noble residence, which was considerably enlarged later and can still be visited today in this form, is located a few kilometers north of Angers, on the banks of the Loir, a tributary of the Loire. According to L. Halphen, Mathefelon and Durtal were among the principal fiefs of the counts of Anjou, along with Briollay, Montrevault and Montreuil-Bellay. These houses were, as research has shown, all linked to the family of Champigné.

      Hersende was married at an early age to a relative of Count Foulques IV of Anjou, Guillaume de Montsoreau. Montsoreau is located on a picturesque bank a few kilometers upstream from Saumur, at the confluence of the Vienne and the Loire. From his marriage with Guillaume was born a son: Etienne de Montsoreau. With the support of his mother, he first became a canon at Saint-Martin-de-Cande and later had a successful ecclesiastical career; as archdeacon of Tours, he even had contacts with the Holy See. Hersende had a warm and maternal relationship with a son-in-law from Guillaume de Montsoreau's first marriage, Gauthier de Montsoreau, who was probably almost the same age as his mother-in-law. After the death of her husband Guillaume de Montsoreau shortly before 1087/88, Hersende de Champigné chose an unusual path in life. Instead of marrying a second time, as was customary at the time, or entering a monastery in her homeland, for example at Le Ronceray in Angers, she committed herself to a very uncertain future. in a very uncertain future: around 1095, abandoning all her possessions and privileges, she joined, at the risk of her life, the wandering band of the charismatic preacher Robert d'Arbrissel. Seminiverbum Dei, such was the name of this former canon of Angers who lived anachoretically in the forests of Craon with several thousand followers of both sexes.

      Robert was a colorful character: in spite of his religious fanaticism - he neglected and mortified his body in various ways - he had intolerable relationships with women in the eyes of ecclesiastical orthodoxy: his promiscuous life was already strongly reproached during his lifetime. This man chose Hersende de Champigné as his closest collaborator and deputy from among hundreds or thousands of women - fugitive nobles, unwanted pregnant women, abandoned priests' wives, wandering filles de joie and widows. It is said that scandalous conditions prevailed in this initially unregulated religious community, which seemed to Many unwanted pregnancies are attested by sources.

      Pressed by the ecclesiastical authorities, Robert and Hersende first founded a convent as a place of assembly for the people mentioned and then built the monastic buildings of Fontevraud for them beginning in 1100. The site of the monastery was a few kilometers south of Cande, on the banks of the Loire, and thus in the immediate vicinity of the town and the castle of Montsoreau, the former seigniorial seat of Hersende. The foundation required large donations of land from the local feudal lords and their vassals As our research has shown for the first time, all of the founding personalities had close or distant family ties to Hersende de Champigné, both in their own families and in those of their relatives by marriage. We can therefore deduce that the whole project was not primarily due to Robert d'Arbrissel, but primarily to the idea, the power of persuasion and the organizational talent of this exceptional woman. This fact has been largely overlooked in established research on Fontevraud Abbey.

      Robert d'Arbrissel, wax fresco by Alphonse Le Henaff, Saint Peter's Cathedral, Rennes, painted between 1871 and 1876 (link). On the right, the abbey of Fontevraud and in the foreground a man kneeling before a representation of Christ on the cross. The scene represents the founding of Fontevraud according to the vision of Robert d'Arbrissel. Stained glass window from the church of Notre-Dame de Beaufort en Anjou. Stained glass window by Edouard Didron, late 19th century (link).

      The Fontevraud congregation was a mixed convent with multiple structures, which took into account the different needs of its occupants. In this context, the term "double monastery" is just as misleading as the term "order": there were several convents of men and women, of different composition and organization, who lived partly under a very strict, though paramonastic, rule, but who also benefited in part from facilities. Hospices and guest houses were also created to withdraw temporarily from the world or for stays in case of illness. The latter were mainly used by women of the upper nobility. According to the sources, Robert d'Arbrissel, although responsible for the congregation on the spiritual level, played only a marginal role in the organization itself. He had no talent for the practical management of the convent, refused the title and function of abbot, and shortly thereafter continued his activity as an itinerant preacher. Hersende de Champigné, as prioress of the choir nuns, took over from Robert d'Arbrissel all the supervision and management of Fontevraud, including the direction of the work on the abbey church and other conventual buildings. To obtain funds, she undertook several diplomatic trips.

      Petronille de Chemillé, engraving by Michel Van Lochom 1639 (link).
      She also provided instruction for the novices. The sources present her as a highly educated, but humane and modest woman, of great gentleness on the one hand and great strength on the other. In the documents of the cartulary of Fontevraud, we often find indications that Hersende, unlike her successor Petronille, knew how to win the hearts of her interlocutors by charitable and generous gestures. This did not mean that she was complacent in substance. Thanks to her exceptional qualities as a leader and negotiator, she quickly became a figure of integration and respect. Robert d'Arbrissel was of a different calibre: through his charisma and his rigor, he polarized the women who were subordinate to him. It is said that he humiliated and tortured some, but that he preferred others. In any case, he knew how to use the services of Hersende de Champigné and it is proven that he had a great esteem for her.

      After Hersende's untimely death, the title of abbess should have been given to her a long time ago, but it was not. It was Petronille de Chemillé, known today to all as the "first" abbess of Fontevraud and then very young, who took over the direction of the convent from the turn of the years 1115/1116. She was a distant relative of Hersende and had previously served as his aide-de-camp. As soon as she took office, the idea of a foundation degenerated and the Convention returned to the place from which it had started, i.e. to the feudal system. Whereas before, under Hersende, there had been a consistent orientation towards the ideals of primitive Christianity, the living imitation of Christ, poverty and love of neighbor, within a few years there was a shift to a reform project. This feudal monastery, rich but frozen, was only used in the following centuries by the high nobility to house their daughters who could not be placed elsewhere.

      On the basis of the sources, Hersende de Champigné can be considered the true founder of Fontevraud. She is thus on an equal footing with Robert d'Arbrissel who, through his relations with various bishops and the pope, merely gave the community the necessary legitimization and approval and, through his religious impetus and power of speech, the required influx of people. There are few contemporary sources that present Hersende in such an equivalent position, but they speak for themselves:
      • "Domina Hersendis ecclesiae Fontis Ebraudi fundatrix": the lady Hersende, founder of the church of Fontevraud."
      • "Orate pro piissimo patre nostro Roberto et pro Hersende karissimea (sic) matre nostra": pray for our most pious father Robert and our most dear mother Hersende".
      It is difficult to describe Hersende de Champigné's performance more accurately!

      1993, excavation with chevet of the first church, foundations of the major altar (photo Bruno Rousseau, link).

      Page Wikipedia on the Fontevraud Abbey (in the commune of Fontevrault-l'Abbaye): "The construction of the church began shortly after the foundation of the order in 1101. A first church is sketched and the construction of the apse begins. But the project soon aborted: under the influx of the faithful, the plans were transformed and the construction of the present church began. The lower parts of the choir and transept were already well advanced by 1115 and consecrated on August 31, 1119 by Pope Calixtus II. Hersende de Champigné having died a little before 1116 thus did not know the end of the construction (photo above from a page of the Fontevraud website, other Wikimedia photos (link).

      Candes, where Martin of Tours died in 397, borders both Montsoreau and Fontevrault.
      His collegiate church Saint Martin is a high place of Christianity in the Middle Ages. It dominates the town.
      On the right, you can see the castle of Montsoreau. [flickr photo Ivan Nadador, link]

    5. Did Heloise want to surpass the model of her mother Hersende?

      Now that we are familiar with the lives of Hersende de Champigné and Héloïse d'Argenteuil, we cannot but be struck by the similarity of their respective lives. Both were of great culture, great intelligence and great freedom of spirit. Both were struck by an overwhelming love, Robert d'Abrissel and Pierre Abélard, and both sublimated it by creating an abbey of great renown, Fontevraud and Le Paraclet. Didn't Héloïse have to know that she was Hersende's daughter to follow in her footsteps and to want to go further than her mother had been? As early as 2002, Werner Robl had described this formidable parallelism :

      The parallels in the lives of Hersende and Heloise are impressive: about 25 years apart:
      • both committed to a monastic career, forgoing a lived-in maternal role or a second marriage;
      • Male referees played a decisive role in this decision;
      • Both took leadership of their fellow sisters by virtue of their authority ;
      • Both founded and organized with astonishing skill a convent that then endured for hundreds of years;
      • They both experienced dramatic situations and adventures early in their religious careers;
      • They both compensated in an exemplary way for the polarizing nature of their male role models with a feminine force of integration ;
      • Both women were highly educated ;
      • Both women emerged as independent thinkers, protagonists of a theology that transcended class barriers, replaced hostility to the body and rigid dogma with humanity, mercy, and social care, and rejected rule enforcement as an end in itself ;
      • Both obtained benefits for their sons as canons.

      The parallels are striking and sobering. As possible outcomes of social influence, they do not argue for a family connection, although some of the characteristics and attitudes demonstrated may well have been inherited. [on this point I differ, I think Heloise wanted to go further than her mother, as if to complete what she might have done if she had lived more  it took a filial bond to forge such a will...]

      So we had to look for other indications of a family connection. This is an extremely difficult undertaking considering that women in those days were not empowered to write books, with few exceptions. The birth of a daughter, in particular, was very rarely mentioned in any document, as newborns were generally not taken into account in the settlement of estates or the transfer of property and rights. Thus, one should not have expected a document of evidentiary value - unfortunately.

      Nevertheless, the postulated mother-daughter relationship should gain in probability if 1) other indirect clues to such a relationship were found, 2) plausible arguments were put forward as to why Heloise entered the historical scene in Argenteuil, so far from her Angevin birthplace, and finally 3) no serious counter-argument was in sight, which would rule out the postulated mother-child relationship.

      Yes, why was Heloise raised in Argenteuil and not in Fontevraud ? One can assume that it was because of her father's geographical location and because of the location of her maternal uncle and tutor Fulbert, in the Ile de la Cité, Paris. It can also be assumed that the evolution of Fontevraud, with the change of course described by Werner Robl, displeased Heloise's family. This would also explain, along with other considerations, why the daughter had not subsequently wanted to renew her relationship with her mother's abbey. Another explanation will come in part 7. Still, the knowledge we now have of Heloise's very likely mother sheds light on her entire journey. And even more so with what follows. Exciting, isn't it?

    6. Consolidation of the Hersende hypothesis

      Werner Robl has already presented the essence of his demonstration, but it is reassuring to list other clues that consolidate the hypothesis that has been chosen.

      1. As mentioned earlier, Hersende's proper name and the date of her death, 1 December, are found in both traditions. Even if one accepts that women named Hersende in France at the time, their number is considerably reduced if we limit ourselves to women of the if one limits oneself to the noble women or high nobility of the Loire region. In no chronicle, no genealogy has found a Hersende of high lineage whose life situation would have resembled that of Héloïse's mother.
      2. The Book of the Dead of Paraclete mentioned a maternal uncle of Hélène named Hubert. Even if there was a confusion of person or name with Fulbert, it is noticeable that this is a man: Hersende de Champigné did indeed have a brother of that name: Hubert IV. A later editor of the Book of the Dead could therefore easily have confused the name with the person. The preeminence of the names Fulbert and Hubert in the Loire region has already been emphasized.
      3. Striking analogies to Heloise's story are found in Hersende's female ancestors: A paternal great-grandmother had been a lady named Eremburge de Montmorency. [...]
      4. In addition, there is a great-great-grandmother in this family on the maternal side with the name Heloise [already reported] [...].

      5. Our research has provided us with information about another Heloise, who may have come from the same family. She was a local saint, mentioned in the Acta Sanctorum, where she is also called "Beata Helvisa". She was also from the high nobility and lived around 1030 near the monastery of Coulombs, in the Eure, a few miles north of Chartres, as a recluse in a cell. It is possible that she was the daughter of the lady mentioned in the point or even identical to her.
      6. The supposed periods of birth and death of Hersende de Champigné and Heloise's mother largely correspond.
      7. The same is true for the period of Heloise's birth. The earlier assumption that she was born around 1100 is hardly tenable in view of the sources. Heloise was probably born around 1095. Hersende de Champigné lived at that time relatively irregularly in the forests of Craon. Conception and childbirth at this period are therefore conceivable and plausible, and cannot be contradicted by any argument. Hersende, as the second wife of Guillaume de Montsoreau, was most likely much younger than he, and still of childbearing age at the time.
      8. If the Latin Book of the Dead of the Paraclete contained a memorial date for the convent of Fontevraud, we now have a plausible explanation: it may have been established because of kinship ties. On the other hand, Heloise could not be expected to explicitly name her mother as prioress of Fontevraud, because of the compromising nature of such an inscription.

    7. The powerful support of Queen Bertrade de Montfort

      Bertrade de Montfort (1070-1117) was successively Countess of Anjou, from 1089 to 1092, wife of Count Foulques IV of Anjou, then Queen of France from 1092 to 1108, wife of King Philippe I. Werner Robl will tell us how close she was to Hersende de Champigné and what role she may have played in Heloise's childhood, who was born the same year that Bertrade became queen.

      At left, fourteenth-century miniature. Bertrade de Montfort with Philip I of France on the left and with her husband Foulque on the right. On the left is the king's wife, Berthe of Holland in prison (Saint-Denis Chronicle, British Library, link). At right, 19th-century engraving by Gerlier, "Countess Bertrade at Fontevrault" (link).

      How did Hersende de Champigné's postulated daughter get to Paris, or rather to Argenteuil? It is possible that there is a direct link with the passage of Bertrade de Montfort to the side of the king of France about three years earlier. The resounding escape of the Countess of Anjou, as beautiful as scandalous, had taken place in 1092. The couple resided most of the time alternately in Paris and its or in the Orléans region.

      Bertrade already knew Hersende de Champigné personally from her time at the side of Foulques IV; the two women had probably met several times at the princely court and had even become close friends. Hersende had indeed been the wife and daughter of two important supporters of Bertrade's first husband. Later, Bertrade and her son from a first marriage, Count Foulques V of Anjou, proved to be generous patrons of Fontevraud; she therefore shared Hersende's enthusiasm for the teachings of Robert d'Arbrissel. She herself, her brother, or one of her representatives signed several charters with Hersende de Champigné in favor of Fontevraud; personal acquaintance is therefore also attested to by sources. Shortly before her death, Bertrade even entered with some women of her family a priory of Fontevraud, at Hautebruyère, near her homeland, Montfort.

      It seems plausible that Bertrade de Montfort participated in the transfer of Heloise to Argenteuil, if she was indeed the natural daughter of Hersende. She at least had the necessary influence to ensure that the transfer to Argenteuil went smoothly. The monastery of Sainte-Marie d'Argenteuil, whose last presumed abbess was recently identified as a lady named Mathilde in the Book of the Dead of Yerres, was traditionally a tax-exempt convent. Heloise would therefore have been placed in this rich convent of nuns, known for its educational opportunities, because Bertrade de Montfort had connections there.

      It was perhaps precisely this awkward contact with the house of Montfort that later prompted King Philip's son, Louis VI, whom Bertrade had even attempted to assassinate earlier, to turn away from his father's policies and dethrone the convent in favor of Saint-Denis. In 1129, when the nuns of Argenteuil, including Heloise, were expelled, King Louis's friend and most influential advisor at court, Abbot Suger, asserted alleged ancient claims of ownership by Saint-Denis over this convent, which were most likely fictitious.

      Heloise's path to Argenteuil may have taken a detour through Evreux. This was the home of Bertrade de Montfort's former aunt, who also bore the rare name Heloise in the form of a variant: Elvisa d'Evreux. Would this have played a role in the choice of the little girl's name?

      We will see later that Bertrade de Montfort and her clan also pulled the strings when Fulbert was admitted to the chapter of the cathedral of Paris.

      The Wikipedia page on Bertrade provides details of her connections with Robert d'Arbrissel and Fontevraud :

      [The marriage of Philip I and Bertrade, both married, is not accepted by the Pope Urbain II. In addition Philip refuses to go on crusade. The couple is excomunicated] This excommunication is badly accepted by the people who nevertheless do not move against Philip. Added to the Interdict that the pope throws on France, King Philip chooses to give in, as he loses religious protection over his subjects, and pretends to separate from Bertrade in 1096.

      But Philip, who lives maritally with Bertrade, does not admit defeat and then tries to confuse the two supporters of the pope, Yves de Chartres and Hugues de Lyon. He takes advantage of it to officially take again Bertrade, but the pope reconciles Yves and Hugues. He excommunicated Philip again, but died shortly after, on July 29, 1099. The new pope, Pascal II, although occupied by the fight against the Holy Roman Empire, maintains the excommunication [...].

      At court, Bertrade opposed her son-in-law, Prince Louis, son of Philip and Berthe of Holland. She would have even tried to push him aside by trying to poison him so that one of her sons would ascend to the throne. It would be to protect him that Philip would have sent him to study at the abbey of Saint-Denis, where he became friends with Suger. But Louis VI, who seems to have neither hated nor loved the new wife of his father, count of Vexin since 1092, was crowned king and associated with the crown in 1098.

      The situation becomes untenable, according to the religious chroniclers, for Philippe and Bertrade: each time they go to a city of the kingdom, the services are suspended, the churches are closed, and the royal couple is regarded as plague victims by the religious. But common people and warriors quick to revolt surprisingly respect the couple. [...]

      Nothing changed until 1104, when the king and queen agreed to attend a new council, convened at Beaugency. Philip still sought to gain time by agreeing to submit and do penance in exchange for dispensations allowing marriage to Bertrade. One of the participants of the council, Robert d'Arbrissel, then pronounced a speech which, against all expectations, upset Bertrade. She asked to speak with him, and then decided to renounce her marriage and her privileges. It is then the religious outcome par excellence, the return to God of his creature and the definitive amendment. [...]

      It seems, with supporting historical evidence such as that of Georges Duby in his opus Feudality, that Philip and Bertrade only parted ways when the first and oldest of them died [Philip in 1108].

      Returning to Paris after her conversion by Robert d'Arbrissel, Bertrade, newly elected by God, signified to Philip that she would submit to the Church, leave the court and go to the borders of Anjou and Touraine, to a village of huts around a spring named the fountain of Evrault. This village, founded by Robert d'Arbrissel to house penitents, gained popularity with the help of his son and a daughter of her first husband, Ermengarde d'Anjou, and later became the Abbey of Fontevraud.

      The sentence of excommunication was lifted on December 1, 1104. Bertrade died on February 14, 1117 after having founded the priory of Haute-Bruyère, on lands that her brother Amaury III had ceded to her in Saint-Rémy-l'Honorénote.

      In 1128, Bertrade's body was buried in the choir of the church of the priory of Haute-Bruyère (Priory fonteviste), under a red copper plaque that still existed at the time of the Revolution

      Thus Bertrade and Hersende lived in the same community from 1104, arrival of the first, to about 1115, death of the second. In 1104, Heloise was 12 years old and had been studying in Argenteuil for a few years. Werner Robl has explained why Bertrade knew Hersende, more than Robert d'Arbrissel, long before this episode  we can therefore assume that it was Hersende who convinced Bertrade to join her in 1104.

    8. Fulbert, brother (or half-brother) of Hersende

      Canon Fulbert, Héloïse's tutor, organizer of Abelard's castration, has been frequently mentioned before and will be again in the following chapters. Werner Robl presents him in a new light, estimating in particular that he would be a half-brother, and not a brother of Hersende. We will come back to this in the next chapter.

      Heloise's uncle, Fulbert, has not yet been identified in Anglo-Saxon documents as having a definite relationship to Hersende de Champigné. However, the search is not yet over. In any case, there is no name match with the traditional brothers of Hersende de Champigné.

      If Fulbert was Hersende's brother, he does not seem to have spent all his youth at the castle of Durtal. In any case, it is possible to identify a few people named Fulbert in the corresponding time period and geographical space, some of whom were indeed young. "Uncle" Fulbert might come into the picture.

      The most likely hypothesis seems to be that Fulbert was from a second marriage, described in documents, of Hersende's mother, Agnes of Matheflon and Clairvaux. Agnes had remarried after the death of her first husband, Hubert de Champigné, to a nobleman from southern Anjou named Rainald de Maulévrier, who was politically close to Count Foulques IV's rival, his brother Godefroy. Rainald, whose son from a first marriage had become lord of Maulévrier after him, was driven out of Durtal shortly before 1070, during the fratricidal struggle for power in Anjou. This suggests that another son, not mentioned in the documents, from this second marriage, named Fulbert for example, could have possibly competed with the sons of Hubert de Champigné for the succession to Durtal. Fulbert, therefore a half-brother of Hubert IV de Champigné, may have had to leave his homeland permanently after the change of power at Durtal.

      Everything leads us to believe that Fulbert first became an altar boy - puer - at the cathedral of Orléans. Indeed, between 1033 and 1067, relatives very close to the house of Champigné had successively occupied the episcopate there, acquired by the simoniacal practice. It was at this time that Fulbert is said to have received the bone of St. Ebrulf mentioned above [An extremely important source was found in the Historia Ecclesiastica of the Norman historian Ordericus Vitalis, 1075-1142 : "Under the reign of King Louis, there lived in Paris a canon by the name of Fulbert, who possessed an intact bone from the spine of Saint Ebrulf"]. A little later, a master of coins, lat. monetarius, by the name of Fulbert, appeared at the cathedral of Saint-Maurice in Angers, who is shown to have had some relationship with relatives of the house of Champigné. Whether he was Hersende's half-brother and Heloise's uncle must remain an open question.

      This hypothesis is not excluded: in 1067, bishop Haderich of Orléans had fallen into disgrace, then had been degraded and replaced by a successor who was a stranger to the region, bishop Rainer of Flanders. A new protection of Fulbert within the chapter of Orleans was therefore impossible. This may have been the occasion for a transfer to the cathedral of Angers, where the family had had influence for generations. The position of monetarius at the cathedral of Angers predestined him for a later career in Paris, as it was linked to a lucrative income. A canonry at the cathedral of Angers itself was not particularly attractive at that time.

      According to this theory, Fulbert would have been Hersende's half-brother, and she might have been his only real reference in the Durtal house - after the death of his mother and the expulsion of his father, in the face of the hostility of his much older and competing half-brothers. Would this explain his later idolatrous love for Héloïse? There are also other considerations, such as the existence of contacts with the family's Vendôme relative. In any case, Fulbert seems to have spent his youth in a geographical quadrilateral whose corners are Le Mans, Angers, Tours and Orléans.

      The appearance of Fulbert in the Paris acts is now interesting. Contrary to what was previously thought, the time of his admission to the chapter of Notre-Dame was not after 1107, but before 1102. This opinion is supported by two acts of the king's entourage, in which Fulbert's name appears for the first time. It can be assumed that he was Heloise's uncle, because only one other Fulbert is mentioned at that time in the acts of Paris, Fulbert of Etampes, who is not Heloise's uncle. With the date of entry into the chapter of Notre-Dame, we also know the name of the bishop who promoted Fulbert. From what we have heard so far, it is not surprising that this is another member of the house of Montfort: Guillaume de Montfort, the brother of Bertrade de Montfort, had been imposed by his sister and her royal husband as bishop of Paris in a more or less simoniac manner. His intervention in favor of Fulbert is a very important indication that the relations with the former countess of Anjou and the Montfort clan played a decisive role in the advancement of the career of Heloise's uncle. The provisions of canon law expressly authorized the appointment of foreign canons to the cathedral of Paris. [...]

      The fact that Fulbert appears only once more in the acts of Notre-Dame after 1124 has led to the conclusion that he must have died shortly after that year. [...] It is in the register of the abbey's deaths that we find the answer: we find a Fulbert accompanied by a certain Herbert, canon and priest. It has not been possible to determine with certainty who this Herbert was. However, around 1140, they both appear side by side in a contract between Saint-Victor and the chapter of Notre-Dame. Since another canon named Fulbert was not known in the Paris documents at the time, it seems that he was indeed Heloise's uncle. He lived well into his 80s. Other clues have been found to support this hypothesis. [...] Fulbert died at about the same time as Abelard, around 1142. His death is noted in the obituary of Notre-Dame.

    9. Hersende and Raingarde, the mother of Peter the Venerable

      Werner Robl then conducts a rereading of Heloise's life to detect new understandings, based on the relationships that Hersende de Champigné had maintained. In addition to the benevolence of Count Thibaut of Champagne (more on this below in chapter 12), for reasons I find remote, and Abelard's defense of Robert d'Arbrissel, he provides a relevant origin for the strong support that Pierre le Vénérable (also further on in chapter 12), a very high religious authority, gave to Heloise : he had as his mother Raingarde de Sémur, who was very well acquainted with both Robert d'Arbrissel and Hersende de Champigné.

      Peter the Venerable and his monks. Thirteenth century miniature, (link).
      Consecration of the new abbey church of Cluny in 1095 by Pope Urbain II (BNF, ms lat. 17716, f°91) (link)
      Possible portrait of Peter the Venerable (BNF manuscript 17716, f. 23) (link).

      As evidenced by his correspondence with Heloise, Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny had excellent detailed knowledge of Helene's background in Argenteuil and Paris from his youth. However, until his election as abbot of Cluny in 1122, Pierre de Montboissier - he would only later receive the nickname Venerabilis - had only spent time far from the domain of the crown: in his native region of Sauxillanges in the Cévennes, then in monastic surroundings at Cluny and Vézelay in Burgundy and at Domène in the western Alps. In his younger years, he had thus followed over great distances the path of a well-known young girl near Paris. Nearly a quarter of a century later, he still remembered her when he wrote: "I had not yet fully passed the age of adulthood, I had not yet rushed into adolescence, when your reputation had certainly not yet made me understand the notion of your life.

      He did not hide his personal affection for Heloise: "For indeed, it is not only now that I am beginning to love you, you whom I have loved - as far as I can remember - for some time now." And : "Well before seeing you [...] I was already keeping you in the most intimate corner of my heart a place of true and unfeigned love". The abbot even seemed to have reflected on the circumstances of Heloise's birth when he recited the epistle to the Galatians  "As he was pleased to call you by his grace from your mother's womb, so you have turned your studies and your learning to far better things." Heloise had indeed been taken from her mother's womb! Of course, the abbot of Cluny may have learned about Heloise from the Cluniacs of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, near Paris. But did this explain how fond he was of her? The abbot's unusually affectionate attention to Heloise points to another fact: Pierre de Montboissier seems to have had very personal, even intimate, information from his earliest youth. This incredible phenomenon has not yet been explained in a plausible way. In this context, the following information acts as a spark :

      Pierre's mother, Raingarde de Sémur married Montboissier, had personal contacts with Robert d'Arbrissel and probably also with Hersende de Champigné. For a time she even wanted to enter Fontevraud. Peter the Venerable wrote on the occasion of the death of his mother, whom he loved very much all his life: "Finally, the famous Robert d'Arbrissel came to see her and stayed with her for some time. She then urged him to make her a nun, even without her husband's knowledge, so that she could, after his death or with his permission, go to Fontevraud" [...]. Robert must have advised against a premature separation, for Raingarde remained in the Cévennes. After her husband's death, she did not enter Fontevraud in 1117 either, since Robert d'Arbrissel and Hersende had already died.

      Instead, Raingarde chose the Cluniac town of Marcigny, on the banks of the Loire, as her last place of residence, on the advice of her son who had meanwhile become prior of the order. She spent nearly twenty years there and led a holy life before passing away in 1135, at the time of the Council of Pisa.

      If Raingarde therefore had personal contact with Robert d'Arbrissel, she may have been fully informed by him in a confidential conversation about Hersende and her daughter named Heloise. It is more likely that Hersende herself was the informant. It does not matter that she personally accompanied Robert on his pastoral journey to the south, which J. de La Mainferme dates with uncertain arguments to the year 1114. For Raingarde had previously visited many convents in France, among them certainly Fontevraud. Why else would she have wanted to enter? During a visit to Fontevraud, she must have personally met Hersende de Champigné. Peter the Venerable later followed Heloise's progress from afar and learned of her affair with Abelard and her conversion. After Abelard's death, Venerable Peter confessed that he had wanted Heloise to join the convent at Marcigny. He would probably have been happy to introduce her to his mother or to have her under his protection. [...]

      If we admit that there were close personal links, even a true friendship, between Raingarde de Sémur - Montboissier, Robert d'Arbrissel and Hersende de Champigné, one understands better the disinterested commitment of the abbot in favor of Pierre Abélard. It is possible that Héloïse actively used the previous contacts of their two mothers and asked for help for Pierre Abélard!

      Raingarde of Semur with her son the future Peter the Venerable (Pierre Charles Comte, link). She entrusts him to the
      prior of Sauxillanges (stained glass window in his church, link). Painting by anonymous author (link). + engravings: 1 (link) 2.
      In addition, Hersende has a sister-in-law, Eremburge de Sablé, first cousin of Raingarde's mother (link).

    10. From Fontevraud to the Paraclete, from Robert d'Arbrissel to Abelard
      At this point, the prioress and then abbess of Le Paraclet turning out to be the daughter of the prioress almost abbess of Fontevraud, it becomes natural to compare the two abbeys of Fontevraud and Le Paraclet, beyond the already very singular fact that they are abbeys for women directed by a woman. Here is the essence of what Werner Robl says about them.

      Almost no author had noticed the similarities in the structure of the convents until now, with a few notable exceptions. If one analyzes the writings of Abelard's Paraclete, especially letters 7 and 8 of the correspondence, and the well-known activities of Heloise, it is easy to see that the couple had indeed actively considered the founding concept of Fontevraud and had taken its advantages into account in formulating their own regulations. The basic motive for their action, the reform of an outdated structure of order, was similar, which is not a totally new discovery. Already in 1616, the authors of the Literary History of France wrote: "Abelard with the height of their satisfaction by sending them shortly afterwards the rule they had asked him for. That of Saint Benedict and the Constitutions of Fontevraud form the basis of this writing in which there is a quantity of excellent things with some singularities". And here are the common objectives: The lived imitation of Christ, a theology that reconciles God with men, the practice of poverty, humility and love of neighbor as basic virtues of monasticism, but also the special and merciful attention to the "painfully burdened" and, finally, the special consideration of the interests of the female sex.

      For the latter, a certain independence was needed, which the two directors of the order - Heloise and Hersende - obtained during their lifetime for their respective convent thanks to their talent as negotiators : the popes very soon granted exemption to their convents. The two monasteries tried to avoid the decadence of the other women's convents of the time.

      But what fundamentally distinguished the organization of Le Paraclet from that of Fontevraud was the preventive measures taken by Heloise and Abelard to avoid the unfavorable evolution that Fontevraud had experienced after 1116, that is, after the death of the founders. Thus, in his theoretical project for the order, Abelard deliberately avoided the secularization of the convent, which would have resulted from too many people. Heloise put this into practice in her management of the order: By founding small priories early on without exception, Heloise kept the mother monastery deliberately small and manageable. In this way, other dangers could also be avoided, for example the threat of infiltration by the nobility, so dreaded by Abelard. Moreover, in his conception of the monastery, Abelard distanced himself from the model of a double convent under the direction of a young abbess. He certainly had in mind the degradation of morals that had occurred under Petronilla de Chemillé at Fontevraud. [...]
      In addition to the comparison of the mode of management of these two abbeys, the thinking of their creators, d'Arbrissel and Abelard, presents analogies. Roscelin of Compiègne, a former teacher of the student Abelard, at Loches and Tours, attacked Robert d'Arbrissel. Beyond the substance of the controversy, it got out of hand, with Abelard and Roscelin even going so far as to insult each other (see further in Chapter 12). In a article from 2009, historian Constant Mews presents the debate. Here is the timeline and two excerpts (I underline a sentence that will be discussed in the last part of this chapter).

      Robert's rigorous critique of religious hypocrisy and his insistence that Ermengarde not be troubled by the externals of religious observance are reminiscent of Heloise's comments that she was not concerned with the trappings of religious life. In her argument against marriage, Héloïse does not wish to present herself as a worldly heroine, but as a lover par excellence who is not concerned with appearances. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider to what extent Héloïse's ideas may have been influenced by those of Baudri de Bourgeuil whose sermons have unfortunately not survived. Héloïse, who was much more steeped in classical literature than the first magistra of Fontevraud, belonged to a different generation than Hersende de Fontevraud. The latter, by her education, was inclined to encourage an ascetic zeal similar to that advocated by Robert. Héloïse could, however, take pleasure in the way Baudri tells how Robert maintained a great intimacy with Hersende, as well as in the way André tells that Robert wanted to be buried near Hersende. [...]
      • 1115 Dec. 25 - Robert celebrates Christmas at Hautes-Bruyères.
      • 1116 Feb. 25 - Death of Robert d'Arbrissel; death of Bertrade (late 1115/1116).
      • Late 1115/1116 - Death of Bertrade at Hautes-Bruyères (late 1115 or 1116).
      • 1116-1119 - Baudri de Dol [or de Bourgueil (1045-1130), friend of Robert d'arbrissel] and then André write the two lives of Robert, creating the libellus (long version) on 1 Sept. 1119.
      • 1115-early 1117 - Abelard's relationship with Heloise which gives birth to Astralabe in Brittany (by way of Fontevraud?).
      • March-May 1117 - castration of Abelard; Fulbert goes into exile for at least a year (going to Saint-Evroult, Normandy); Heloise becomes a nun at Argenteuil; Abelard becomes a monk at Saint-Denis, then goes to an abbey outbuilding.
      • 1117-1119 - Abelard completes his Dialectica and begins work on his glosses on Porphyry and Aristotle's Categories.
      • [1117/1118] - [Roscelin writes the Contra Robertum in the form of a letter (addressed to the pope?)].
      • 1119 - [Abelard replies to the canons of St. Martin of Tours about Roscelin]; Roscelin replies with the Epist. ad Abaelardum.
      • 1119 Aug. 31-Sept. 1 - Calixtus II goes to Fontevraud and consults the libellus there (long or short version?).
      • 1119 Sept. 15. - Calixtus II renews his support for Fontevraud, vindicating the abbey for possession of Hautes-Bruyères.
      • 1119 Oct. 5-18 - Louis VI reverses, in favor of St. Martin of Tours, the papal decision concerning Hautes-Bruyères.
      • 1119 Oct. 30 - Calixtus II reverses his decision of Sept. 15 and confirms the sentence of Louis VI.
      • 1119-c. 1124 - Abelard consults the libellus in its long version (according to the state preserved in the manuscript of Saint-Denis and summarized in 1635). Revision of Robert d'Arbrissel's libellus to respond to the controversy over his reputation, in use at Fontevraud (or revision, short version completed in Sept./Oct. 1119?).
      • 1120 - Abelard composes his Theologia Summi boni, against the theological errors of Roscelin.
      • 1120-21 - [Roscelin, having seen Abelard's treatise, urges the bishop of Paris to have him accused of heresy]; Abelard writes to the bishop of Paris to refute Roscelin's remarks.
      • 1121 (March/April) - Abelard is accused of heresy at the Council of Soissons.
      • 1122 - Abelard leaves Saint-Denis, first with the help of Burchard, bishop of Meaux, and then with the help of Stephen of Garlande.
      • 1124 - Burchard de Meaux founds Fontaines, priory of Fontevraud where Boudet will translate Robert's libellus (in its long version) in 1510.
      {...] Robert d'Arbrissel, Roscelin of Compiègne, and Peter Abelard each had their own vision of how they intended the Church to be reformed and purified of corruption. Robert was a leading preacher: his criticism of external hypocrisy fascinated many in Angevin society at the end of the eleventh century, especially Hersende, the first prioress and magistra of Fontevraud. However, Robert also provoked enmity, not only from Marbode of Rennes, but also from Roscelin, who had found refuge in Loches in 1093/94 with Foulque IV of Anjou, precisely at the time when the young Abelard was beginning his studies in the Loire valley. While Roscelin sided with Marbode in seeing in Robert a dangerous critic of clerical authority, Abelard was fascinated by Robert's questioning of hypocrisy in religious life, judgments which he applied to William of Champeaux and Anselm of Laon. Although Robert was not a dialectician, his critique of appearances led Abelard to question the authority of his masters and perhaps even to reflect on the importance of the intention behind the use of words.

      Robert d'Arbrissel as seen by Vincent Sorel (drawing) and Florian Mazel (text), "Histoire dessinée de la France" volume 6, 2019.

    11. Perspectives and summary

      Werner Robl concludes with a summary, thus redundancies, adding some perspectives. Here are the contents in extenso.

      After this genealogical overview of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the reader will finally be able to answer for himself the question: was Heloise the daughter of Hersende de Champigné ? Our own conclusion is as moderate as possible: it is possible and even probable, because many clues point to this family relationship. A proof in the scientific sense of the term cannot be provided, however, and should therefore not be expected. Nevertheless, the hypothesis has provided a plausible explanation for many biographical details that, until now, could not be evaluated and classified. Moreover, no striking counterarguments or compelling reasons for exclusion were found. Regardless of the postulated mother-daughter relationship, one thing is certain: the biographies of Heloise and Abelard need to be revised or expanded on many points. And even the most skeptical will admit that only the "rediscovery" of the founder of Fontevraud, a woman it is true, unnoticed until now, has justified the research.

      In conclusion, the general picture is as follows: Heloise was probably born in the north of Anjou in the last years of the eleventh century, about the time the first crusade was publicly declared in France. All indications are that her mother was the noble lady Hersende de Champigné, widow of the lord of Montsoreau, originally from Durtal sur le Loir. The Angevin house of Champigné was related to the Montmorency family in the north of Paris and to the count's house of Champagne. Hersende knew personally many personalities of contemporary history, among others Bertrade de Montfort, the counts of Anjou, the dukes of Brittany or the abbot Pierre le Vénérable of Cluny and his mother Raingarde.

      Around 1095 or a little later, Hersende de Champigné made a radical break with the feudal system and joined the vagabond "Pauperes Christi" under the leadership of the itinerant preacher Robert d'Arbrissel. It was during this troubled period that Heloise conceived and gave birth. Nothing more is known about the circumstances of the pregnancy and delivery, nor about the girl's father. Héloïse was not necessarily of illegitimate origin, but her birth was subject to particular conditions, unusual for a scion of the nobility. Hersende de Champigné and Robert d'Arbrissel devised an innovative model of social assistance to alleviate the social tensions caused by the crusade's population shifts and the weaknesses of the feudal and ecclesiastical system. They focused on needy and persecuted women in the country, but also on the poor and sick of both sexes.

      To implement their ideas, at the turn of the century they founded the mixed convent of Fontevraud, which included, among other things, the largest convent of women in French history. Hersende de Champigné played a decisive role in this achievement: it was she who made the necessary land donations; as superior of the choir nuns, she directed the development and construction work and ran the entire convent until her death.

      A decade and a half before her mother's death, Heloise had already had to leave her home country because of her parents' living conditions - as a newborn or infant. She thus shared the fate of her uncle Fulbert, who was probably Hersende's half-brother. Unloved in his native Durtal, he spent his early years outside the region, in ecclesiastical or noble circles of the Loire. He was raised in the region before moving to the Seine, as did his little niece, before the end of the century. Heloise seems to have been placed in the convent of Sainte-Marie d'Argenteuil through Bertrade de Montfort, and Fulbert managed to enter the chapter of Notre-Dame de Paris with the help of his brother, bishop Guillaume de Montfort. This was made possible by a newly created benefice, linked to the subdiaconate at the church of Saint-Christophe, at the gates of Notre-Dame.

      Fulbert was ambitious, enterprising and unscrupulous. On several occasions he came into conflict with law and order, notably because of the theft of relics or the assault on Abelard. But these affairs did not have a major impact on his ecclesiastical career. Until 1124, he was one of the eleven subdeacons of the cathedral of Paris and still conducted important negotiations towards the end of his career. His house and the Abelard's chair of dialectics were not in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, but near the church of Saint-Christophe, in the lively district in the center of Paris, between the Petit-Pont and the cathedral. It is likely that Fulbert lived to a ripe old age and ended his days in the regular convent of Saint Victor.

      Heloise does not seem to have turned away from Fulbert entirely in later life. She commented on his death in the Paraclete Book of the Dead and eventually visited his final home to negotiate memorial dates for the deceased Abelard and the Paraclete dead. The rest of Heloise's life, her love affair with Abelard and her career as a nun, is well known.

      The basic idea of the convent of the Paraclete, founded by the two spouses, had parallels with Fontevraud, but in its later conception it turned out to be an improved variant of it. It can be assumed that Heloise was aware of her mother's existence. It is unlikely that they knew each other personally later in life, for Hersende died prematurely, around 1114. Nevertheless, one must believe that mother and daughter appreciated, even loved, each other despite the geographical distance.

      There are many parallels between the two life paths. Hersende and Heloise were children of their time and were therefore neither protagonists of a feminist movement nor champions of free love. For them, God was a reality - in an immediacy that is difficult to imagine today. Without losing sight of the norms and conventions of the time, they both oriented their lives and their work towards the future, they conceived the Christian faith, against the spirit of the time, as a basis for life understandable from man and created for man, they had the strength and the courage to launch themselves. Thus, in spite of their mother-child relationship that probably did not find fulfillment, they showed themselves to be bearers of a common destiny and close in their ideas. The ideals for which they lived and died are what is indestructible and lasting and that shines through to our time.

    12. Could Robert d'Arbrissel be Heloise's father?

      The death of Robert d'Arbrissel and his tomb (gone) (link). It is rare for a religious congregation to refrain from honoring the man who was its founder. Yet this is what the Order of Fontevraud did with Robert d'Arbrissel. His memory was kept in intentional oblivion until 1655, when Robert's remains were placed in a superb marble tomb (link).

      The transcript I have just presented of Werner Robl's document has strengthened the firm conviction I already had that Hersende is Heloise's mother. I was surprised to learn that Hersende was so large. It is to such an extent that I now wonder if all the support Héloïse received, from her placement, as a child, in Argenteuil - thank you Bertrade, friend of Hersende - to the support, in her old age, of Pierre le Vénérable - thank you Raingarde, friend of Hersende - passing through the Montmorency family (and thus the Garlande family) and the Counts of Champagne, did not all come from her mother. Her father could have had nothing to do with it !...

      This therefore weakens the hypothesis I originally held, that Gilbert de Garlande would be her biological father, hidden and providing benevolent support. The opinion of Werner Robl on this father is of course precious. I have skipped, for the sake of this finale, his chapter "Reflections on Fatherhood". Here it is.

      If the mother-child hypothesis was correct, it was also necessary to bring plausible arguments for the paternity and the transfer of Heloise to Argenteuil. But unfortunately, not a single trace of Heloise's father was found; he remained absolutely unknown. On the basis of chronology, we can at least say that Hersende's husband, Guillaume de Montsoreau, could not have been Heloise's father. He had died before 1087.

      If we take into account the fact that Heloise did not grow up in a manor, but was transferred to a distant convent of French women, at Argenteuil, we can at least deduce a principled relationship between father and daughter, a full discussion of which would take us too far here. The following two diametrically opposed positions are conceivable  
      • Helisa's father was one of the "Pauperes Christi." If Hersende was already converted at the time of birth, Heloise would have been of illegitimate descent and her retention with her mother would have been impossible. In this case, Hersende's means should have been sufficient to provide her with a surrogate nurse during the nursing period and then entrust her to an appropriate convent for care and upbringing. Indeed, his sexual relations with women had caused public scandal, as evidenced by the reprimand of Marbode of Rennes, a personal acquaintance of Angers's from the time. Robert must have exerted some attraction to Hersende, or she would not have sought him out; for his part, Robert had chosen Hersende out of hundreds of women as his closest confidante.
      • On the other hand, if Heloise's father was a man of the nobility, he must have been a very powerful man. In this case, the conception had probably taken place before Hersende's conversion and before her stay in the woods of Craon. The father would have had the right to the bastard child, to raise him on his land, predestined for a later marriage for dynastic reasons. Hersende may have wanted to derail this "career" of her daughter by joining, perhaps already pregnant, the community of Robert d'Arbrissel. In this case, she would have shared the fate of an unwanted pregnancy with hundreds of other women who had joined Robert d'Arbrissel. [...example...] If, therefore, Hersende de Champagne gave birth to a newborn child - from the postulated relationship with a nobleman - outside of Anjou in the domain of the crown, and if she herself avoided a new marriage by joining the Pauperes Christi, it is undoubtedly because Heloise's father was a powerful man with extensive skills. It is not even excluded that it is personally the Count of Anjou Foulques IV, aging, previously married five times and reputedly lecherous. [...]

      Of course, this is not a statement of historical truth, but speculation. But such reflections are justified, for they prove that the circumstances of Heloise's conception and birth, if she really was Hersende's daughter, must have been exceptional. The founding of Fontevraud makes sense in the context of an unlived-in maternal role of Hersende de Champigné, since she, as prioress of Fontevraud, had particularly cared for young girls in difficulty and pregnant women!

      This is all very relevant, but the candidates for fatherhood are really numerous... To Werner Robl's two categories, one could even add others  a one-night stand with a virtual stranger, a fling with a knight who suddenly goes on a crusade and doesn't come back...

      To the left, Robert d'Arbrissel in "Histoire de la Bretagne" Volume 2, texts Reynald Secher, drawings René Le Honzec, 1992. Behind him, is it Hersende ? The same work presents Marbode, tribune and poet. On the right is his portrait in miniature (link). He had been consecrated bishop of Rennes in March 1096 during the visit of Pope Urban II to Tours.

      The simplest hypothesis, however, remains that of Robert d'Arbrissel, so close was he to Hersende. We even saw earlier (the underlined sentence in part 10) that "Robert maintained great intimacy with Hersende" and that he "wanted to be buried near Hersende". What about the "sexual relations with women" that Robert would have maintained, according to the words of Marbode, bishop of Rennes ? Here's exactly what he says, with comments by Guy Devailly (pdf : "A Bishop and Wandering Preacher of the Twelfth Century, Marbode of Rennes and Robert d'Arbrissel", 8 pages, 1980 dissertation, link) :

      The first reproach addressed to Robert and the disciples who follow him in his wanderings is the promiscuity in which they live : "They say that you like to live among women too much (you sinned once on this point). They say that men and women spend the night in common dormitories, that you sleep between your disciples and the women dictating to each other the rules of watchfulness and sleepiness... Many women, it is said, follow you in your peregrinations and attend your sermons. These women, you distribute in the inns and in diflerent places, and charge them with caring for the poor and pilgrims. That there is great danger there, the vagaries of the newborns prove it sutfisly... On this point, adds Mariode, many people, both laymen and clerics, accuse you all the more easily because, on this attendance, the divine laws and the human laws are very clear."
      Marbode does not take on board all the rumors that run about Robert, he does not accuse him of having personally failed in chastity, but of putting himself in a situation where it is diflicile to resist temptations for long.

      Guy Devailly and medievalist historian Jacques Dalarun, in a 1984 article "Robert d'Arbrissel and Women," believe that Marbrode exaggerates women's carnal temptations, suggesting that, while not excluding exceptions, Robert d'Arbrissel was able to remain chaste in his mission. As were Heloise and Abelard in the second part of their lives... But, just as there was for Heloise and Abelard a "before" and an "after", did Hersende and Robert have a "before", discreet, that an event, perhaps a simple common resolution at the birth of Heloise, would have tipped over into the "after"?

      All this made the Gilbert de Garlande hypothesis, which I had accepted for Héloïse's father, falter. Only a few clues remained. Certainly, and this will be confirmed in the next chapter, Hersende descends from the Montmorencies through a great-grandmother, Eremburge de Montmorency (married about 995), but this link is so remote that it is difficult to believe that it could have been activated by Hersende. I do not see a son of Hersende's first cousin, who lived very far from her, supporting his daughter to this extent. Unless, as we have seen with the name Héloïse, there were one or two relays in the intermediate generations. There is also the name Heloise which could have been given to a daughter of Gilbert, but which, if I have understood correctly, is only supported by a document. As for the possible granddaughter of Gilbert named Helvis, she was born at a time when, because of the popularity of Heloise d'Argenteuil, this name was more widely used. My belief in Gilbert's paternity was therefore eroded as I discovered the importance and aura of Hersende. I therefore abandon this hypothesis, without accepting another one.

      However, the hypothesis Robert d'Arbrissel father of Héloïse has taken on a strong importance. It is striking and attractive: it would reinforce in an extraordinary way the parallelism between the mother and the daughter... In this case the mother would have succeeded better than the daughter, which, paradoxically, threw her into obscurity when her daughter was illuminated for centuries to come... by the magic of the written word...

      Could we consider Robert holding Hersende in his arms?

      Werner Robl directs the reader to another possible father for Heloise, Foulques IV of Anjou (1043-1109), known as "le Réchin" or "le Querelleur," Bertrade de Montfort's first husband :

      The Foulques IV of Anjou hypothesis

      If Hersende de Champigné gave a newborn child - from the postulated relationship with a nobleman outside Anjou into the domain of the crown, and if she herself avoided a new marriage by joining the "Pauperes Christi", it is probably because Heloise's father was a powerful man with extensive skills.

      It is not even excluded that this is personally the aging Count of Anjou Fulko IV, previously married five times and reputedly lecherous. His frequent changes of wife are attested. During these years, he mourned his last marriage to Bertrade de Montfort.

      It was not a simple sword in the water, but a stab in the back of the queen, who gave him his identity card and, after a rocky escape, linked with King Philip I of France. The grumpy Fulko was then not on a military campaign as in previous years, but spent most of his time idle in the castles of his vassals. One of his closest confidants had been Hersende's late husband, Guillaume de Montsoreau. It is not as absurd as it may seem at first sight: he may have attacked the young widow Hersende during a visit to her son and successor, which may have caused her to escape from the feudal prison.

      Personally, I do not believe in this hypothesis for several reasons. First, in 1092, the date of Héloïse's supposed birth, Foulques IV was not yet 40 years old and was only slightly "aged". Then Hersende is a strong woman who would not sleep with the husband of her great friend Bertrade. Above all, later, Héloïse's son Astralabe energetically engaged against the house of Anjou (subchapter 12-11), which would then be his maternal grandfather's. Heloise would probably have talked him out of it. Unless she held a strong, otherwise undetectable grudge ...

    13. Hersende's two husbands and two children

      [According to her page Wikipedia and Werner Robl's paper] Hersende de Champigné, who became Lady of Montsoreau, is said to have been born sometime after 1060 in Durtal. She lost her parents prematurely, and had to take care of her younger brothers. In 1080, she married a certain Foulques, about whom almost nothing is known and with whom she had no children (except for a possible death in infancy). In 1086, she married Guillaume II de Montsoreau (who died before 1087) in second marriage. He was lord of the fortress of Montsoreau, located only a few kilometers from the future monastery of Fontevraud and the collegiate church of Candes Saint Martin. He belongs to the highest nobility of Anjou. He had seven or eight children from a first marriage, including Gautier III (or I) de Montsoreau who succeeded him in the lordship (list of lords), Aymeri, Joscelin and Agnes cited in the Fontevraud obituary, and Guillaume Malatache. In 1096, Gautier left for Palestine for the first crusade. He returned in 1108 with his brother Guillaume, both of them, with their brother Gervais, having received forty sols from the monks of Marmoutiers for a right of Tonlieu which was ceded to them. At the end of his life, around 1129, Gautier became a monk at Fontevraud. For the record, like his father, he is my ancestor (ascendance) and that of many other contemporaries...

      In addition to Héloïse with an unknown father, Hersende de Champigné had previously had, around 1087, with her second husband Guillaume II de Montsoreau, a first child named Etienne. He was first a canon of the local church of Saint-Martin de Candes, then moved to the cathedral chapters of Angers and Tours. In Tours, Etienne was honored under Archbishop Hildebert de Lavardin as an archdeacon. He died in 1130.

      The ashes of Hersende de Montsoreau, here named Hersende de Champigné, the first Grand Prioress of Fontevraud Abbey, were deposited in a chapel dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria located in the middle of the primitive cemetery of the abbey's religious, near the parish church that the abbess Alix de Bourbon had built in 1225.

  5. Hersende's parents, their descendants and ancestors

    This chapter explores the descending and ascending genealogies of Hersende's parents and it is not easy, because it happened nine centuries ago, because the father and mother had several spouses and children with each of them, because the names and surnames are changing, and because the sources may contradict each other. In order not to get too lost and to distinguish the certain from the hypothetical, it has been necessary to divide this chapter into about ten parts, the details of which are presented, at the beginning of the file, in the summary of subchapters..

    1. Héloïse, a family name

      Here is what I think is my main contribution to the genealogical study of Heloise d'Argenteuil. Her first name, with its variants Helvise, Helvis, Helvide..., is rare enough to be a family marker at a time when first names were taken up from generation to generation, almost continuously or dotted around. So here is what I presented in May 2015.

      Hersende's paternal grandmother, Hildeburge du Lude had two parents, Isembart I de Broyes and Hildeburge de Château du Loir (and de Montevrault). For each of them the ancestry is discussed. For the father it is important, since the hypothesis that I retain would allow to explain why Héloïse is called Héloïse, thus it would validate in part that Hersende is indeed the mother of Héloïse. This father of Hildeburge, known as Isembart du Lude would also be Isembart de Broyes and would have Héloïse de Mortagne as his sister and Héloïse de Pithiviers as his mother. More precisely, one could draw the following table which shows by four times the attribution of the first name Heloise :

      • The top of this diagram is inspired by the one on page 1000 of François Doumerc's thesis on the Rorgonides, with the difference of considering that Isembart de Broyes was the son of Heloise de Pithiviers and not of a second wife of Renard (for it was through him that the lordship of Pithiviers passed from his mother to her son Hugh; also, he had a granddaughter named Heloise).
      • The link between the two Hildeburge (or Ildeburge) is notably by their first name.
      • Héloïse de Mortagne also has a descendant named Héloïse, a great-great-granddaughter, thus of the same generation as Abélard's wife.
      • Elisabeth de Sours, first wife of Hugues "Bardoul" de Broyes, would be a daughter of Emmeline de Chartres, great-great grandmother of Héloïse (x Pierre Abélard)
      • In this family branch, we find three bishops of Orleans, from uncles to nephews ; Odalric de Broyes (-1036), Isembart II de Broyes (-1062, son of Isembart I), Haderic de Broyes (-1067). This is consistent with the fate of Hersende and Heloise. Strangely, by her supposed [now rejected] father, Heloise would have a half-brother (or first cousin) Manassès de Garlande who is bishop of Orleans (-1185), who has a nephew Hugues de Garlande bishop of Orleans (-1206).

      Héloïse d'Argenteuil by Louis-Marie Lanté, engraver Georges-Jacques Gatine, Paris 1827 (lien)

      So far, none of the hypotheses about Héloïse's parents really explains her choice of name (even Brenda Cook's theory, in my opinion). According to the logic of the time, it is to be found in the first names of her ancestors. Even if some of the links presented here are not completely proven, here is a traceability of the first name Héloïse through Hersende's ancestry. She may have known Héloïse de Broyes, her father's first cousin.

      Going back even further, as Heloise was then also called Helvide, and to believe the usually recognized genealogies, Heloise / Helvide de Bassigny is great granddaughter of Helvide de Senlis. The latter is the daughter of Helvide of Friuli (855-895), herself a great-granddaughter of Helvide of Saxony, married in 794 to Welf I of Saxony. They were relatives of the "pulcherrima" (very beautiful) empress Judith of Bavaria (800-843, daughter-in-law of Charlemagne), ancestor of Heloise. After the death of her husband, Helvide of Saxony had become abbess of Chelles. Celebrity, beauty and religion, it was four centuries before the birth of the beautiful and famous Heloise, abbess of the Paraclete !

      Also in May 2015, I then wrote:

      A week after completing this study I realized that it had already been done by Werner Robl (the man who first identified Heloise's mother with Hersende de Champigné) on this page of the German Heloise and Abelard website. I am pleased to see that there is a great concordance between the two ancestries that we present.

      In October 2022, I take up what Werner Robl said in 2002 :

      There is a great-great-grandmother in this family on the maternal side with the name Heloise. This was a strong clue because of the extreme rarity of this name in Anjou. On the other hand, names were often repeated in Hersende's family, such as Hubert. Would Hersende de Champigné have chosen for one of her daughters the name of a great-great-grandmother?

      I don't directly believe in naming a great-great-grandmother in 1092 who died in 1025. But indirectly yes, because the previous tree shows that there may have been two relays :

      Héloïse d'Argenteuil may have received the first name of Héloïse de Broyes, a young first cousin of her grandmother, who may have had hers from her young great-aunt Héloïse de Mortagne, daughter of Héloïse de Pithiviers and great-great-grandmother of Héloïse d'Argenteuil... Add that there may have been one or two other Heloise in this tree of whom we have lost track... without forgetting the Heloise who died at a very young age, as was then common.

      As in 2015, I'm going back in time:"Héloïse / Helvide de Bassigny is great-granddaughter of Helvide de Senlis. The latter was the daughter of Helvide of Friuli (855-895), herself a great-granddaughter of Helvide of Saxony, married in 794 to Welf I of Saxony. They were parents of the "pulcherrima" (very beautiful) empress Judith of Bavaria (800-843, daughter-in-law of Charlemagne)". Let's linger on these distant ancestors of Hersende and Heloise, Welf I of Saxony (797-843) and his wife Heloise "Heilwige (Helvid), of Saxon origin, daughter of a count in Thurgau and later abbess of Chelles" (link). Already an abbess!

      Genealogical tree of the house of Welf with, at the very bottom, the oldest, Welf Primus (illumination from Weingarten Abbey, 12th century, link). At right, Judith of Bavaria, daughter of Welf and Helvid, empress of the Carolingian Empire for marrying Louis I the Pious, son of Charlemagne (The Chronicle of the Guelphs (1190), Weingarten Abbey, link).

      Another daughter of Welf I and Heloise/Helvid of Saxony, Emma of Bavaria, married Louis II the German, grandson of Charlemagne, son of Ludwig I the pious and thus son-in-law of Judith... The Wikipedia page on the "First House Welf" goes back another few centuries : "According to family legend, the pedigree of the dynasty goes back to Edecon (died 469), a prince of the Skires at the time of King Attila. Edecon was the father of Odoacre, the "barbarian" leader at whose feet Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor, laid down the imperial regalia in 476. + extract from a genealogical work of the Abbey of Cluny with Edicon / Etichone and Odoacre.

    2. The children of Hubert III de Champigné, the father of Hersende

      Hersende's father, and thus most likely Héloïse's maternal grandfather, was Hubert III de Champigné, also named Payen, also named de Champagne or de Champagné. Born in 1016, he was lord of Champagne (country between Maine and Anjou), of Vihers, of Saint Martin de Parcé, of Bailleul, of Avoise in Maine, of Pescheseul (in the commune of Avoise) and thus of Champigné in Anjou. The fortress of Durtal, in Anjou, was entrusted to him by Geoffroi d'Anjou. According to his page Roglo, he is said to have "died in 1070 fighting, like his father and grandfather." His family, wives and children, is difficult to determine, as we have conflicting sources, especially these (bracketed my estimates) :

      According to Louis Lucas, Hubert died in 1107 and had five children with Agnes :
      1. Hubert II [Hubert IV] of Champagne de Clervaux, baron of Mathefelon and Duretal, sire of Champagne, Vihers, etc., who married Agnes Avitie of Brittany, daughter of Etienne de Guingamp (Guinguemnippo) [daughter of Etienne de Penthièvre and Havoise de Guingamp] ;
      2. Etienne de Champagne de Clervaux (de Clarovallibus), who married Mathilde, daughter of Archambaud de Sully;
      3. Gervais de Champagne (Gervasius de Campania, frater Stephani), also called Gervais de Duretal, who married Aremburge de Sablé;
      4. Hersende or Gersende, who married Guillaume de Montsoreau, was first prioress of Fontevrault ;
      5. Agnès, wife of Geoffroy de Château-Gontier.
      La Chesnaye-des-Bois, forgetting the first wife, attributes to Hubert III only one child with Elisabeth de Mathefelon:
      1. Hubert IV of the name, baron of Mathefelon, lord of Champagne, Vihers, Arnay, Clervaux, etc., who married Agnes of Brittany (or of Cornouaille).
      Ménage (Histoire de Sablé, pp. 224-226) believes that Hubert and Agnès had five children:
      1. Hubert IV of Champagne, lord of Duretal,
      2. Geoffroy,
      3. Thibaut de Mathefélonn
      4. Hugues de Mathefélon, who married Jeanne de Sablé,
      5. Hersende de Champagne, also known as Hersende de la Suse, and Hersende de Mathefélon, who married Guillaume de Montsoreau, and was first prioress of the abbey of Fontevrault.
      Hubert IV, according to him, having died without posterity, the following lords of Champagne and Mathefelon descend from his younger brother Geoffroy de Clervaux, who inherited his land of Duretal..
      D'Hozier also thinks they had five children, but the names differ :
      1. Hubert II [Hubert IV], lord of Duretal, whom he caused to die in 1116, without issue, and who had married: 1° Amicie de Mathefélon; 2° Hersende de Château-Gontier,
      2. Geoffroy, lord of Clervaux, to whom he gave for wife Mahaut de Mathefélon, from whom all the following lords of Mathefélon descend.
      3. Gervais, lord of Mathefelon,
      4. Hersende, wife of Guillaume, lord of Montsoreau,
      5. Agnès, who was allied to Geoffroy de Château-Gontier.
      The printed genealogical chart of the Counts of Champagne (link), which is part of the Counts of Champagnela-Suse file, grants seven children to Hubert and Agnes:
      1. Herbert V, baron of Duretal, husband of Hersende of Brittany,
      2. Geoffroy, lord of Clervaux, and Saint-Léonard, who married Mathilde N...,1
      3. Gervais of Champagne, who took Arembruge as his wife,
      4. Hersende, lady of Courlion, wife of Guillaume de Montsoreau,
      5. Agnès, wife of Geoffroy de Château-Gontier,
      6. Geoffroy de Clervaux who died without children. Probably the husband of Mathilde / Mahaut de Mathefelon,
      7. Hubert de Clervaux, died childless.
      The previous link (Review "The Historical Cabinet" tomme 11, part 1, 1865) provides corrections.
      We believe unlike these authors that they had :
      • Hubert II [Hubert IV] [replacing Herbert V] of Champagne de Clervaux de Mathefélon who follows:
      • Geoffroy de Champagne dit de Clervaux baron de Mathefélon seigneur de Saint Léonard etc must have lived in the second half of the eleventh century. According to Ménage and Pierre Loyer, he inherited the barony of Duretal, his brother Hubert having no children. He was qualified as an "illustrious man" by declarations made in 1518 and 1540 before the elected officials of Le Mans when all the nobles of the country were obliged to prove their nobility by order of François I.

        Lucas in his manuscript of 1660 does not mention this Geoffroy; he gives Hubert I [Hubert III] of Champagne three boys and two girls:
        • Hubert II [Hubert IV] of Champagne
        • Etienne de Champagne de Clervaux we think that this Etienne who married Mahaut or Mathilde de Sully daughter of Archambaud and Mathilde de Beauvais could well be the same lord as this Geoffroy de Champagne de Clervaux .
      According to his page Roglo, Hubert III de Champigné, known as "The Posthumous" (he was born after his father's death), is said to have had as children:
      1. Hubert IV de Champigné married Avicie, from whom a son Hugues de Champigné, lord of Mathefelon, married Elisabeth de Mathefelon, and another son Foulques de Mathefelon.
      2. Hersende

      One must decide among these conflicting data. Here are the reasonings I followed:
      1. According to some, Hubert IV had children; according to others, he did not. Mainly, there is the question of whether Hugh I is the son of Hubert IV or that of Geoffroy. The dates of birth/marriage/death of the children and grandchildren of Hugh I lead me to believe that his father is the eldest, Hubert IV, following the genealogy of the historical Cabinet (recall the link). Another clue points in this direction: Hugh I would have for brother Haouisi and sister Avoise, whose first names would be distortions of their mother Avicie's. As indicated in Roglo, Elisabeth de Mathefelon would be the first wife of Hugh I.
      2. It appears that Hubert IV may have married Hersende de Château-Gontier (perhaps sister of Geoffroi de Château-Gontier, husband of Agnes de Champigné). But, given the late birth of his children with Avicie, this would be a first marriage and not the second.
      3. The next other children of Hubert III and Agnes would be:
        • Geoffroy de Clervaux would also be Etienne de Clervaux, lord of Clervaux and St Léonard, since both would have married Mathilde /Mahaut (this is the same first name) de Sully.
        • Gervais de Champigné or de Mathefelon, married to Eremburge de Sablé,
        • Thibaut de Champagne, also of Mathefelon, apparently remained single.
        • Agnès de Champigné married with Geoffroi de Château-Gontier.
      4. And Fulbert in all this? Recall that in the obituary of the Paraclete, he is called Hubert. Could he be this Hubert who had no children and would have given rise to confusions ? The answer is yes when one remembers having read previously that Werner Robl considers that Fulbert would have as his mother a first wife of Hubert III and would therefore be a half-brother of Hersende. He could have been born under the name Hubert, which he would have given up for Fulbert when he chose a religious career and when his half-brother Hubert IV was born. Then, when he became old, he could have taken back his first name of birth to abandon that of Fulbert, almost struck with infamy. Moreover, the chronology goes in this direction since Hubert III would have been born around 1017 and Hubert IV around 1060, Hubert III being then 43 years old and having been able to have beforehand one or more children with a first wife, the eldest Hubert/Fulbert being easily 15 years old at the birth of Hubert IV.

      1. Mathefelon is spelled Mateflon today. It is a locality in Seiches-sur-le-Loir in Anjou. This Mathefelon title is not carried continuously over the first few generations, which complicates its study, as the Wikipedia page on the Mathefelon family shows, even speaking of "chaos."
      2. Hubert IV de Clervaux, first baron of Anjou and Maine, lived between 1060 and 1121. He inherited from his uncle Thibaut de Clervaux [Thibaut de Champigné] , who died without children. This Hubert enjoyed great fame during his lifetime, both in piety and in arms, with the recognition of his relative Count Stephen of Blois, after the victory he won over a Saracen king. He had received the castle of Durtal from the hands of Geoffroy Martel, Count of Anjou He was baron of Mathefelon, lord of Champagne, Vihers, Arnay, Clervaux, Duretal, Avoise, Parcé, Bailleul, Pescheseul, Champigné, Baissé, Saint-Léonard and Ravaudun. He made the name of Mathefelon so illustrious that his descendants were proud to bear it. Hubert IV died between 1116 (Chronicle of Anjou) and 1121 (Louis Lucas), and was buried in the church of Duretal, depending on the abbey of Saint-Aubin d'Angers.

      So we come to the following tree:

    3. The children of Agnes de Clairvaux, Hersende's mother

      Agnès de Clervaux, Hersende's mother, was younger than her father, Hubert III de Champigné, by about thirteen years. We have seen their common children. After the death of Hubert III, Agnes remarried to Renaud I of Maulévrier, about the same age as her, a little over 35. He would be the son of Aimery de Maulévrier and Mélissende. Maulévrier is a commune in Maine et Loire. Agnes and Renaud I had at least one son, Richard, hence a significant descent (I am, link). We only know that Agnes would have died before 1080, at the age of 50. We thus obtain the following tree :

    4. The ancestry of Hubert III de Champigné

      I am basing this on the study I did in 2015, on that of Thierry and Hélène Bianco (link), also from 2015, on that of Werner Robl (last page of the pdf given in the intro) and on the Roglo 2022 base (link). I'll point out discrepancies when there are any. Hersende's father was Hubert III de Champigné, sometimes nicknamed Payen.Also called Hubert de Champagne or de Champagné, he was lord of Champigné, Champagne, Vihers, Saint-Martin-de-Parcé, du Bailleul, Avoise, Pescheseul. He received the castle of Durtal as a gift from Geoffroi Martel, Count of Anjou in 1059. He was also called "the posthumous" because he was born after the death of his father in 1016.

      Hubert III's father was Hubert II of Champigné, nicknamed "Le Rasoir" ("Rasorius"), also named Hubert II of Arnay. He died, along with his two half-brothers Thibaut and Bernier, on July 6, 1016, at the Battle of Pontlevoy, pitting his Angevin camp, led by Foulques Nerra, against that of Count Eudes II of Blois, victorious.

      With more than 5,000 dead, the Battle of Pontlevoy in 1016 was the bloodiest battle of the middle ages.
      By comparison, there were about 6,000 deaths at the Battle of Azincourt, in 1415.
      At Pontlevoy, the geographic origin of the combatants was much more restricted than at Azincourt.
      (Victor de la Fuente is one of Spain's greatest realistic comic artists)

      Hubert II's father was Hubert I de Champigné or d'Arnay, born about 960/965, died before 1002. He was lord of Arnay, Vihiers, Parcé. From the dictionary of nobility by François de La Chesnaye-Desbois, 1772, volume 4 2nd edition, pages 182 and 183, (link) :

      Hubert, Sire d'Arnay, could have been a puisne of the ancient Counts of Maine : this is the sentiment of the Abbé le Laboureur, in his Additions to the Memoirs of Caslelnau, Volume II. This Hubert lived around the years 980, 985 and 997. He died before the year 1002, during the reign of King Robert, son of Hugues Capet. His wife was Eremburge or Ermengarde, Lady of Vihers, daughter, according to the above-mentioned author, or niece according to others, of Albéric, Sire of Montmorency, Constable of France.

      She was married in 997, and had in dowry of Foulques Nerra, Count of Anjou, her first cousin, the Land of Vihers, located on the borders of Anjou and Maine, called the Campaign of Parcé, which includes the barony of Champagne, with the sireries of Pescheseul, Avoise, su Bailleul and Saint Martin de Parcé, which the descendants of Hubert d'Arnay have always possessed until Jean, Sire de Champagne, nicknamed the Great Godet, died on July 3, 1576. This is proven by a title of the Abbey of Saint-Aubin d'Angers, whose monks claimed to be This was disputed by Hubert, known as Raforius, who follows, son of the first Hubert, named in the previous title, Arnetto alias Harnotto, and his wife Eremburge de Vihers, is qualified therein as first cousin of Foulques Nerra, Count of Anjou. It seems by this that this Hubert d'Arnay held the first rank among the highest nobility of the Provinces of Anjou and Maine, since a Sovereign Count gave him his cousin in marriage.

      Herbert II of Vermandois was, perhaps, hanged
      by order of Louis IV of Outremer. Illumination
      between 1300 and 1349 (Bibl. mun. Toulouse, link).
      The source of "Abbé Le Laboureur" is disputed, so Roglo, Thierry Bianco, and Werner Robl do not attribute parents to Hubert I. Personally, I opt for Hugues II of Maine and Godehilde de Vermandois (uncertain first name, could be one of his sisters), born around 932, (fiche Roglo), daughter of Herbert II of Vermandois (not Herbert III as often indicated on Geneanet), as Hubert appears to me to be a fusion of the first names Hugh and Herbert. There is a degree of uncertainty that I translate by the first name XXX on my elastoc base of Généanet. Hubert I would then be, on his mother's side, a great-grandson of the king of the Franks Robert I (grandfather of Hugues Capet) and on his father's side a great-grandson of Rothilde, daughter of the king Charles II the Bald, who was himself a grandson of Charlemagne.

      Godehilde of Vermandois probably had a niece, Adele (or Adelaide) of Vermandois, mother of the famous Foulques III Nerra, Count of Anjou. Thus Hubert I, husband of Eremburge de Montmorency, was first cousin to Adèle de Vermandois, mother of Foulques Nerra (common grandparents : Herbert II de Vermandois and Adèle, daughter of King Robert I, tree). Thus the dictionary of the Nobility was not very wrong in estimating that Eremburge and Foulques were first cousins. And this consolidates our hypothesis about the parents of Hubert I.

      Hugues II and Godehilde were also the parents of Melisende du Maine, married to Judicaël de Nantes, direct ancestors of Conan III the Fat of Cornwall, Duke of Brittany from 1112 to 1148, in whose camp Astralabe vigorously engaged (part 10 of chapter 12) (tree).

      Hubert II's mother was Eremburge de Montmorency, daughter of Aubry or Alberic de Montmorency, as indicated in the text above, and as approved by Werner Robl and Thierry Bianco, with Roglo preferring not to designate a mother. Werner Robl gives very strong credence to this Montmorency  ancestry:

      Striking analogies to Heloise's story are found in Hersende's female ancestors: a paternal great-grandmother had been a lady named Eremburge de Montmorency. This corresponded almost exactly to the relationship that d'Amboise had formulated in 1616 for Heloise as being certain: legitima agnatione. There was only a one-generation difference: it was not Heloise herself who was paternally and legitimately descended from the Montmorency family, but her mother! Duchesne had not done any in-depth research into this branch of the family angevin branch of the family, as his genealogy testifies  he could not therefore validly pronounce on the data of his co-editor, who had perhaps obtained them by oral tradition.

      There is another potential link to the Montmorencies: Godehilde de Vermandois had a sister Leutgarde, whose daughter, Hildegarde de Blois married Bouchard I de Montmorency, or de Bray. And this sister Luitgarde, married Thibaut I the Cheat, they are the grandparents of Eudes II de Blois, the Count of Anjou who lost the battle of Pontlevoy.

      The aforementioned text of the Dictionary of Nobility, referred to Hubert I's parents as well as his wife and in-laws. Accepting the latter is consistent with accepting the former, although cross-checking leads to more caution and the Count of Maine is not specifically mentioned. Several Geneanet sites name Hugues II and Godehilde and there is Hu(gues-Her)bert... The links with the Montmorency, the counts of Anjou, Blois, Nantes are added to this.

      We then obtain the following ancestry tree for Hubert II, father of Hubert III and
      paternal grandfather of Hersende :

      Ascendancy with two additional levels on the elastoc Geneanet base.

      Hubert III has Hildeburge du Lude as his mother (no first name for Werner Robl, unknown for Roglo). According to Roglo, a Isembard du Lude is said to have married around 990 a Hildeburge of Château-du-Loir and they had a son Raoul du Lude. It seems very likely that they also had, as a daughter, Hideburge du Lude, who would then have the first name of her mother and the name of her father, the date of marriage, 990, being coherent with the date of birth of her husband Hubert II of Champigné, around 997.

      This Roglo file does not indicate the ancestry of Isambard du Lude, but partially, that of Hidelburge de Château du Loir. His paternal grandfather would be Hamon de Léon, viscount of Léon, whose first name is taken over by Hamon de Château-du-Loir, brother of Hidelburge (and thus great-uncle of Hubert III), whose son was Gervais de Château-du-Loir, also called Gervais de Bellême, bishop of Le Mans, archbishop of Reims, regent of the kingdom of France from 1060 to 1066. Thierry Bianco:

      According to charter no. LXXXV of the cartulary of Saint Aubin d'Angers, which lists the various possessors of Champigné sur Sarthe, the wife of Hubert II Rasorius is the daughter of Isembard du Lude and the granddaughter (or niece) of Isembard de Bello Videre. The chronicle of Parcé which relates that the wife of Hubert II belongs to the family of the counts of Champagne is taken in error. [...] According to the chronicle of Parcé, the mother of Hubert III, Hildeburge, is the granddaughter of a Heloise. [...]

      Isembard du Lude was born around 965 and died in 1028. He was the brother of Oldaric /Oury, bishop of Orleans ( 1022 - 1036) son of Renard and Helvide / Heloise (G Ménage p 8).

      So Isembard du Lude would be son of Renard de Broyes and Helvide / Heloise de Pithiviers, he would be Isembart de Broyes whom Roglo failed to recognize as Isembard du Lude. This Isembart, son of Renard, before marrying Béline de Beaufort, would have been married to Hildeburge of Château-du-Loir, geographically close to Le Lude, in the Sarthe. He would then have lived in Maine, far from his native Orléans. Lord of Pithiviers, Broyes and Beaufort, he would have been, at the time of his first marriage, lord of Le Lude. We cannot be sure. The Wikipedia page on the lords of Broyes presents this Isembart de Broyes and his father Renard in a slightly different configuration :

      Renart de Nogent, (or Renard, Rainard, Renaud de Broyes), (before 960 - Rome c. 999), lord about 980 of Broyes and other Champagne property. His second wife was Heloise of Pithiviers. [...] He has from this second marriage :
      • Oury (or Odry/Orri/Oldoric/Odalric), bishop of Orleans from 1022 to 1033, lord of Pithiviers,
      • Héloïse, wife of Geoffroi II of Châteaudun and I of Perche, † 1040.
      His first wife is unknown. He has from this first marriage:
      • Isembart [in note #9, Wikipedia wonders if his mother could be Heloise]

      The town of Pithiviers with the keep of Heloise de Pithiviers, on the right, so before 1837 (link). The spire
      of the church of St. Solomon and St. Gregory was rebuilt even higher (80 m) in 1855, visible from a great distance.

      There is some debate about the mother of Isembart de Broyes. He was lord of Broyes, Beaufort and Pithiviers, like his father Renard, who died in Rome shortly after 990, during a pilgrimage. Was his mother Renard's first wife, of unknown name, or his second wife, Héloïse / helvis / Helvide de Pithiviers? Wikipedia and Roglo lean toward the former with this explanation for Roglo: "Du Chesne gives his two sons as being from Heloise but the life of St. Gregory indicates that Oldoric is the only son of Helvise and heir to the city of Pithiviers. This confirms well the two marriages of the father". I think that Du Chesne is right, on the one hand because Isembart had a granddaughter named Heloise (de Broyes) and, above all, because Isembart received, briefly, the title of lord of Pithiviers before leaving it to his son Hugues Bardoul. He was only able to obtain this title because he was the son of Heloise and descended from the former lords of Pithiviers. This is what the most precise study on the lords of Pithiviers tells us, made in 1886 under the title "Essai sur les premiers seigneurs de Pithiviers, partie 3" (page 100 and following of fichier-pdf, volume 4 of the "Annales de la société historique et archéologique du Gâtinais"). Here are some extracts :

      Odolric had not waited until the last years of his life to dispose of what was his own in favor of his own. We shall see how he divided his domains and dignities among those of his nephews who had reached manhood, leaving to one, Hugue de Mortagne, the lordship of Pithiviers, to another, Hugues Bardoul, his castle of Nogent-le-Roi, to the third, Isembard, the bishopric of Orleans; and how, thereafter, the lordship of Pithiviers passed successively into the hands of each of them, in the space of ten years. [...]
      Hugue de Mortagne became lord of Pithiviers, at the death of his uncle. His domination was to last only a short time, from the year 1035 to 1042. [Shortly afterwards he himself died a violent death during a victorious expedition, as we shall see in the next chapter (1042). During his short life he does not seem to have taken a wife and did not leave any children to inherit his estate.
      The seigneury of Nogent-le-Roi, which together with that of Pithiviers formed the largest part of Odolric's territorial inheritance, became, as has been said, the lot of one of his nephews, named Hugues Bardoul. It had initially been destined not for Hugues Bardoul, but for his father Isembard, brother of the bishop of Orléans. This is evident from the charter of foundation of the abbey of Coulombs, in 1028, by which Odolric assigned to the monks several villages which had hitherto depended on the castle of Nogent; he brought into the act his brother Isembard with the quality of designated successor of this lordship; and Hugues Bardoul is mentioned thereafter only as son of Isembard.

      We have passed quickly over the identification of Isembard du Lude with Isembart de Broyes. It is only a privileged hypothesis because of the resumption of the first name Héloïse by the daughter of Hersende. But we will see, in the following part, that Héloïse de Pithiviers was so famous that her name could have been taken outside of her direct descent. After our preferred hypothesis, here are some others. The use of the first name Isembart, quite rare in the local high nobility, added to that of Héloïse will bring us back to Renard or one of his brothers, as it seems that their father was named Isembart / Isembert.

      Hypothesis Isembart du Lude is: Héloïse de Pithiviers is then :
      1 (preferred) son of Renard de Broyes and Héloïse de Pithiviers his mother
      2 son of Renard de Broyes and his first wife his mother-in-law
      3 nephew of Renard, because son of one of his brothers:
      • Isembart, died c. 977, but reported childless,
      • Sewin /Seguin, archbishop of Sens from 977 to 999 (young, he may have been married and had a child),
      • Oldaric, bishop of Orleans from 1022 to 1036 (young, may have been married and had a child),
      • (brother uncertain) Raynard, father of Thierry, bishop of Orleans from 1013 to 1022,
      his aunt
      4 nor son, nor son-in-law, nor nephew of Heloise de Pithiviers, without a clue to direct us... a grand-nephew or cousin or without family link...

      Hypothesis 2 has been rejected because of the transmission of the title of lord of Pithiviers and the four cases of hypothesis 3 appear fragile. There remains hypothesis 4, without any clue... It is the fragility of hypotheses 2 to 4 which gives weight to the first one, which keeps for weakness a geographical displacement of Pithiviers in Orléans to Lude in Maine.

      We then obtain the following ancestry tree for Hildeburge du Lude, mother of Hubert III and
      paternal grandmother of Hersende :

      Ascendancy with two additional levels on the elastoc Geneanet base.

    5. Héloïse de Pithiviers, a prominent figure in Hersende's ancestry

      At this genealogical stage, it is appropriate to dwell on the personality of Héloïse de Pithiviers, who marked her time. So much so that her first name Héloïse / Helvide could be transmitted to her direct female descendants as well as to her eventual daughters-in-law, her nieces and even to her friends and admirers. The following presentation is taken from the study by Raphael Bijard, 2019, and from the dedicated Wikipedia page.

      She was the sister of Roger, Bishop of Beauvais from 998 to 1016 and of Hugues de Blois, Count of Dreux, Preceptor then advisor and favorite of King Robert II. In agreement with the study of Thierry Bianco, that of Raphaël Bijard, in half agreement with the Roglo base and in disagreement with Wikipedia (version 2022...) which considers her as the niece of Eudes I of Blois, she would be the daughter of Hugues IV of Laon (also called Hugues de Blois), count of Bassigny and (the first name speaks for itself), Helvide of Chaumontois, knowing that the paternal grandmother of Hugues IV is also named Helvide (of Senlis / of Gouy). It is Heloise, by her dowry, who brings to her husband Renard the lordship of Pithiviers.

      After the death of her husband in 990, during a pilgrimage to Rome, she was put in charge of the lordship of Pithiviers. She built a keep, also called "master tower". This exceptional monument, which can be compared to the dungeons of Foulques Nerra, from the same period, was reinforced and raised to 33 meters at the end of the 11th century. It will dominate the city for nearly 840 years, before its demolition in 1837.

      The keep of Pithiviers, 19th century engravings and the collegiate church of Saint George with its 11th century bell tower (link).

      Around 998, Heloise of Pithiviers had welcomed the Armenian hermit Gregory of Nicopolis, who had become a saint, and installed him in the chapel of the monks of Vertou in Baudrevilliers (Bondaroy). When he died, around 1006, she had his remains brought back to Pithiviers in the collegiate church of Saint-Georges

      Stained-glass window in the church of St. Solomon and St. Gregory of Pithiviers, with Gregory of Nicopolis Armenian bishop turned hermit at Pithiviers (link). Heloise of Pithiviers could be depicted there, praying at the foot of Gregory.

      There is, in Pithiviers, a gingerbread brotherhood of St Gregory of Nicopolis (links: 1 2).

      Heloise de Pithiviers also financed the reconstruction of the castral church, which became the Collegiate Church of Saint George, adjoining the keep. She endowed her chapter with 12 canons and a dignitary. She was buried there before 1025.

      The relatively exceptional life of Heloise and her achievements (dungeon, collegiate church) marked her contemporaries. Outside of hagiographic accounts, she is a notable character in the Geste des Lorrains, a song by Garin the Lorrain. She indirectly influenced other storytellers or chroniclers, such as the Anglo-Norman monk Orderic Vital.

      A fortiori, her impact was very strong on her descendants. She was probably an example for Hersende de Champigné. Building the abbey church of Fontevraud was not following in the footsteps of her ancestor, an illustrious woman who had built a keep and a collegiate church? And even, perhaps, for Heloise d'Argenteuil, when she developed the abbey of Paraclet ?

    6. The ancestry of Agnes of Clairvaux

      This is how Hersende de Champigné's mother is presented on her Wikipedia page:

      Hersende's mother, Agnès de Clervaux de Matheflon was from Matheflon [or Mathefelon], the name of a manor house on the banks of the Loire, a few miles north of Angers. His maternal grandfather, Hugues de Clervaux (a noble residence in southern Anjou, now Scorbé-Clairvaux [in the Vienne]), had distinguished himself several times in battles against the Bretons and whose nom de guerre was "Mange Bretons." His grandmother, Hersende de Vendôme, daughter of Viscount Hubert I of Vendôme and wife of Hugues Mange-Breton, had close ties with the Vendôme region. Her maternal great-uncle, Hubert II of Vendôme, bishop of Angers in 1006-1047, built the cathedral of Saint-Maurice in Angers.

      In the first half of the 11th century, Foulques Nerra and the Angevins sustained long struggles against the Bretons, who came to besiege Angers. The warlike nickname of "Hugo Manduca Britonem", Hugues Mange-Breton was adopted by Hugues de Clairvaux. Near the village of Clairvaux, located west of Châtellerault, was built the donjon of Haut-Clairvaux (28 meters high), an important strategic position, located between the Counties of Anjou and Aquitaine, and overlooking the Envigne valley. Hugues was its first guardian, from 1030 to 1060. Later, in 1182, Richard the Lionheart fortified the castle. The keep then became a fortress flanked by seven crenellated towers, surrounded by vast moats and ditches. Photo Yannis Suire, links : 1 2 3

      The confidence of the Count of Anjou Geoffroy Martel in Hugues de Clairvaux led the latter to play a leading role in Saumur, where he appeared from 1036 to 1076. The qualification of oppidanus, governor, was attributed to him as a title between 1040 and 1050. He received from the count the right of way over the lands of Saint-Florent and over the town of Saint-Hilaire. He also possessed customs on the villa of Cru and also held essarts in the forest of Born, the forest of Fontevraud. He is the witness of many acts in the first rank of the secular lords of Saumur until 1067, when the change of count involves his disgrace, at least partial. In 1076, in an act resembling a will, he declared himself "great lord, both in lands and in benefits", he still lived in the castle of Saumur, but, ill, he gave for 10 pounds his road to the monks of Saint-Florent

      Hugues de Clairvaux / Clervaux Mange-Breton, also named Hugues de Mathefelon (he would be the first of the Mathefelon), had between three and five children with Hersende de Vendôme, of which the eldest nicknamed Thibaud Mange-Breton and the youngest Agnes who would marry Hubert III de Champigné. After the death of his first wife in 1060, he remarried with a woman who would be called Cunégonde or Sénégonde, with whom he had three sons, the eldest of whom, Foulques de Mathefelon, would have important descendants (I am one of them, as I am descended from Thibaud and Agnès).

      Finding the title of lord of Mathefelon both in the descendants of Agnes (his son Hubert IV de Champigné is also named Hugues de Mathefelon), added to the fact that this transmission is not systematic, and, in addition, marriages between cousins, explains the complexity of the Mathefelon genealogy, which does not have a consensus (page Wikipedia on the Mathefelon family).

      Interrogations about Agnes' father, Hugues de Clairvaux Mange-Breton. Who are his parents? Usually, they are considered unknown, especially by our reference bases, those of Thierry Bianco, Werner Robl, Roglo, Wikipedia. It is difficult to believe that such an important character could come out of nowhere and, from his early youth, be entrusted with the dungeon of Haut-Clairvaux. A hypothesis is formulated in "the Historical Cabinet: monitor of libraries and archives" (excerpts : 1 2) : "This Hugh, who lived between the year 1030 and 1060, was descended, according to M. le comte de Sainte-Maure, from Gilbert or Foulcrade of Loudun (miles castrum Laudini). He was the brother of Gautier de Langeais and Foulcrade de Loudun". About fifteen Geneanet databases have adopted this hypothesis. There is indeed a Gautier de Langeais, but he would have been born around 988 (one generation too early), would be neither son nor brother of a Foulcrade de Loudun (he is son of Hamelin de Langeais). And he fought against the counts of Anjou, and not with them. This hypothesis, which is not very well supported, is therefore not appropriate. The chronicle of Parcé (questionable according to historians) presents Hugues Mange-Breton as the son of Renaud, count of Nevers and Edwige/Alix de France known as Haderia, daughter of Robert the Pious, who are known to have been married around 1028, estimating that Hugues would have fought the Bretons around 990. Hugues being born a little before 1010, it does not fit at all and no clue really goes in this direction.

      Another hypothesis is more adopted : about fifty Geneanet bases consider the Mange-Breton as a child of the Count of Anjou Foulques III Nerra, sometimes with one of his legitimate wives, more often with an unknown illegitimate partner. The lack of explanations and clues discourages going in this direction.

      Yet I have adopted this hypothesis, in the case of an illegitimate child, a bastard, for the following reasons :
      • his very rapid rise, already reported, shows very high support from the counts of Anjou themselves. His brilliant moves in battles against the Bretons convinced them of his ability and dligence to serve them. A lord of Langeais or Loudun, even as brilliant a fighter, would not have obtained such quick support.
      • he named one of his sons Foulques, marking his parental link with another Foulques.
      • his daughter Agnes of Clairvaux married the lord of Durtal, who was close to the count of Anjou.
      • her granddaughter Hersende de Champigné was married to Guillaume de Montsoreau a relative of Count Foulques IV of Anjou. The proximity to the house of Anjou is thus a contant, over several generations.
      • "The chronicle of Parcé indicates that the acquisition of Durtal by Hubert III is an integral component of his marriage to Agnes."[Thierry Bianco] : this could only have been done by the will of the Count of Anjou (Geoffroy Martel, son of Foulques Nerra).
      • it is very unlikely that he is a legitimate child of Foulques III, as these are known.

      This hypothesis has at least one variant: Hugues de Clairvaux would be a grandson of Foulques Nerra (born around 965/970, died in 1040 around 70 years), son of one of his daughters, rather bastard. Or an unknown or illegitimate son of Adèle d'Anjou, the only legitimate daughter of Foulques Nerra and Elisabeth. For the genealogy, this hardly changes the ancestry.

      Four books on Foulques (or Foulque) Nerra (the black one), by Christian Thévenot, Noël-Yves Tonnerre (with the seal of Foulques Nerra on the cover), Kkrist Mirror, Alexandre de Salies. Comment on the cover illustration for the first book:"Foulque Nerra, as he may be pictured at the battle of Pontlevoy when, thrown to the ground, he takes his standard from the hands of his slain banner-bearer before him (image courtesy of Jacqueline and Harry Atterton, based on a drawing by Harry developed by William Campbell, a Canadian journalist and artist)". Three of these four works highlight the tireless builder of keeps and fortresses. All present him as a formidable warrior.

      We then obtain the following ancestry tree for Hugues de Clairvaux, father of Agnès de Clairvaux and
      Hersende's maternal grandfather (a hypothetical tree, remember)  :

      Ascendancy with two additional levels on the elastoc Geneanet base.

      Agnès de Clairvaux's mother was Hersende de Vendôme. Agnes therefore passed on her daughter Hersende de Champigné the first name of her mother. The latter was the daughter of Hubert, Viscount of Vendôme and Emmeline de Chartres, daughter of Foucher (or Foulcrade) de Vendôme, Viscount of Vendôme, this title having passed from father-in-law to son-in-law. This is the beginning of the line of the "fulcherides", vicounts of Vendôme, in the northwestern.blésois.

      Before returning to the parents of Hubert and Emmeline, let us take note of their children, Guillaume, Hubert, Hersende and Hodeburge. The eldest Guillaume took over the title of viscount of Vendome. His brother Hubert of Vendome (1006-1047) became bishop of Angers, from 1006 to 1047. He is the rebuilder of the cathedral of Angers, ravaged by a fire. A supporter of Foulques Nerra, he was also one of the first bishops to implement the Gregorian reform, including the mandatory celibacy of priests. Last child, Hodeburge married Etienne, lord of Montrevault. They had a daughter, Emmeline like her grandmother, who married Raoul IV of Beaumont-au-Maine, count of Maine and Lude (here comes Lude again...).

      Agnes' father was Hubert de Vendôme, as already introduced. It was through his wife and father that he became Viscount of Vendome. According to a study by Thierry and Hélène Bianco, Hubert is son of Avesgaud d'Illiers and first cousin of the bishop of Le Mans Avesgaud, according to this scheme (we see how much the first name Avesgaud is a family marker) :

      The mother of Hubert de Vendôme is not known, but it is through her father that she would have transmitted the name Ingelger (to Ingelger d'Illiers, a nephew of Hubert). It is possible that his paternal grandfather was Ingelger I of Anjou, ancestor of Foulques Nerra.

      Agnes' mother was Emmeline of Chartres. She is said to have married twice, first to Hilduin de Creil or Breteuil, who died in 995 or after the year 1000, from whom there were several children, including perhaps Alvide de Sours, married to Hugues I Bardoul de Broyes, already seen as the grandson of Héloïse de Pithiviers and brother of Hildeburge du Lude. Emmeline de Chartres (another one according to some) would have remarried with Hubert de Vendôme, who died after 1006 and would have had the four children mentioned above. Emmeline would have had about ten children who reached adulthood.

      Emmeline's father was Foucher de Chartres, Viscount of Vendome, the first of the Fulcherides. He came from the family of the Viscounts of Chartres (named Foucher quite often). Initially they represented the influence of the bishopric of Chartres in the Vendôme region. They belonged to the family of Le Riche, the Fulcherides have besides during several generations continued to carry this name, in particular Foucher I le Riche, brother of Emmeline and father of Vulgrin de Vendôme, bishop of Le Mans from 1055 to 1066. This family was essentially possessed in the Chartrain region, the Ile de France and on the middle Seine, its origin was illustrious because it was related to the Carolingians.

      Emmeline's mother could be Ermeline de Ramerupt. In fact, she is unknown. But it is tempting to consider that Emmeline mother of Hersende is daughter of Ermeline, daughter of another Hersende, also named Helissende. Moreover, the chronology and geography lend themselves to this. Ermeline de Ramerupt, born around 955 in Chartres, died around 1046 in Breteuil, was countess of Arcis sur Aube and lady of Vendôme, so she would have married Foucher / Foulcrade de Vendôme. She would be the daughter of Herluin I of Ponthieu, descendant of the Carolingians, and of Hersende de Ramerupt, herself, perhaps, the daughter of Hersent / Hersende d'Arcis and Hilduin I of Mondidier. We would thus have the following female lineage: Hersent d'Arcis -> Hélissende de Ramerupt -> Ermeline de Ramerupt -> Emmeline de Chartres (grandmother of Emmeline de Montrevault) -> Hersende de Vendôme -> Agnès de Clairvaux -> Hersende de Champigné (and Agnès de Champigné)

      We then obtain the following ancestry tree for Emmeline de Chartres, mother of Agnès de Clairvaux and
      maternal grandmother of Hersende :

      Ascendancy with two additional levels on the elastoc Geneanet base.

      And here, in summary, are the first ascendants of Hersende de Champigné:

      (the same ascendancy, updated, with two additional levels on my elastoc Geneanet base).
      (+ the link that links me with Hersende's father)

    7. Which distant cousins supported Heloise?

      During their lives, Heloise and Abelard had terrible detractors and formidable supporters. Their intrinsic flaws, especially Abelard's, explain the opponents. Their intrinsic qualities can only explain a small part of the support they received. Very high placed people supported them. We have mentioned in particular the Garlande, the Montmorency, Queen Bertrade, Pierre le Vénérable, Thibaut de Champagne and the generous donors who made it possible to launch the abbey of Paraclet. These supporters seem to come, almost entirely, from Héloïse's family alone. Abelard, in fact, belonged to a family of small Breton lords who had no Parisian or countal connections, and his friendships were intellectual, coming mainly from his students. Abélard's strong scholarly presence and, also, Héloïse's love and admiration for him may have strengthened the support she had.

      In the previous chapter, we saw that two of these essential supports were due to friendships of Hersende, Heloise's mother: the Countess of Anjou and then Queen of France Bertrade de Montfort and the mother of Peter the Venerable, Raingarde de Semur. In tracing Hersende's genealogy, we have repeatedly met personalities whose descendants were able to intervene to help Heloise, whom they knew to be their cousin, an apparent orphan, fragile, intelligent, brilliant, who deserved their attention. This is what we will consider more precisely here.

      The bishops of Orleans. The one who watched over Heloise's childhood and early youth was her uncle Fulbert. "He has held an office of subdeacon "extra muros", that is, outside the Cloister, since at least 1102, in the Hospital of the Poor. It was a charge probably obtained thanks to two allies of the family, the late suffragan Guillaume de Montfort, and the latter's half-sister, the illegitimate queen Bertrade, who had been retired since 1104 to Fontevrault." (link Wikipedia). So we find Bertrade, Hersende's friend. The child Heloise, entrusted to the abbey of Argenteuil thus benefited from a tutor who lived next door, in Paris.

      A 2006 study by Constant Mews ("Robert of Arbrissel and Hersende, Abélard and Héloïse," link) shows that before becoming a canon in Paris, Fulbert passed through Orléans. Now, in the descendants of Héloïse de Pithiviers, we have seen several bishops of Orléans. From uncles to nephews, Oldaric, Isembart and Haderic de Broyes held this office for almost half a century, from 1022 to 1067. The last one, Haderic, is brother of Héloïse de Broyes. Hersende could therefore have been in contact, in her youth, with the brother and sister. The latter, aged 70 around 1090, may have helped Fulbert in Orléans and inspired Hersende for the name of her daughter...

      The cousins of Hersende (and Heloise) bishops of Orleans.

      Let us add another bishop of Orleans, from 1146 to 1185, Manassès de Garlande, son of Gilbert the Younger, nephew of Stephen, and supporter of Abelard, perhaps by tradition of support of the Orleans bishopric to Hersende, but more likely by his membership in the Garlande family.

      Bertrade de Montfort is also the half-sister of a cousin. Let us develop part of the previous tree, around Héloïse de Broyes and her sister Isabelle :

      Héloïse de Broyes in connection with Bertrade de Montfort and the Garlande. On the right, engraving of the XIXth century
      representing Philip I and Bertrade de Montfort, king (from 1060 to 1108) and queen (from 1092 to 1108) of the Franks.

      On this tree, a point must be made, which not all genealogies treat in the same way. Simon I de Montfort, known as the Elder, had two wives, Isabelle de Broyes and then Agnès d'Evreux. His son Guillaume de Montfort, who became bishop of Paris, is often attached to his second wife, but, as the Roglo  database indicates: "For Detlev Schwennicke, he probably came from the first marriage." Since the remarriage took place in 1060 and William was appointed bishop of Paris in 1096, this depends on his age at his coronation. However, he was so young that he had to ask Pope Urban II for a dispensation. This means that he was less than 35 years old and therefore had the second wife as his mother. He was therefore not a direct cousin of Hersende, but a half-brother of three cousins, Amaury, Isabeau (married to Raoul de Tosny, the only one of the three to have descendants) and Guillaume de Broyes, all of whom were nephews of Héloïse de Broyes. Bertrade de Montfort, sister of the bishop, was thus a half-sister of these cousins. And the Garlande were not far, since Agnès, niece of Etienne and the two Gilberts, had Bertrade for sister-in-law. To return to the bishop of Paris, he crossed himself and died in Palestine in 1101. He was only able to support Hersende's daughter briefly...

      Anecdote reported from the page Wikipedia of Simon I de Montfort : "As a widower, Simon I asked Richard of Evreux, Count of Evreux, for his daughter Agnes' hand in marriage, but the latter turned him down.

      the baptism (BnF, link).
      It was then that Agnes' half-brother, Raoul de Tosny, kidnapped his sister by night and took her to Montfort. Simon and Agnes were then able to marry and Raoul received in gratitude the hand of Isabelle [Isabeau], daughter of Simon's first marriage.

      Is Heloise de Broyes the godmother of Heloise d'Argenteuil? The proximity of Heloise de Broyes to the supporters of Heloise d'Argenteuil who were, more or less directly, the bishops of Orleans, William the bishop of Paris, Bertrade countess of Anjou and then queen of France, and the Garlande, may be marks of a pivotal role that Hersende would have delegated to her. And we shall see other aspects of the support of the de Broyes family. Consequently, is it likely that Héloïse de Broyes was the godmother of Héloïse d'Argenteuil? No, because at birth she would be about 70 years old. But her strong presence, added to the past prestige of Héloïse de Pithiviers, and even to another Héloïse, a close and young godmother, forgotten, may have been a determining factor. And, perhaps as much as Hersende, the too absent mother, Héloïse de Broyes, could have activated her relations to protect the childhood of Héloïse d'Argenteuil.

      The Montmorencies and the Garlande. The support of these two families is often mentioned. It is more supported for the second, mainly because of Etienne de Garlande (1070-1150), bishop of Beauvais, chancellor and senechal of France. Also his nephew, already mentioned, Manassès de Garlande, bishop of Orleans. Here is the Garlande siblings and their cousinship with Hersende and Heloise (link).

      The five Garlande brothers

      As the following excerpt from Anseau de Garlande's page Wikipedia shows (with its illustration by Charles Campan 1875), the ties between the Garlande brothers were tight, they constituted, along with the Montmorencies and Montforts a veritable clan in the service of the King of France, whose power varied over the years.

      Anseau I de Garlande or or Anceau or Ansel de Garlande, born about 1069 and died in 1118, was a French lord who was seneschal of France from 1108 to 1118. He was a member of the de Garlande family, which gave several followers to Philip I and Louis VI. He was the son of Guillaume I de Garlande, known as Adam de Garlande, and Havoise (Havise) N..., brother of Gilbert dit Payen, seneschal of France, of Étienne, chancellor of the king, of Guillaume II de Garlande, seneschal of France, and of Gilbert dit Le Jeune, bouteiller, husband of Eustachie de Possesse. [...] He was appointed seneschal of France in 1108. The gift of this office by King Louis VI was the source of a dispute between the king and the Count of Anjou, Foulques, who considered that it was rightfully his House. The Count of Anjou took advantage of this dispute to refuse the tribute he owed the king for his county, the king being at war with Henry I, King of England, Duke of Normandy. The king had to find an accommodation with the count of Anjou through Amaury de Montfort, [...]

      The Lords of Traînel. The castle of Traînel was located 13 km from Le Paraclet. François Verdier, in the 2001 Troyes catalog, indicates that its lord Anseau I le Vieux, who died in 1146, was one of the most generous donors to the abbey of Paraclet. He offered vast lands that allowed the foundation of two annexed structures: the priory of Traînel, closed in 1629, and, located at La Chapelle sur Oreuse 10 km from Sens, the prieuré de la Pommeraie, which later became an abbey, closed in 1659.

      The seal of Anseau II de Traînel, son of Anseau I the elder (link). The priory of Traînel,
      of which only the chapel remains, has become a farm (recent photo from "L'Yonne Républicaine", link). On the right,
      Bishop of Troyes Garnier de Traînel, chaplain general of the fourth crusade (G. Garitan, 16th century, link).

      As can be seen above, the lords of Traînel were cousins of Hersende de Champigné, close to the Montmorency family and the counts of Champagne and Blois. Anseau II and Garnier, the two sons of Anseau I will continue to appear regularly in the acts relating to Paraclet. Later, a nephew of Anseau II, Garnier de Traînel, was bishop of Troyes, from 1193 to 1205, a very strong supporter of the Paraclete.

      The Lords of Montlhéry / Bray.

      In his analysis of the Paraclete's donors and supporters, François Verdier cites Milon II de Bray, also named Milon II de Montlhéry, son of Milon I the Great, who died in Palestine during the First Crusade, and more generally "the Montlhéry-Bray family", also a mysterious Milon of Nogent sur Seine :

      But who could this bishop [who supported the foundation of the Paraclete] have been? He is not mentioned. The date of the foundation not being absolutely fixed, perhaps it is not, as is usually thought, Hatton, but Philippe-Milon, of the de Pont-Traînel family, or Raynaldus, of the de Montlhery-Bray family? In this case one or the other family would have been decisive at the time of the foundation, they who held together the Seine from Bray to Pont. The one or the other one what does it matter Milon II de Bray and Anseau de Trainel are first cousins, Ponce the father of Anseau having married Mélisende, sister of Milon ler de Bray. Doesn't the link between the two families explain why Anseau founded Andecy in 1131, in company with Simon I of Broyes, son of Hugues-Bardoul ll, married to Emeline of Montlhéry? Didn't this family, in fact, hold Nogent before ? Because if Milon is always said to be a vassal of Thibaut, we do not have any act concerning him before 1127 and we do not know anything about the seigniorial history before this beginning of the XIIth century. Was Milon lord of Nogent of the Montlhéry-Bray family, or related to this family? We know nothing about him [Milon de Nogent] while he seems nevertheless the decisive character of the foundation of the Paraclete.

      To shed further light on these remarks, here are trees that show cross-links between Hersende's paternal and maternal ancestors with the Montlherys, even touching a lord of Melun (where Abelard taught) and a lord of Villemaur (François Verdier cites Odon de Villemaur). We will take as a point of reference Emmeline de Montlhéry, married to a nephew of Heloise de Broyes, also nephew by marriage of Simon I de Montfort, Bertrade's father (links : 1 2 3 4 4) (reminder for all the trees in this file : these are only hypotheses, deductions, judged probable according to the available data).

      Complement: page on "Emmeline de Monthléry and her descendants".

      Lords of Beaumont-sur-Oise. François Verdier, in his study, points out another donation linked to a possible kinship :

      The priory of Saint Martin de Boran was the last one created, between 1157 and 1163, in the last years of Heloise's life, for reasons that escape us. Distant from Le Paraclet, it seems closely linked to the de Beaumont family, whose first donee Mathieu II, lord of Beaumont sur Oise, is named in the obituary of Le Paraclet.
      To summarize, this priory was poor from its creation. It does not seem to be justified, as the lords of Beaumont protected other "family" monasteries, including that of the women of Sainte-Léonore de Beaumont. Why, moreover, such a late creation? Its only interest is to confirm to us the link of the family of Montmorency with Heloise.

      Mathieu I de Beaumont (1080-1155), father of Mathieu II, grand chamberlain of France, like his father, is indeed very closely related to the Montmorencies, through an uncle, Geoffroy de Gisors, and a brother-in-law, Bouchard IV, with whom he came into conflict. There is also a link of cousinship with Heloise :

      The ruins of the keep built by Matthew I (in the background the church of Beaumont) (link)..

      The Counts of Anjou. Considering that Hersende's maternal grandfather was a bastard of Foulques III Nerra (he was at least very close to him), Hersende is descended from the first counts of Anjou. Here is the link between Heloise and Geoffroi I Plantegenêt, Count of Anjou, father of the King of England Henri II and, thus, father-in-law of Aliénor of Aquitaine. This diagram shows, once again, Hersende's proximity to Bertrade, who would be the wife of a first cousin of her mother.

      Relations between the Champigné and the counts of Anjou gradually deteriorated, first with Hersende (Fontevraud depended on Poitiers, not Angers), then with Heloise (close to the Garlande, in conflict with the Anjou), until becoming conflictual with Astralabe, who firmly committed herself to the camp of her opponent, Duke Conan III of Brittany. The parental proximity can be a cause of alliance, but it is rather frequent, as here, that it degrades over the generations, even, sometimes, over only one generation. Even to the point, we will examine it now, of changing sides. Remember the battle of Pontlevoy and the total commitment of Hersende's ancestors against the Count of Blois...

    8. The interested support of Thibaut de Blois / Champagne

      Parallel to Hersende and Heloise's gradual estrangement from the house of Anjou, Hersende began a lasting warming with the house of Blois that Heloise confirmed in dramatic fashion when the count of Blois became count of Champagne. Thibaut IV of Blois, known as Thibaut the Great (or Thibaud), born c. 1090/1095, died in 1152, was count of Blois, Chartres, and Châteaudun. In 1102, he became lord of Sancerre and count of Meaux, Troyes and Champagne, under the name Thibaut II of Champagne.

      On the left, in dark brown, the area of power of the counts of Blois, from 1102, is split in two,
      the Blésois and Champagne (link). Thibaut de Champagne, after period drawing and after Jean Gigoux 1839.
      Below, Thibaut regulated the foires de Champagne and secured access to them, for lasting success.

      This geographical bipolarity explains how the daughter of a lady from Anjou, near Blésois, could become an abbess in the country of Champagne, thanks to a Count of Blois who became Count of Champagne. Here is the shortest cousinhood link between Héloïse and her patron Thibaut of Champagne :

      However, the link of filiation between Hugues II du Maine and Hubert I d'Arnay is not recognized by all, including Roglo, Thierry Bianco and Werner Robl. The latter has looked for a more distant cousin, passing through Héloïse de Pithiviers, by attributing to her other relatives than those presented here. He arrives, for Hersende, at a 6th degree cousinhood, really distant, which, finally, rather consolidates the hypotheses presented here: the support to Héloïse brought by the countal house of Champagne is so strong that the cousinhood can only be rather close. Here, Hersende's father is a first cousin of Thibault de Champagne's grandfather, which already shows a certain distance. We have seen, previously, that there are other types of links, in particular with the lords of Traînel, of Montlhéry...

      Consideration of the Foulques Nerra ancestry hypothesis provides further cousinages, again in the fourth degree for Hersende :

      If the cousinhood via William the Conqueror appears anecdotal, that with the counts of Maine, geographically close, confirms the link previously shown with the counts of Blois and Champagne. On this subject, Werner Robl has written :

      Abelard said of Thibaut of Champagne, "He was a little familiar to me." It must be taken into account that it is possible that Heloise made the necessary contacts because of her numerous relations with the count's house of Champagne. In any case, it is undeniable that she maintained good relations with the latter later on. Count Theobald's godmother, Matilda of of Carinthia, founded the monastery of La Pommeraie as a future retreat under the abbess and the rule of the Paraclete. future place of retreat. It is significant that the count's house had links with Fontevraud: Isabelle, Marguerite and Marie had entered Fontevraud as daughters of Count Theobald, Marie even became the seventh even the seventh abbess of Fontevraud.

      Let us take up the study of François Verdier, because it shows the scope of Thibaud de Champagne, for whom the support to Héloïse enters in a vast strategy :

      Except for Andecy, which lies beyond Sézanne, there is no women's monastery to absorb those who are not married or widows, nor to educate young noble girls: do not the Paraclete and its priories come to answer this function, in a region not deserted, but in full development and essartage, under the effect, among others, of the monastery of men which was founded in 1127, at the same date as the Paraclete, and supported by the same families as it, namely the abbaye de Vauluisant ? It would take too long to list all the names of the donors, vassals of Anseau de Trainel, Milon de Nogent and Odon de Villemaur, the three lords who supported the project of Abbé Artaud, the first abbot of Preuilly, to create Vauluisant, but the list would be exactly the same as that of the donors of Paraclet. [...]

      Century 1692 (Gaignières collection, Louis Boudan, link).

      Vauluisant Abbey, the entrance portal in 2015 (link).

      The double foundation of Le Paraclet by Abelard and of Vauluisant by Artaud does not appear to us simply as a coincidence, and we would rather see it as a political will. Could it be a project of Thibaut relayed by his most important vassals? Without wishing to call into question the expulsion of the nuns of Argenteuil by Saint-Denis, did Abelard take advantage of the fact that he knew the count to plan this foundation?

      There is no doubt that the two abbeys, contrary to what one might think, were not in conflit, assuming that there was rivalry between Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux. The two abbeys delineated with some rigor the lands that had been given to them without precision, made exchanges so as to group their possessions together, and thus mutually recognized their respective areas of expansion within which they forbid each other to compete in the future.

      The political intelligence of Heloise, who developed her abbey, and its two nearby dependencies, and then endeavored to expand her order, is not sufficient, by itself, to explain the success of her enterprise. The relationship of the Paraclete with Vauluisant suggests other reasons. Doesn't the success of the Paraclete come from the fact that it is included in a global policy, that of Thibaut de Champagne?

      [The construction of Le Paraclet, of its priories and of Vauluisant, is part of a global project that brought a partially populated place, provided it with modern production forces, and made it accessible by roads that made the region more secure. The general impression of the contemporaries must have been the same as that described by Abélard and Héloïse: the passage from a deserted and uncultivated place to a prosperous region that took advantage of Thibaut's political project.

      Milon de Nogent, perhaps independent of the Montlhery-Bray-Trainel family, was undoubtedly the fulcrum of this policy, and if he was the builder of the bridge, the mills, the florissant market that we see in 1186, then we understand why he was called not only dominus, but also vir illuster in a charter of 1127. In contemporary documents, we have found only one such qualification, and it concerned Count Thibaut: it could therefore only be It could only be an important person, but we don't know if he was famous for his personal activity or for his family.

      François Verdier ends his study by paying a double tribute to Thibaut and Héloïse, who knew so well how to match :

      The real knot which connects all these characters is perhaps the count of Champagne Thibaut II himself. Cousin of Milon II, put in relation with Abelard by his friend Etienne de Garlande, he undoubtedly possesses an attractive political and religious personality. Doesn't he represent what the most adventurous men of his time are looking for? As different are they, Abelard, Etienne de Garlande, Bernard de Clairvaux, Suger, all bound friendship with him. Is Heloise not his counterpart? Do we not find some of her qualities in the portraits that are made of her?

      The coming to Nogent could be explained like this. The region of Provence is at this time the birthplace of a new culture, of the new culture, the possibility of trying out new ideas. Isn't this what Abelard and Bernard were looking for: to break with old religious, intellectual and certainly behavioral forms? Didn't they themselves feel that they were living in a period of rebirth? The region had everything going for it. Even if the local lords and the court of Thibaut did not have the literary requirements of the following generation, they did not fail to appreciate the culture. Ponce I of Trainel already had a school in his castle in 1102, and his fils Anseau, a scholar, fixed canons there. Thibaut himself had his son Henri the Liberal educated by Etienne, who was perhaps a disciple of Abelard. Henri is able to quote Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Apuleius. Mathilde and Thibaut corresponded with Suger and Bernard. In 1145, John of Salisbury opened a school in Provins and Henry the Liberal asked him about Virgil and the Bible. Not to mention the bishop Hatton, in epistolary relation with Peter the Venerable or Peter Comestor among the most known today.

      If Heloise "alongside Scripture, the Holy Fathers and plainchant" "practiced that of medicine and surgery", if the nuns of the Paraclete "learned not only Latin" but also "Greek and Hebrew that in any case knew Heloise", she was not the only intellectual in that region, was not isolated in a desert. She found a population suitable for a "wise" woman, that is, learned, and capable of instructing their daughters. Even if she was not from a great family, her reputation had preceded her, as Peter the Venerable said. Everyone knew the gifts of the young woman. And at that time, apparently enthusiastic for philosophy and letters (how quickly Abelard's students flocked to the Paraclete, Thibaut's good roads not explaining everything!), Heloise indeed received the welcome her husband describes.

      Héloïse, political woman? The qualificative is perhaps a little anachronistic. It is not, however, if we understand by it one of the effects of a capital virtue, that of knowing how to lead one's life according to virtue. But what else does Heloise do in private and in public? We have tried to understand how a woman in the midst of her century, possessing all the qualities to grasp its movement and to link up with those who are transforming the world, embodies the new ideas in achievements achievements. The continuation of the eulogy pronounced by Abélard makes it possible to understand  "and all also admired his piety, his prudence and her incomparable sweetness of patience". Prudent is better than wise. [...]

      It is understandable, reading François Verdier's study "Héloïse, femme politique - Les liens d'Héloïse avec le comté de Champagne" (published in the 2021 catalog of the Troyes exhibition), Count Thibaut II the Great of Champagne had a high political stature. It is therefore not surprising that he overshadowed the young king of France Louis VII, husband of the young Eleanor of Aquitaine. There was, between them, a deadly conflict, recounted on this page of Jacques Schweitzer's website. Excerpts :

      In 1141, our Count of Champagne Thibaud II the Great was at war with the King of France. Louis VII the Younger did not forgive him for having refused his help in an expedition against Toulouse. He reproached him moreover for having given asylum to Pierre Le Châtre whom he had just driven out of the archbishopric of Bourges and for having made excommunicate his cousin Raoul de Vermandois by a legate of the pope.

      At the head of a powerful army the king invaded Champagne and burned Vitry. The fire reached the main church where most of the inhabitants had taken refuge. There were 1,300 men, women and children. All perished in the flames.

      From the top of the hill where he had pitched his tent, the young king saw the church burning and heard the cries of the victims.

      Shocked by this medieval Oradour, he remains several days without speaking, without taking food, prostrate under the weight of the sacrilegious crime, with which he has charged his conscience. In his fright, the Count of Champagne promised, perhaps a little lightly, to have the sentence of excommunication launched against Raoul lifted.

      It was not easy to make the papacy reconsider its decision, but Saint Bernard was there. Thibaud had met Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, who, since the departure of Count Hugh, no longer intended to reserve his words for the monks of his monastery alone, but was increasingly involved in world affairs. Bernard became Thibaud's friend, a friend attentive to leading him on the path of wisdom and mercy. In him resounded the voice of the Abbot of Clairvaux: "What strange blindness, what fury to spend so much money and trouble in waging a war, the fruit of which can only be death or sin!"

      But above all Thibaud wants to preserve the roads and towns of Champagne from the miseries of war. He knows that they would deal a fatal blow to the commercial movement of which his county is becoming the foundation. [...]

      Eleanor confides to Bernard her despair at not having been able to give the king, after more than 6 years of marriage, the child he is expecting from her and Bernard promises her that if she brings the king back to the path of peace and justice, the Virgin will answer her prayer. Eleanor, the indomitable Eleanor bows. The king authorizes Pierre de la Châtre to occupy his seat in Bourges. Pope Lucius II solemnly lifts the excommunication and the ban. Peace was restored between our count Thibaud and the king, who gave him back the county of Vitry. In 1145, less than a year after her meeting with Saint Bernard, Eleanor gave the king a daughter, who received the name of Mary in honor of the Virgin. She will one day be countess of Champagne.

      The Massacre of Vitry en Perthois (19th century engraving, link).

      Pierre Abélard died in 1142, Heloise in 1164, both experienced the Vitry massacre, Heloise experienced the remarriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to the future King of England Henry II Plantagenet in 1152. On this 1154 map (link), we see that the Plantagenet empire was much larger than the royal domain of France, itself less important than the county of Blois and the duchy of Champagne combined, then ruled by Henry the Liberal, since the death of his father in 1152.

      Lands governed by Thibaut and then his son Henry are colored green (link).

      Louis VI le gros (father of Louis VII) and Thibaut parliamenting (14th century English miniature, link).

      Closing this chapter with Eleanor of Aquitaine takes us back, by the location of her recumbent,
      to Hersende's Abbey of Fontevraud (link).

  6. Heloise's two stays at Notre Dame d'Argenteuil

    Detail of a miniature from the Gilbert Burnet Psalter, University of Aberdeen (link).

    Born in 1092 at the earliest, Heloise, an orphan, was protected very discreetly by her aristocratic parents, who entrusted her education to the very lofty female monastery of Notre-Dame d'Argenteuil, near Paris. She grew up, with other high ranking damsels, with the Benedictine nuns, who taught her, from the age of seven, reading and then grammar. Her education continued at the university, where Pierre Abélard taught since 1110. Georges Minois, in his book "Abélard, Héloïse et Bernard" of 2019 illuminates this period (page 119) :

    Most historians place the beginning of the affair of the two lovers around 1116-1117. Abelard is therefore about 37 or 38 years old. As for Héloïse, her age as well as her family origins and her situation remain the object of many questions.

    Her age remains a mystery. The romantic tradition, based on the term "adolescent" that Abélard uses later on, wanted to see in her a very young girl of 17. After all, Romeo's Juliet was barely 14, but this is a fiction. In reality, adolescence, in the medieval scale of life stages, can be as long as thirty years or more. For girls, the term can designate any virgin still in a state of procreation, and in the case of Héloïse it is likely that she was much older than 20. In a letter written much later by Peter the Venerable, who was born around 1093, he tells her that, being still in his teens, he had heard of a "woman" famous for her culture, which could mean that she was older than he was, and therefore that she would have been 26 or 27 years old around 1116-1117. The very fact that she was then renowned for the extent of her knowledge implies that she already had many years of study behind her. Let us say that Heloise must have been about twenty years younger than Abelard, and that she is not at all what we understand today as "adolescent". [...]

    Abelard tells us that Heloise was raised in the convent of Argenteuil, which was under the protection of the Garlande family. Little noble girls were often placed as early as 4 or 5 years of age in a convent, where they learned to read, and then, around 7 years of age, the rudiments of the liberal arts. Illegitimacy was not yet at that time a redhibitory tare as it will become thereafter, and Héloïse, thanks to her powerful protectors, could constitute an interesting party to tie alliances in the nobility. However, at probably more than 20 years old, she is still single, under the care of her uncle Fulbert. One may wonder what a young woman is doing in the house of a canon, in the middle of the cloister of Notre-Dame. This cohabitation has caused much discussion among historians, some insinuating, since the 19th century, that the so-called "niece" could in fact be Fulbert's concubine, or even daughter. Contemporaries, on the other hand, do not seem to have been shocked by this female presence among the fifty or so celibate canons of the Notre-Dame cloister. The Gregorian reform, which demanded the dismissal of women, wives, mistresses and daughters of ecclesiastics, was still in its infancy, and despite repeated condemnations by the most zealous reformers, there were still many concubines in clerical circles, including bishops, and prostitutes still roamed the vicinity of churches and monasteries. Curates and canons employed servants "to do everything", from the kitchen to the household and the bed.

    The fact remains that at her age Héloïse should be married, unless she was destined for a convent, which is the most likely. In which case, she should have stayed in the one in Argenteuil, where she spent her childhood. But, noticed for her exceptional intellectual abilities, she was judged worthy of a more advanced education, which could make her a future abbess of a renowned female monastery. This is probably why she was entrusted to the care of her uncle Fulbert, who was responsible for her further education. Fulbert did not leave the reputation of a great intellectual, but as canon and archdeacon, he had access to the chapter library, and he was in contact with the masters of the school of Notre-Dame, who could give private lessons to his niece. In any case, he is very fier of the role he is entrusted with, and he fulfills it with zeal. He jealously watches over his niece  "In his tenderness, he had neglected nothing to push her into the study of every science of letters," writes Abelard, who also speaks of "the boundless affection he had for his niece." The nature of his feelings towards Heloise raises questions, especially when one considers the violence of his reaction upon learning of his niece's affair with Abélard. To go so far as to castrate the boyfriend of his protégée is a bit excessive, even in the 12th century. [...]

    In fact, Canon Fulbert seems to have fulfilled his task perfectly: his niece became one of the most educated women of her time, to the point of being considered a true prodigy. [...] Her reputation as a learned woman makes her all the more interesting to Abélard because, he says, "this advantage of education is rare in women". This can hardly be denied. Pierre le Vénérable also points out how this is a "rarity", and Hugues Métel writes that, by this, Heloise has risen to the level of the doctors. The number of women intellectuals and writers who have left a name can be counted in a millennium of Christianity on the fingers of one hand. Still they are illustrious unknowns, like St. Radegonde in the sixth century, the princess Duodha in the ninth, the nun Baudvinie in the tenth. We have to wait until the eve of the year 1000 to find a first, quite relative, female "celebrity" in the world of letters, with a German nun from the monastery of Gandersheim, Hrotsvitha (ca. 935 - ca. 1000) [...]

    The monk chronicler of Saint-Martial of Limoges, Guillaume Godel, assures us for his part that Heloise had "an extraordinary erudition in Hebrew and Latin letters", a statement echoed by other chroniclers, such as Robert, a monk from Auxerre, and Guillaume de Nangis. [...] She is a more skilled Latinist than Abelard. Her style and composition, her mastery of the rules of epistolary writing testify to a more thorough practice of the classical authors. Abelard excelled at oral expression, and Heloise at written expression.

    The seven liberal arts in Hortus deliciarum by Herrade of Landsberg, 1180 (links: 1 2). Heloise, the only woman
    having undertaken their study. From top, clockwise : grammar, rhetoric,

    At age 33, Heloise embraced the monastic life at Argenteuil. Painting by Jean-Antoine Laurent, between 1912 and 1932.
    Musée national de Malmaison et Bois-Préau 80 x 50 cm (link).

    In 1128, did the powerful abbot Suger, who was thinking of rebuilding the church of Saint-Denis, need the riches of Argenteuil? He spread the most insulting rumors about the behavior of the nuns; these wanton women, Suger said he was certain, indulged in the most unmentionable turpitudes. With the blessing of the bishop of Paris and the abbot Bernard de Clairvaux, and assured of the king's indifference, he used a false document to claim that the abbey of Argenteuil had belonged to the monks of Saint-Denis since the 9th century. The affair was quickly tied up. At the beginning of 1129, Suger threw out the women, installed monks in their place and thus got his hands on all the landed property in Argenteuil. A fraudulent capture of inheritance gave birth to the masterpiece that is the abbey of Saint-Denis. [Guy Lobrichon, link].
    In the background of this rather scandalous operation is a glimpse of the political conflict between Suger and the Montmorency-Garlande families whose loyalty to Louis VI could legitimately be suspected. The nuns separated into two groups. One will settle in Malnoue-en-Brie; the other, led by Heloise, will find refuge in the hermitage abandoned by Pierre Abelard one or two years earlier, around 1127/1128, when he was elected abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys. On the banks of the Ardusson, in the diocese of Troyes, near Nogent-sur-Seine, it is the Paraclete. [page].

    Abelard leads Heloise to the convent of Argenteuil (BnF print, link).

    In the letter of the papal legate, there is talk of an indignation - male - at the ungodly lifestyle of the nuns - spurca et infami conversatione. However, this accusation is immediately qualified: only some nuns - paucae moniales - would have behaved badly. Immediately afterwards, the reproach is specified: they would have soiled the neighborhood of the place - omnem ejusdem loci affinitatem foedaverant. What could this mean if not that some nuns had left the convent to engage in prostitution?

    It is not entirely impossible that in Heloise's time, conditions existed in Argenteuil that were shocking to conservative ecclesiastical circles. Abelard himself had reported that after Heloise entered the convent, there had still been sexual intercourse with her, in the convent refectory, under the image of the Virgin and perhaps with the tacit tolerance of the abbess of the time.

    This passage from the Historia Calamitatum is significant. It is true that at the time, Heloise had not yet taken her perpetual vows and was only staying at the monastery as a guest. Nevertheless, she had access to the inner part of the monastery, and even to the heated and crowded refectory, and could arrange an intimate rendezvous with Abelard there.

    In no way should it be inferred from this incident that the future prioress and abbess Heloise - after her expulsion from Argenteuil - would have encouraged such lascivious monastic practice. She and her companions seem to have formed a rather reformist group, as the rest of her religious career testifies. During her stay at Paraclete, Heloise warned of the consequences of an overly liberal rule: "0 quam facilis ad ruinam animarum virorum ac mulierum in unum cohabitatio..." "Oh how easy it is that the cohabitation of men and women under one roof should become a ruin to souls..." Perhaps this statement by Heloise reflected her bad experience of Argenteuil !
    [Werner Robl, page with illustration]

    Highlights of an illustration from the end of chapter 1 and two from the beginning of chapter 12.

    Héloïse taking the veil at Argenteuil, Colardeau, copperplate engraving (Bibl. Mun. de Troyes, link)

    Same theme. The Archbishop of Paris is recognized by his crosier, held by an attendant.
    Eugene Bulla's engraving after Achille Devéria. About 1840 (Geneva Museum of Art and History, link).

    Found on Twitter (tweets: 1 2) (link)

    We have no documents, or very few, illustrating the monastery in Heloise's time. Everything was rebuilt, and on several occasions, the Wikipedia page on the Abbey of Notre-Dame d'Argenteuil presents this evolution, which ended with the French Revolution. Only a few ruins now remain. From 1989, excavations have uncovered remains of the abbey, a Merovingian necropolis as well as ceramics and pavements.

    Notre Dame d'Argenteuil: Heloise may have known about this pavement, but none of the abbey buildings in the 17th century...

    There remains, however, in Argenteuil, a building that Heloise knew : a chapel, founded in 1003, located next to the monastery.

    The Chapel of St. John in Argenteuil, from the Wikipedia page dedicated to it, photos by Claude Piard.

  7. The Short Letters of Youth of Heloise and Abelard

    Discovery of unpublished letters! It was known, for nine centuries, three long letters from Heloise to Abelard and four long ones from Abelard to Heloise In 1974 were published the "Epistolae duorum amantium", "Letters of the two lovers", a hundred short unpublished letters that they would have exchanged, what a surprise! But it took about twenty years before we really noticed... While the seven long letters are late (after 1132), these date from the period of physical love of the two lovers, between 1114 and 1116 : "Exceptional in its breadth and richness, this medieval private correspondence is almost unique. [...] The Letters of the Two Lovers, at the end of the demonstration, make it possible to capture the beginnings of a love that has become legendary. Presented, translated into French, and followed by the Latin text compiled by Ewald Könsgen, these letters make a contribution to the world's heritage of love literature that is as moving as it is unexpected" (site Babelio).

    Such a literary discovery could have been sensational, but the attribution of authorship was long and gradual, over some forty years, and there was no unanimity. Controversy even persists, as we shall see later. Personally, I believe in this attribution and I therefore present these 113 short letters of youth before the long epistolary exchanges. They were collected in 2005 in a book published by Gallimard under the title "Letter of the Two Lovers", ("Epistolae duorum amantium") with the subtitle "attributed to Heloise and Abelard, translated and presented by Sylvain Piron". Here is the beginning of Sylvain Piron's introduction (+ back cover) :

    This is the finest and longest collection of medieval love letters we know of. A single manuscript, from the Abbey of Clairvaux, preserves excerpts from one hundred and sixteen letters, brief messages and poems; exchanged by a woman and a man. Exceptional by its extent and richness, this private correspondence of the twelfth century is almost unique in its kind. The form in which it was transmitted adds to its enigmatic character. In the fil of the raffined greetings they address each other, the lovers never name each other. The copyist of the manuscript, Jean de Woëvre, librarian of the abbey in the finteenth century, indicated in the margins their successive interventions by a simple initial: M (mulier) for the woman, V (vir) for the man. By way of title, the librarian has settled for an elliptical formula. These excerpts, he writes, come from "letters from two lovers". Or, since the Latin possessive can be both determinate and indeterminate, "the letters of two lovers."

    In the absence of concrete details that would make it possible to locate with certainty the origin of these letters, a few strokes suffisent to draw quite surely the silhouette of the two correspondents. Their preoccupations, at once literary, poetic, and philosophical, make it possible to situate this exchange in the world of schools. The woman portrays her friend as the most brilliant teacher in France, before whom the mountains bow. Even more notable, she recognizes two rarely associated talents in him: "nurtured in the cradle of philosophy", he also became "companion of poets". For his part, among other praises, he responds by calling her "the only disciple of philosophy among all the young women of our time".

    Ewald Konsgen published in 1974 a precious critical edition of this correspondence. His analysis of the style and sources used in these letters led him to situate their writing in the first half of the twelfth century, in Ile-de-France. Refusing to commit himself further, he proposed only to consider their authors as a couple resembling that formed by Heloise and Abelard. In a book published in 1999, the Australian historian Constant Mews took the next step. A rich body of evidence allows him to defend the idea that the two lovers are none other than Héloïse and Abélard.

    The salvation which to myself I would like to receive, I send to you.
    I know not what can be more salutary.
    If I had all that Caesar ever possessed
    There would be no use in having so much wealth.
    I would never have any other joys than those you give me,
    And pain and sorrow will follow us at all times.
    If it is not you who give it to me, nothing will be beneficial to me.
    Of all that the whole world contains,
    Finally you will always be my only glory.
    The stones placed on the ground, as if on fire, liquefy, So vanishes our body, consumed in love.
    May you live thus, well, as long as the Sibyl,
    And exceed the limits that Nestor's age had.

    Above letter #82, from Heloise.
    Opposite a page from "Epistolae duorum amantium", 15th century (Bibliothèque municipale de Troyes).

    Another excerpt from the preface by Sylvain Piron (and portraits by Thomas Watson, 1776).
    Anonymous, the Letters of the Two Lovers form a remarkable literary document whose expressive force alone suffight to transfix the reader. They read like an epistolary novel whose episodes follow one another in moments of greater or lesser intensity, interspersed with break-ups and reconciliations, and which seems to end in misunderstanding and separation. But the circumstances and the content of the story they unfold can only be sensed in the background of texts devoid of any concrete reference. By restoring to these letters the double face of the most famous couple of the Middle Ages, they are suddenly illuminated with another light. The plot takes on flesh, cryptic allusions exchanged by the lovers are revealed.

    Conversely, these letters also shed new light on the understanding of the relationship between Héloïse and Pierre Abélard. For centuries, the story of their affair and its unfortunate outcome, set in the years 1115-1117, has been known mainly from documents dating back some fifteen years to the events they relate. The account of her disasters (Historia calamitatum), written by Abelard around 1132, and the letters exchanged thereafter with Heloise, prioress of Le Paraclet, bear witness to the divergent interpretations that the two spouses, now separately engaged in monastic life, made of their past and their present situation. The letters in the Clairvaux manuscript help to put this late correspondence into perspective in the light of material much closer to the focus of their love affair. In his autobiographical account, Abélard reports that he first hoped to seduce Heloïse, a young literate woman, by means of an epistolary exchange "which would enable us to write to each other with more boldness than we would have in speaking." Writing back to him to claim a letter of consolation, she contrasts Abelard's present silence towards her with the incessant mails with which he then flooded her and the songs he composed in her praise. One believed these letters and these songs of love lost. These are the ones that the Clairvaux manuscript would transmit, in part. In a shocking and unexpected way, we would thus be given indirect access to the messages exchanged in secret by the lovers, on wax tablets, while Abelard was staying in the house of Fulbert, Heloise's uncle and canon of Notre-Dame, who had confined the instruction of his niece to the master of the schools of the cathedral chapter.

    These Letters, such as we can read them today, bring to history only one notable biographical precision. After the discovery of their affair by Fulbert, Héloïse would have been away from Paris for some time, without Abélard daring to follow her ; this is at least what can be deduced from poem 108, written to celebrate her return. The correspondence ends soon after; it seems to have been interrupted by the flight of the lovers, Abélard taking Héloïse, pregnant and disguised as a nun, in the grounds of his family at Pallet, near Nantes. she gives birth to their son, Astrolabe. For this reason, we will not find here any echo of the debate on the marriage which opposed the lovers, nor the least allusion to the life led, between Paris and Argenteuil, after their secret marriage; even less will it be question of the castration of Abélard, victim of Fulbert's revenge, or of the taking of the habit of the two spouses which followed, Héloïse in Argenteuil and Abélard in Saint-Denis. If the most dramatic episodes of this famous story remain outside the framework of the Letters, they allow us to understand its deepest meaning. Contrary to what Abelard claims in his autobiographical account, he did not simply seek to seduce a young girl to satisfy his desires, guided by pride and lust. His desire had to take on the clothes of eloquence and poetry, and their affair was initially built around a high-flying intellectual and literary exchange.

    The extracts of the Letters which have come down to us have undergone a selection process. The interest of Jean de Woëvre, the copyist librarian, was primarily in the formulas of greetings and other examples of beautiful style; he was thus inclined to discard the most personal details of the correspondence. In spite of this filter, one perceives however the essential of the joust, loving as well as intellectual and literary, that the correspondents engaged in.

    The title of this file is "Heloise, the eternal lover of Abelard", it was found, after reading the long letters, before discovering the short ones and this excerpt from letter n°48, from Heloise : "Embraced with love for you, I want to love you for centuries". Or, in another translation: "Inflamed by the fire of your love, I want to love you for ages". This is a symbol of the continuity between the short letters of youth and the long ones of middle age.

    "I allowed myself to be entirely inflamed. I sought all the means to establish between us relations and talks of each day, which would provide me the occasion to train 1 more easily with the goal of my desires.". These words of Abelard, seen in chapter 8, are now to be qualified :

    [Abélard] also suggests, incidentally, that she herself would have initiated their meeting. In any case, the whole of the correspondence shows that it is indeed she who, at each stage, relaunches the discussion, with always new requirements, intellectual and emotional, to which her lover most often answers only imperfectly.

    In this other excerpt, Sylvain Piron demonstrates the veracity of identifying the two lovers with Heloise and Abelard.

    The validity of these conclusions, however, presupposes that Constant Mews' proposal is confirmed. It has, for the moment, won the support of a number of historians. Among them, Stephenjaeger and John Ward have provided strong new arguments in favor of this attribution. Other scholars have stuck to the hypothesis of an anonymous couple from the twelfth century. A long study by Peter Von Moos has taken the opposite view of all previous works. The eminent philologist questions both the usual dating and the authenticity of the epistolary exchange, seeing it as a clever pastiche, written almost two centuries later by a single author. Meanwhile, most people remain on the fence. Until the scholarly community reaches a consensus on this point, caution might seem the most advisable attitude. This is the position taken by Guy Lobrichon in his book on Heloise, who decides to leave the question open. However, it is possible to choose another path, considering that the time has come to draw up a first assessment of this debate. In five years of intense debate, the attribution of the Letters to the Famous Lovers has not met with any serious objection. It would take only one irrefutable argument, demonstrating the impossibility of this hypothesis, to invalidate it completely. To date, despite sometimes fierce criticism, no such argument has been formulated. As will be seen, the one overall counterproposal has more weaknesses than the identification it claims to replace. At the same time, this initial proposal has received serious reinforcement. The balance of evidence thus appears to be clearly tipped to one side.

    Afin order that everyone may form an informed opinion, a study, placed after the text, will take up one by one all the elements of the debate, from the examination of the manuscript to the questions of the authenticity of the Letters and the identity of their authors. The attribution of the correspondence to Héloïse and Abélard will come out reinforced from this investigation. The Letters, indeed, fit them like a glove; there is not a single detail, in the course of the one hundred and sixteen preserved messages, that makes this solution improbable. However, however nourished the beam of clues in this sense may be, it does not possess an absolute probatory force. At most, one can conclude that this attribution has such a degree of probability that it is impossible to find a better option.

    The Wikipedia page entitled "Epistolae duorum amantium" reaches the same conclusion. It further states that Jean de Woëvre made this copy in 1471 and 1472, a copy that was forgotten in the Clairvaux library until 1967. "The gaps are indicated but the manuscript itself has not been preserved. The text known today is thus diminished in comparison with the one hundred and thirteen letters, now lost, but one must trust Jean de la Véprie's taste to assume that the parts he did not copy were of no interest, from his point of view, which was not that of a historian. No letter is missing a priori, but the cuts affect forty of them, that is to say a third of the total." From the chapter "Reconstitution of the plot", Sylvain Piron tries to establish a dating of the letters:

    To fix the duration of this correspondence, we have only rare and sparse indications that hint at the passage of the seasons. The exchange of letters seems to have begun in autumn, or at least shortly before winter (M 18), it lasted more than a year (V 87), the last reunion speaking of a new return of fine days (V 108). We know that Abélard returned to Paris in 1113; he says he occupied "paisibly for some years" the pulpit in the chapter school. The most accurate dating of his castration is provided by Fulbert's absence, from August 1117 onwards, from the Parisian documents he would normally have signed as a canon. A retrospective calculation, seeking to accommodate the various events while respecting the succession of the seasons suggested by the "Letters of the two lovers", would thus invite to place the beginning of the correspondence during the autumn of 1114; the discovery of their affair would have taken place at the beginning of the year 1116; the return of Héloïse (V 108) preceding very little the announcement of her pregnancy and her escape, her son could have been born during the autumn 1116; the negotiations in view of the marriage could have occupied the first months of the year 1117. As for the "quiet recess of a few years" of which Abelard speaks, it should be understood from his return to Paris to Fulbert's discovery of the affair.

    "Heloise and Abailard," 1839 edition illustrated by Jean Gigoux

    [Letter #17, from Abelard]
    To the inexhaustible vessel of all that delights, his beloved: neglecting the light of Heaven, I want to look at you alone without interruption. While the day inclined towards the night, I could not restrain myself any longer to seize the first duty to greet you, you who, indolent, neglected it. Be well, and know that my life and my salvation are nothing without your good health.

    [Letter #18, from Heloise]
    Equal to equal, to the blushing rose beneath the immaculate whiteness of the lily: all that lovers wish each other. Though the year is in winter, yet my bosom shines with love's fervor. What more can I say? I could write you more, but few words suffice to instruct the wise hornme. Be well, my heart, my body, and all my love.

    [Beginning of letter #79, from Heloise]
    To the one who deserves to be embraced with the passion of a special love, the blaze of my passion for you : may you receive as many greetings as there are fragrant flowers in the season of delight.

    [End of letter #80, from Abelard]
    When I am hungry, you alone satisfy me; if I am thirsty, you alone quench my thirst. But what did I say there? You certainly quench my thirst, but you do not satisfy me. I have never been satisfied with you and I believe I never will be. Live in joy, may it never leave you. Take care of yourself.

    The demonstration above, by Sylvain Piron, of the attribution of the letters to Abélard and Héloïse is implacable. I add to it, below, what I found on the English Wikipedia page of the historian Constant Mews, which gives a history of the controversies provoked by these discoveries and presents the arguments of the opponents of the attribution.

    In 1999, Mews published "The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard." This book contains approximately 113 medieval love letters, edited in 1974 by German scholar Ewald Koensgen. These letters, attributed simply to a man and a woman, survived because a 15th century monk copied them for an anthology. After spending some twenty years studying Abelard's philosophical and theological writings, Mews concluded that these letters (the longest known correspondence between a man and a woman in medieval times) were written by Abelard and Heloise. In 2005, historian Sylvain Piron translated the correspondence into French.

    The question of whether the letters were indeed the true correspondence has become a subject of intense scholarly debate in France. Mews and other scholars who support the authenticity of the letters say that all the evidence in and around the text points to Abelard and Heloise. Opponents say this is too simple and want definitive proof. They reject accusations of tunnel vision and deny being motivated by professional envy for not being first. "It's not jealousy, it's a question of method," said Monique Goullet, director of research in medieval Latin at the Sorbonne University in Paris. "If we had proof that it was Abelard and Heloise, everyone would calm down. But the current position of literary scholars is that we are shocked by a too rapid attribution process."

    But after his years of research, Mews is all the more convinced. "The first time I encountered the words and ideas, they gave me a thrill. Unfortunately, that was attacked as evidence of an emotional response," he said. "There was some very quick stereotyping of others' arguments." Most Latin scholars agree that the document is authentic and of great literary value, but its uniqueness makes some scholars wary. "The most likely explanation is that it is a literary work written by a single person who decided to reconstruct the writings of Abelard and Heloise," said Goullet. Others say it was a stylistic exercise between two students who imagined themselves in the lovers' shoes, or that it was written by another couple. Mews has since discovered other textual parallels between the letters and Abelard's writings that support his arguments, including in "Abelard and Heloise, Great Medieval Thinkers" and in journal articles published in 2007 and 2009

    Wax tablet held by a woman identified with the poetess Sappho. (Pompeii, 1st century) (link)
    However, it appears that the debate is still alive. Renowned scientists and historians do not believe in authenticity, such as Giles Constable or Peter Dronke. I have read the Czech Jana Daňhelová's 2013 conclusion (link) and the American Jan M. Ziolkowski's 2004 conclusion (link pp. 171-202). The first relies mostly on the lack of formal evidence  I don't think it is necessary. The second argues on the difference in style fifteen years later, believing that Abelard could not have changed that much. This is more embarrassing, but the context has changed and it does not seem to me to be obvious enough, given the assessments of other specialists. Above all, the hypothesis of a voluntary forgery and that of another couple from the same period seem to me very unlikely. The prestige of Abelard and Heloise was such, at the time, that their letters, written on wax tablets, were considered precious as soon as they were created, they could have been copied... But this remains a hypothesis, and I might reject it if new clues were revealed showing an impossibility or a major inconsistency (as I already rejected the Gilbert de Garlande Sr. hypothesis I had adopted). Still, decades have passed without such clues appearing...

    For Constant J. Mews, in his 2005 book (presentation by Damien Boquet), a comparative reading of the two sets of letters suggests a better knowledge of the relationship between the two lovers (translation DeepL) :

    Heloise's frustration in her initial response to his attempt in the "Historia calamitatum" to provide a spiritual justification for their past relationship continues a pattern of response that is evident even in the early love letters. She is still frustrated by his lack of consistency in their relationship. He continually vacillates between passionate enthusiasm and regret for being too impulsive. They are both gifted writers who feed off each other in their messages and poems. Poetry allows them to structure their emotions through elaborate metrical verse. However, the exchange is much more than an opportunity to show off their skills in the art of composition. It records a discussion of love that is subtly different from the classical models available to the two lovers.
    The "Epistolae duorum amantium" presents a very different relationship from that of the "Historia calamitatum." Rather than simply recounting carnal passion, they convey a complex literary debate about love between two very different people. Incompletely copied in the late fifteenth century, these letters will always provoke debate as to whether they are authentic copies or whether they were edited, rearranged, or even completely invented by an imaginative individual. Yet they betray so many ideas and images of love parallel to those employed by Abelard and Heloise in their other writings that they deepen our understanding of one of the best known friendships of the twelfth century. The final lament about love also illuminates Abelard's attitude toward sexual love in the "Historia calamitatum" as a folly by which he was trapped. When he wrote this account, Abelard wanted to distance himself from the memory of the love songs that had made him ill, love songs that he composed and that were still in circulation. A number of them (and perhaps those of Heloise as well) are likely to be preserved in the "Carmina burana". There is little doubt, however, that their early relationship was as much literary and intellectual as it was physical. Heloise placed great importance on their discussions of the nature of love, and would later accuse Abelard of not being true to the ideals she shared with him.
    Letters from Abelard
    in the Carmina Burana ?

    According to Constant J. Mews and Georges Minois, a number of the letters of Abelard, and perhaps also of Heloise, are likely to be preserved in the "Carmina burana". These medieval poems come from a manuscript discovered in 1803, made popular by Carl Orff's namesake musical work, Carmina Burana, composed in 1935-1936, in which Orff reprised twenty-four of the songs from the manuscript.

    In 2019, in his book "Abélard, Héloïse et Bernard" (page 175), Georges Minois responds to two criticisms made by those who express reservations :

    "The Letters of the Two Lovers" constitute a considerable record, and are only short extracts. It is estimated that between the first and last letters, more than a year passed. If, as the contents seem to indicate, this corresponds to the period before Fulbert discovered their affair, Abelard and Heloise were living in the same house: why, then, were they writing letters to each other? There is no need to imagine, as Mews does, that they lived in separate rooms. It is necessary to recall that this kind of mail does not have for goal to exchange news; it is about a literary work, of dialogues in writing, very worked, intended to expose ideas or feelings, small treaties of morals, exercise practised at that time by several clerks, as we saw. Ovid, in "The Art of Love", envisaged this practice. One finds besides in the mysterious professor of the 113 letters dialectical arguments familiar to Abelard, as when he writes that between two individuals who air themselves it is established a unity of will not of essence but of indifference (indifferenter). However, a short time before, he had had a controversy with Guillaume de Champeaux at the end of which he had obliged the latter to recognize that the identity of universals in individuals was not in essence but in indifference, as he tells it in 1'Historia calamitatum.

    Last question : how could this corpus of 113 love letters (and probably more) have been found in the library of the abbey of Clairvaux ? At first, if we admit that the two lovers in question are indeed Abelard and Heloise, the latter, having kept a copy of these letters, will have taken them with her to the abbey of Paraclet; she alludes to this at the end of her first epistle of the Correspondence, where she reminds her husband: "You visited me blow after blow by your letters". Subsequently, St. Bernard, who came to preach at Le Paraclet and spoke with Heloise, as evidenced by a missive sent to the pope in 1150, could have had these documents copied, hence their presence in his abbey of Clairvaux. This is at least the hypothesis of Mews. However, it seems more likely to us that the copies were made much later, once the story of the two lovers had become famous, with the publication of the "Roman de la Rose" and the translation of Jean de Meung, thus not before the end of the 13th century. But these are pure conjectures. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the Cistercian who, around 1470, made the selection of extracts from the "Epistolae duorum amantium" did not see fit to give the names of the two authors, even though their fame, well established at the time (Villon celebrates them in his poems), would have ensured the success of the anthology. But this was probably not his aim.

    The fact remains that, if we set aside this objection, all the clues, chronological, geographical, stylistic, psychological, narrative, agree to consider that these 113 letters were indeed exchanged during the first year of the relations of Abélard and Héloïse, around 1116-1117. The contents make it possible to reconstitute the evolution of this relation, in a completely plausible way, and to fill the gaps of the "Histor1Ia calamitatum", very discrete on this period. Plausible reconstruction, but hypothetical: let us not forget that we have only short extracts, not very explicit, of an undated correspondence, which perhaps leaves out essential passages.

  8. The Paraclete Abbey founded by Abelard and Heloise

    Paraclete Foundation,
    from Jean Gigoux (link).
    Here is how I became interested in Heloise. My mother-in-law was born and raised in Saint Martin de Bossenay, a neighboring commune of Quincey, in the Aube, where Le Paraclet is located, the abbey of which Heloise was abbess, on the road to Thibaut de Champagne, between Nogent sur Seine and Troyes.

    The genealogical research I have done on my wife's side has repeatedly mentioned the contacts of the local population with the nuns of the convent. Thus Claude Garçonnat, this cousin who died at age 72 in 1709 at the "Fond de la Tavelle" while going to beg for bread at the abbey. or Louise Nugault, daughter of the lord of Saint-Aubin, who, at age 13, in 1620, became a nun for life at Le Paraclet with financial support from her parents, or Etiennette Massey, that other cousin, who in 1690 was godmother to an abandoned baby outside the abbey's main gate. The abbess of Le Paraclet sometimes finds herself godmother to a winegrower's daughter, such as Anne Marie Caillé, without us knowing or guessing why. Sometimes she is represented. The cohabitation between inhabitants and nuns is not without some clashes. Thus, "In 1615, the nuns of Paraclet sued Michel Gallois for an offense in their wood of Tillet. They summon several inhabitants of Quincey who testify to having heard Michel Gallois, living in Saint-Aubin, say that he had sold 10 pieces of oak and that there would still be 15 to 18 in the wood". But some inhabitants saw an opportunity to live a happy retirement, such as Guillaume Popillard and Jeanne Migourdin who in 1559 made "donation to the nuns of the Paraclet of all their goods, including a house, barn, stable, yard and garden on rue de Cormont, land, movable goods (bed and feather bed, ...). They declared that they wanted to be received as converts in the Abbey of Paraclet to live and die there. They have no children and are each over 50 years old. In exchange for this donation, the nuns undertake to bury them in the church of the Abbey with 3 services of 3 masses and to feed them, lodge them, maintain their clothing and other necessary things".

    Moreover, Yves Beauvillé's scouring of the censiers du Paraclet (nearby page) has allowed me to trace non-noble ancestry back to the 15th century, which is valuable. In the midst of these notarial documents, we find some details like in 1575, when "Jehan Somillon, a ploughman in Saint-Aubin, takes from the Abbey of Paraclet the lease of a land. He signs with a triangle the point down, with a diagonal on the left. The three life lease, which seems more specific to Champagne and Burgundy than to Paraclet alone, caught my attention. It allowed the inhabitants to subscribe to a kind of insurance on the years to come for themselves and their children. Here is an illustration of this on two examples, one on the beginning of a lease, the other on the end:
    • Colin Simon (ascendant):"On April 7, 1488, Colin Simon, ploughman, and Agnes, his wife, residing at Saint-Aubin, took from the nuns of the Paraclet the lease for three lives of a house, barn, stable, courtyard, yard, garden, accin, pourpris and arrable and fallow lands,2 meadows, saulsois and vineyards against: 20 septiers per quart wheat, rye, oats and barley, 18 bushels of walnuts when the walnut trees will bear, maintain the buildings of any repair."
    • Jehanne Hucher (ascendant) : "On April 30, 1544, Jehanne Hucher, widow of Jehan Devignes, in her lifetime residing at La Chaulme, departs from the three-life lease taken 60 to 80 years ago, on April 6, 1488, by the late Jehan Hucher her father for the benefit of the nuns of Le Paraclet of a gaignage at Saint-Aubin on condition that she be fed, lodged, slept in, and heated during her lifetime, and after her death have her buried according to her condition. Jehanne enjoys 30 arpents of land of the Mergers for the second life, recognizing that she is about 80 years old, can no longer attend to her needs and trades to clothe, feed and maintain her. She will be buried in the church of the abbey in front of the altar Monseigneur Saint-Jean after the said deceased Jehan Hucher his father being buried in the said place.

    What you see of Paraclet and its farm, along the "Thibaut de Champagne" road, between Nogent sur Seine and Troyes.
    This is the "big door" where babies were abandoned... (photo from 2005)

    Behind the gates, the site is pleasant, well-kept and larger than it appears from the outside. The 12th century buildings have disappeared making way for this 17th century abbey dwelling, a 16th and 17th century monks' cellar and a late 19th century chapel. The visits are private and limited. You can see a crypt with a tomb. Hereafter:

    We saw in the previous chapter how the Abbey of the Paraclete, a mystical word meaning "Consolation", was established. Here is a timeline of his life, shortened from a table on the Wikipedia page dedicated to him.

    1122 Abelard founded the hermitage of Saint-Denis with the help of Thibault of Champagne.
    1127 The hermitage, which had become a "university" in the fields, was closed.
    1129 Heloise and her sisters chased away by Suger from the abbey of Argenteuil reopen the oratory.
    1131 The establishment is approved by the ecclesiastical authorities and receives the title of priory.
    1133 Abelard and Heloise define the first female rule.
    1135 Heloise is appointed abbess. Le Paraclet became the first center for sacred music in its time.
    1139 Bernard of Clairvaux inspects Le Paraclet, which has become an intellectual center for women.
    1144 Peter the Venerable transfers the remains of Abelard to the Paraclete, received into the Cluniac order.
    1146 Le Paraclet is endowed with an immense agricultural and wine-producing domain. It was erected into an abbey in 1147.
    1164 Heloise dies at age 72.
    1233 le Paraclet is attached to the royal abbey of Saint-Denis (its domain supplies Paris with wheat).
    1291 To cope with the lack of means, the number of nuns is limited to sixty.
    1342 The abbey church is restored thanks to Queen Jeanne d'Évreux.
    1359 Le Paraclet, ravaged by the Hundred Years War, is deserted.
    1360 An ex-monk gives birth to the first child of the bishop of Troyes.
    1377 Le Paraclet no longer even has an abbess.
    1403 A new abbess is appointed. New vacancy from 1406 to 1415.
    1453 With the war over, Le Paraclet lives on.
    1481 Abbess Catherine de Courcelles begins reconstruction.
    1509 The enclosure that can be seen today is completed
    1533 Le Paraclet becomes a royal abbey.
    1536 The abbess Antoinette de Bonneval exercises a tyrannical and paranoid discipline.
    1547 The position of abbess of Le Paraclet becomes monopolized by the greatest families of the kingdom.
    1557 Le Paraclet, a refuge for peasants in case of an attack by Protestant armies, houses a barracks.
    1615 The abbess has Abelard's manuscripts and his correspondence with Heloise published. <1650 A storm destroys a large part of the abbey.
    1701 The abbey lives in the cult of the memory of the converted lovers.
    1707 The reconstruction of the abbey church is begun.
    1770 The abbey estate and its farm buildings are leased.
    1779 A new chapter house is built, as well as a huge cellar that can be seen today.
    1790 The abbey, nationalized, is evacuated (some nuns will return). <1792 The reliquary of Heloise and Abelard is transferred to Paris. The abbey is sold, the abbey church demolished.
    1821 Le Paraclet is bought by General Pajol who has the obelisk dedicated to Heloise and Abelard erected (above).
    1910 Charles Marie Walckenaer has the present chapel built.

    The missing Paraclete is reconstructed in this 1862 engraving (link).

    "Abelard Teaching," mid-19th century engraving by Eustache Lorsay (liens : 1 2). Abelard taught
    at Sainte Genevieve Mountain in Paris around 1112 and at the site of the future Paraclete around 1125.

    Nineteenth century engraving (link).
    Heloise and her nuns, driven out of the priory of Argenteuil, are welcomed in 1129 by Abelard at the hermitage Héloïse was its first abbess, until her death in 1164. + other reproduction (link).

    Nineteenth century print. Abelard receiving Heloise at the Paraclete (BnF, link).
    Héloïse at the Paraclete. Jean-Baptiste Mallet. Musée Fragonard (Grasse), 27 x 22 cm (link).

    Heloise at the Paraclete (compare with the 1st illustration in chapter 6) (BnF, link). Lament of Heloise to the Paraclete,
    Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé. (Drawing from the Carnet de romances de la Reine Hortense, comment, link).

    Abelard preaching at the Paraclete

    Reception of Peter the
    Venerable at the Paraclete

    Heloise Superior of the Paraclete

    (Jean Gigoux 1839)

    Heloise at Abelard's Tomb

    Portrait of Heloise at the Paraclete, Anonymous, 1756 (links : 1 2) (variant, link) (A. Pope's book).

    The Death of Heloise, at the Paraclete. By Samuel Wale, after Angelica Kauffman, 1782. British Museum (link) (+ engraving).

    "Heloise Receiving a Letter from Abelard," William Wynne after Angelica Kauffman, ca. 1779 (link). Original. (For Kauffman, see also here).

    After Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune, 1796. Illustration for volume I, page 113 of "Letters of Heloise and Abailard," Fournier le jeune et fils, Paris, Bristish Museum. (link).

    The Paraclete circa 1700

    Plans of the Paraclet estate: circa 1700 (Werner Robl, captions below, link) and in 1867 (link).
    Abbey buildings according to the 1809 cadastral plan (foundations), Ardusson and canal circa 1700, buildings circa 1700. 1 = abbey church with chapel of the Trinity 2 = chapter 3 = refectory 4 = kitchen 5 = nuns' wing and dormitory 6 = abbess's house 7 = cloister 8 = oratory small moustier 9 = cellar to the monks 10 = the farm 11 = dovecote 12 = round towers 13 = abbey 14 = mill 15 = cross of the master ? 16 = Jardin le Roucy 17 = Vieux Ardusson 18 = Canal de l'Ardusson 19 = Ancien cours de l'Ardusson 20 = Jardin 21 = anciennement la vigne ? 22 = former cemetery of nuns?

    In the eighteenth century

  9. The following images (and the plan above from 1867) are from the catalog published during the exhibition "Très sage Héloïse", June 9-September 2, 2001 at the Musée historique de Troyes et de la Champagne. We will return to this fascinating special issue of the journal "La vie en Champagne" in part 14 of chapter 12, and Werner Robl provides a presentation of it in this page.

    1. Letters of Heloise and Abelard, MS 802, Bibl. Mun. Troyes, folio 93v., late 13th century + folio 1.
    2. First edition of Abelard's work, François d'Amboise, 1626 (Bibl. Mun. Troyes C. 7. 1621)
    3. Du Bois, Le Philosophe Amoureux, 1697 (Bibl. Min. Troyes CL 16° 1141)
    4. The abbey of Paraclet, ca. 1548 (Arch. Dep. Aube)
    5. View of the abbey of Paraclet, engraving from the 18th century (Arch. Dep. Aube)
    6. The oratory of Abelard (print, Bibl. Mun. Troyes)
    7. Entrance of the abbey and west facade of the bailey before 1809, watercolor (Coll. Particulière)
    8. Vue du Paraclet by Boisseau (Musée du Vieil Argenteuil, D 94, cl. Penpeny)
    9. Ruins of the church, before 1809, watercolor (Private coll.)
    10. Plan of the Paraclet estate in 1708 (arch. dep. Aube)

    1 2 3 4

    5 6 7

    8 9

    10 Paraclete in 1708. In correspondence with Plan 4 of 1548, Le Paraclet is bordered on the north by the Ardusson River (noted Dardusson), on the south by the road from Nogent sur Seine to Troyes (noted "chemin de Nogent à Marigny", Marigny le Châtel), also called route de Thibaut de Champagne. The abbey is one-third on the commune of Saint Aubin, to the west, and two-thirds on the commune of Quincey (noted Quincé) (Ferreux-Quincey), to the east.

    The Paraclete in 1836. Drawing from a map of the Aube (link picclick).
    Compare with, below left, circa 1795, engraving by Baugean after Delaval (link).

    Above right, the "5 foot path", passing from the Paraclete, ran along the Ardusson for dozens of miles.
    Some sections of it remain, as here in Saint Martin de Bossenay.

    Ruins of the Paraclete Church. Wash drawing by François Alexandre Pernot (1793-1865) (another photo) (link)

    "A local described the Paraclete to me as it was before the Revolution...": in a page on his site, Werner Robl reports the accounts of travelers who visited the Paraclete in 1789, 1806 and 1812. "In almost every room one could see portraits of the two lovers between crucifixes and images of saints." In addition : a relevé of the remains of the abbey in 1950, established in the number 4 of the journal of folklore of Aube (1965).

    On another page, Werner Robl has done an extensive study on the Paraclete. Here is an excerpt :

    The most interesting part of the monastery was the place, attested in ancient sources by the name "petit moustier", i.e. small monastery. It was a small chapel with its own cloister, adjoining the large monastery. It was there that Abelard had been buried by Heloise in the winter of 1142/1143, and herself by her sisters in 1164. Only a few other people were also buried there, mostly direct intimates of the founding couple, among them Abelard's nieces. According to the Book of the Dead, Astrane, the first prioress under Heloise, was also buried there:

    The small moustier was probably located to the east of the abbey and was accessible from the large moustier, i.e. the large monastery, through a connecting door. The common tomb of Heloise and Abelard was located in the chapel itself. Catherine II de Courcelles, the 17th abbess, in office from 1481 to 1513, organized the first translation of the bodies of the founding couple from the oratory petit moustier to the choir of the great abbey church.

    The abbey house, in 2016.

    The farmhouse with, on the right, the dovecote, in 2016.

    The chapel in 1910, shortly after its creation, (postcard) and in 2016.

    The Paraclet farm, seen from the road connecting Nogent sur Seine to Troyes.
    In the center, in the background, the dovecote. Ombre&Lumière flickr photo (link).

    The Ardusson in Quincey, near Le Paraclet. Postcard: the apsidal Crypt presented to tourists in the early 20th
    century as a secret rendezvous place for lovers. (link) Below, between road and Ardusson, the vanished Paraclete (link).

    The Dream of Werner Robl
    Aspiciebam in visu noctis et ecce... I had a vision in the night and this is...
    The Paraclete is the original soil of the European university, the stone testimony of the unusual relationship between two famous men of the early Middle Ages, the symbol of a tolerant theology turned to God and to men. For this reason, it deserves to be better regarded. The current owners are working to preserve the site with the support of the state. The site is also open to visitors, at least during the summer months. But the means and initiative are clearly lacking for a partial reconstruction of the monastery or an exploration of the first burial site of the founding couple. Today, the Paraclete is still undeveloped and located far from the cities, in a charming environment, in a beautiful park.
    All friends of Abelard are hereby invited to do their utmost to preserve this wonderful piece of cultural heritage in the heart of France and not to let it fall into permanent oblivion. Pierre Abélard and Héloïse had once wished to rest together in peace here - and only here. This wish has not been fulfilled to this day: Abelard has been disturbed nine times in all, Heloise eight times in her burial place. Since 1817, their remains rest in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
    Because of their spiritual greatness, their importance in contemporary history, their unique spiritual relationship, they would have deserved to be transferred again and definitively to where only they believed themselves happy, even in death : to the Paraclete. [source, link photo]

    Héloïse, prestigious abbess. In her youth, Heloise was a brilliant intellectual, a learned exegete, the first female graduate, famous even before her meeting with Abelard for being the only woman who dared to undertake the studies of the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, astronomy, music, astronomy and geometry). In middle age, when her mother Hersende de Champigné had died before becoming abbess of Fontevraud (cf. chapter 4), Heloise became abbess of Le Paraclet in 1135, having been its Grand Prioress since her arrival in 1129 from the abbey of Argenteuil. This title goes back to ancient times (e.g. Fare de Meaux founder of the abbey of Faremoutiers and its first abbess around 650).

    Abelard installs Heloise and her nuns at Paraclete. Circa 1840.
    Lithograph by Eugène Bulla after Achille Devéria (Geneva Museum of Art and History, link).

    When Heloise and the nuns from Argenteuil who followed her arrived at the Paraclete, in 1129, they lived in difficult conditions on the remains of the oratory of the Trinity, "made of reeds and thatch" founded by Abelard and his students some years earlier. Abelard : "For some time they lived there in misery and desolation ; but a glance from Divine Providence, whom they served piously, brought them consolation. [...] In a single year, I attest to God, the goods of the earth multiplied around them more than I myself could have done in a hundred years, had I remained [...] The bishops cherished her as their daughter, the abbots as their sister, the laity as their mother." François Verdier, in the 2001 catalog of Troyes, describes the rapid success of Heloise:

    The success of the community was indeed rapid, the successive recognition of the popes, the kings of France, the abbots of the region and the numerous donations of the laity were not long in coming : as early as 1131, Pope Innocent II recognized the community and in 1135 added new privileges. The same year, King Louis VII exempted the Paraclete from paying any custom. The Eugene III bull of November 1, 1147 enumerates an impressive list of goods; such a significant increase will only occur between the end of the 12th century and the first third of the 13th century. If one cannot doubt Heloise's qualities, are they sufficient, however, to explain such a success and what additional assets did she possess to succeed so quickly? [...]

    The charter of Bishop Garnier, dated 1194, is an exceptional document on the early days of the abbey. It distinguishes two periods of donations, that of the time of Abelard and that of Heloise. [...] The donations made to Heloise are considerable in comparison with the former. [...] Heloise is also the head of an order. Lalore recalls this in the introduction to his edition of the Cartulaure : "... that she is head of order and that she has under her care not only nuns, but also religious both professed and novices and oblates or brothers and sisters given ; but also priories, even cures where she provides". [...]

    The donations made to Heloise are considerable, compared to the first ones to Abelard. They are due to those who were in the early hours of the oratory, soon accompanied by people of their family or alliances. From his arrival in 1146, the donations also extend to the other side of the Seine, on the coast of Ile-de-France where the best vineyards are located, to Chalautre-la-Grande, Villenauxe-la-Grande, Bethon. They are also located on the best swidden lands of the Brie plain around Nangis.

    But the acquisition of land and vineyards is not, on analysis, a priority. Héloïse seems to prefer by far the acquisition of dimes which, in 1146, covered eighteen parishes, of mills, fifteen of which were owned in whole or in part, of ovens (three), of fishing rights, in a region that was very rich in fish, and of houses, especially in Provins.

    [...] Heloise was thus indeed a woman philosopher not in the cloister alone, but in an existence where the adventure was as much interior as public.

    Map of the Paraclete's possessions in the 13th century.

    Edward Henry Corbould (link) "O voto de Heloisa," Pedro Americo 1880, 150 x 104 cm (Rio de Janeiro Museum, Brazil, link).

  10. Héloïse as seen by Abélard in "Histoire de mes malheurs"

    [[Here is Peter Abelard's extraordinary account of his love with Heloise under the title "Historia calamitatum", "History of my misfortunes". It is considered to be Abelard's #1 letter to Heloise, because even though he wrote it for a friend, he did so thinking that Heloise would read it. And she did indeed read it quickly. This account is presented here by "M. Villenave" (Mathieu-Guillaume Villenave), in excerpts from a lengthy, 121-page introduction to the book "Lettres d'Héloïse et d'Abélard, traduction par le bibliophile Jacob" (Paul L. Jacob), cover of the 1840 first edition opposite. His introductory remarks are in square brackets, mine in double brackets. The text is copied from the 1864 edition shown on this link Gallica with some very minor corrections, mostly of emphasis. This introduction had already been published, separately, in 1834, under the title "Abelard and Heloise, their loves, their misfortunes and their works" (frontispiece)]]

    Manuscript copied from "History of My Misfortunes," once owned by Petrarch (1304-1374) (comment) (BnF, links: 1 2) (and further in chapter 15).
    [Abelard recounted the events of his life in a long letter, divided into fifteen chapters, which he wrote from the monastery of Saint-Gildas, in little Brittany, to a friend whom he does not name; and, in quoting this letter, Heloise does not make him known either. Abelard embraces, in his account, all that he did, all that happened to him since his childhood until the time when he writes: now, at this time, Heloise was already abbess of the Paraclete; Abelard was abbot of Saint-Gildas and he was more than fifty years old. It is in this narration, which one might believe to be, if not almost unknown, at least strangely disfigured, that we will take the facts as Abelard himself states them].

    [You cannot ignore how much money and glory the ever-increasing number of my students brought me. But prosperity swells the foolish; a worldly tranquility dulls the vigor of the spirit and easily leads to temptations of the flesh. While I believed myself to be the only superior philosopher in the world, and no longer feared the cries of envy, I, who had hitherto lived in continence, began to let go of the restraint of voluptuousness; and the more I had excelled in philosophy and in the science of divine things, the more I began, by a deranged life, to drift away from divine things and from philosophy.

    [There was in Paris, in the City, a young girl called Heloise, niece of a canon named Fulbert, who loved her very much and had instructed her, as far as he could, in the sciences and in letters. She was not at the last rank by her beauty, but she had no equal for the knowledge. And, as literate women are rare, Heloise's reputation had spread throughout France. Everything that can seduce lovers came to my imagination. Heloise became the object of my love, and I believed that it would be easy for me to be happy; for I was then so high in fame, and my youth and beauty shone so brightly, that I could not fear to be rejected by any woman whom I would have judged worthy of my choice ; and I thought that it would be all the easier for me to win Heloise's heart, as the more she advanced in the sciences, the more she loved them; that already a trade of letters existed between us, and that I wrote to her with more freedom than I would have dared to speak at first. I let myself be completely inflamed. I was looking for every means to establish between us daily relations and talks, which would provide me with the opportunity to lead her more easily to the goal of my desires.

    I used the help of some friends to get his uncle to agree to receive me in his house, which was close to my school. I had asked these friends to explain to Fulbert that, since my studies did not allow me to take care of my domestic affairs, I left him free to set the price of my board and lodging himself. Now Fulbert was stingy, and he attached great importance to his niece continuing to make progress in letters: these two motives made him give my request easy consent. I obtained everything I desired from the canon, who was entirely preoccupied with the love of money and the idea that his niece would benefit greatly from my teaching. He therefore urged me, and far beyond my hope, to give lessons in my art to Heloise; and, thus serving my love himself, he gave her over entirely to my masterly authority. He urged me, when I was free of my school, to give all my care to his niece during the day and even at night; and, if I found her rebellious to my lessons, to correct her with my strong hands.

    I could not admire Fulbert's simplicity enough, and I was as stunned as if he had delivered a tender sheep to a hungry wolf; for not only did he charge me with instructing his niece, but he gave me the mission of chastising her, and chastising her strongly: and what else was it but to open up to my wishes their whole career, to offer me himself the last means of victory, even though I might be reluctant to seize it; and, in case I could not touch Heloise by my caressing speeches, to bend her by threats and chastisements? But two things easily distracted Fulbert from any suspicion or fear of danger: the virtue of his niece and the reputation so well established of my continence.

    Abelard monk at the abbey of Saint Gildas de Rhuys, Jean Gigoux, engraving by Pierre-François François Godard, 1839.
    What more can I say? Heloise and I were united first by the same home, and then by the same feeling. Under the pretext of study, we were constantly engaged in love; and the solitude that love desires, study gave us. Books were open before us, but we talked more about love than philosophy, and kisses were more numerous than sentences. My hand was more often on my breast than on the books; and our eyes were more exercised by love than by the reading of the Holy Scriptures. However, in order to remove all suspicion, blows were often given, but from love and not from anger.

    What happened at last? We gave ourselves unreservedly to our love; we found all its joys; imagination added new ones and removed satiety. But the more I was occupied with love, the less I could go to philosophy: I felt the most painful disgust when I had to go to my school.

    After having given to voluptuousness my vigils and my days, my mind found nothing more: I was reduced to repeating my old lessons; and if I could still compose verses, they were devoted to love, not to the secrets of philosophy. And, as you know, most of my songs were spread throughout the provinces and sung by those whose lives resembled mine.

    It is difficult to imagine the sadness, the weeping and groaning of my students when they knew of this great preoccupation and disturbance of my mind. The rumor of my love was spread everywhere, and I believe that they were ignored only by the one who had the most interest in being informed of them. Several times Fulbert was warned, and always he refused to believe, so great was his confidence in Heloise's virtue and in the austerity of my morals.

    [...] [Several more months passed; Abelard's songs rang out in all the streets, in all the crossroads of Paris, and at last Heloise's uncle or father had his eyes opened. Paris, and finally Heloise's uncle or father had his eyes opened]

    Oh! what was his fury! what was the pain of the lovers in their cruel separation! With what confusion I saw myself covered! And what despair modesty forced me to compress! But the more Fulbert's resentment distanced us, the more love united us: his flame increased with the food that was taken away from him. The obstacles only served to make us more enterprising. The veils of modesty, already made so weak, became lighter, and finally we were covered in the same state where the fable reports that Mars was surprised with Venus.

    Soon afterwards, Heloise knew that she would be a mother: she wrote to me expressing all her joy and inviting me to deliberate on what I should do. One night, when Fulbert was not at home, I came and stealthily took Heloise away, and without delay, I brought her to my country. She lived in the village of Le Palais [Pallet], and stayed with my sister until she gave birth to a male child whom she named Astrolabe [or Astralabe].

    The departure of Héloïse had thrown Fulbert into a fury that bordered on insanity; and what made his state more terrible was that the need to hide the motives of his rage compressed its devouring activity. He did not know what he might dare to do in revenge by murder, or by any other means against me, and what traps he might set for me. He feared, would leave me a miserable life, that his niece, whom he always cherished, would have to suffer in my family the reprisals of the revenge. It was not easy for him to surprise me: my precautions were taken, and he would not have found me without defense. At last I felt compassion for his trouble and perplexity; and, accusing myself of the evil that love had done as of a treason that I had committed, I went, in the attitude of a suppliant, to find Fulbert and submit to the satisfaction that he would demand. I offered to marry Héloïse, provided that this hymen remained secret, so that my reputation would not be damaged. Fulbert gave his consent, and I received the kiss of peace from him who wanted, by this feigned demonstration, to lose me more easily.

    I went at once to Brittany to seek my lover, to bring her back to Paris and to make her my wife. But Héloïse neglected nothing to divert me from this plan: she alleged both the dangers which I ran and the care of my fame; she affirmed by oath that her uncle would not let his vengeance be disarmed by any satisfaction; that he would seek first to ruin my glory, knowing well what light this hymen would take away from the world, and how many tears would have to be shed by philosophy

    If, she said, the pagan philosophers lived in celibacy even though they were not engaged in any religious profession, what should you do, you who are a cleric and a canon? [...] Heloise added finally how dangerous it was for me to bring her back to Paris, and how much dearer it would be to her, and to me more suitable, that she should be my lover and not my wife: "Love alone keep me to you, and let no nuptial bond unite us. The happiness of seeing each other, during our separation, will be all the greater as it becomes rarer". It was in these and other similar terms that she sought to persuade me; and seeing that she could not triumph over my resistance [which, incidentally, Abelard calls her folly] Heloise sighed deeply, and, bursting into tears, she ended all she had just said to convince me with these words remarkable: "Fear that, in the loss of two......, there does not succeed a pain no less great than was the love." And in these words the spirit of prophecy was not absent, as the universe has since recognized.

    Astrolabe from Toledo dating from 1080 similar to those that Abelard may have studied in 1112 in Leon with Adelard. Four years later, he would name his son Astralabe / Astrolabe (link).
    [It was in the midst of this struggle of love and duty, a struggle in which Abelard did not let himself be defeated then in generosity, that Heloise became a mother. Abelard entrusted the child to his sister and secretly brought back to Paris his lover. Few days had passed when, after having passed in a church, with some a church, with some witnesses, the night in prayers], we received at daybreak, says Abelard, the nuptial blessing, in the presence of the uncle of Heloise and some of my friends and his. Then we withdrew without noise, each one on his side. From then on, Heloise and I seldom appeared together, and our secret hymen was carefully concealed by us. But Fulbert and his servants, eager to bring some consolation to their master's displeasure, began to divulge the marriage and to violate the promise that the uncle and his people had made to keep it hidden. However Héloïse protested and even went so far as to swear that she was not my wife; that the fact was false; and the uncle, furious with her denials, overwhelmed her with insults and outrages. As soon as I was informed of this, I sent Heloise to the convent in Argenteuil, where she had been raised. I wanted her to wear the religious vestments, but not yet the veil, and I myself clothed her in the robe of the Lord.

    At this news, the uncle and his relatives and friends thought that I had deceived Heloise; that I had wanted to get rid of her easily by dedicating her to the cult of the altars. Their indignation was kindled, they swore revenge; and, one night, while a deep sleep had taken possession of my emissaries were introduced into my apartment and inflicted upon me the infamous and cruel punishment which has filled the world with a long astonishment. The culprits suddenly fled: two were arrested and subjected to the law of retaliation; their eyes were also gouged out. The third culprit was that servant who was driven to treachery by greed.

    [It seems that the canon, who must have feared his revelations, succeeded in removing him from the vengeance of the laws. The biographers report that Heloise's uncle had broken into Abelard's room with four or five accomplices, and that this barbaric uncle, who would also have deserved the penalty of retaliation, was decreed stripped of his benefits and banished. But these details, too important to be forgotten, are missing from Abelard's account, and it is permissible to believe them to be assumed. Let us also note that Fulbert's revenge is revolting only by its atrocity; for moreover he was not pursuing in Abelard the simple seducer of his niece or daughter, as several biographers have said, but the man who, having voluntarily married Heloise, had thrown her into a cloister, had taken her away from her family and from the world in the sole interest of his the world in the sole interest of his vanity as a philosopher and professor].

    Fulbert and the climb to the chamber after Jean Gigoux, then the castration (Langlois after Moreau le Jeune, link).

    The next morning, my adventure was spread throughout the city. The inhabitants, plunged in the stupor of such an event, ran in crowd to see me. It would be difficult and even impossible for me to express the vehemence of their lamentations, the clamors with which they tormented me, and the confusion that the cries of their pain brought to me. But especially the clerics, and mainly my schoolboys, made me a horrible evil by their intolerable complaints, by their sobs and their moans. I suffered much more from their compassion than from my wound, and much more from my shame I suffered much more from their compassion than from my injury, and much more from my shame than from my physical pain. I remembered how much glory I still shone the day before, and by what rapid reversal this glory was weakened, and even almost extinguished. I saw by what just judgment of God I was punished by where I had sinned; by what just reprisals the man I had betrayed had just betrayed me in his turn.

    It seemed to me to hear the praises that my adversaries would give to this distributive justice. I thought of what would be the affliction of my parents, that of my friends, and of the noise with which my infamous adventure was to fill the world. I knew that if from now on I dared to appear in public I would be pointed out and everywhere looked at as a monstrous spectacle. I was still confused by the thought that, according to Deuteronomy, the abomination of eunuchs is so great before God, that they were reputed to be filthy, and that the temples were closed before them; that, according to Leviticus, it was forbidden to offer any mutilated animal to the Lord.

    Finally the feeling of my state came to cover me with so much confusion that, I confess, it was rather shame than a desire for conversion which precipitated me in the solitudes of the cloister. I wanted, however, before ravishing myself to the world, to take Heloise away from him; and, willingly complying with my order, she took the veil and pronounced eternal vows. Thus, both of us embraced the monastic life at the same time: she in the abbey of Argenteuil and I in that of Saint-Denis.

    Touched by her youth, the companions of Heloise wanted in vain to divert her from the sacrifice which she was going to consume; she answered by crying with these verses which Lucain puts in the mouth of Cornelia: "O my illustrious husband! you whose bed I was not worthy to share! the fate which pursues me thus had the right to oppress you yourself! Why did I form the unholy knots that were to make you miserable! Now receive my death, which I voluntarily offer you in expiation of my crime." She says, and suddenly rushes to the altar, seizes there the veil that the bishop has blessed, and consecrates herself forever, before the people, to God who receives her oaths. [...]

    Bronze medals by Raymond Gayrard, Metal Gallery of French Great Men.
    Abélard en 1817 (lien). Heloise in 1819. Photos: 1 2 (link).

    I therefore withdrew near Provins, to a desert which I had already visited; and there, on a piece of land granted to me by its owners, I built, with the consent of the bishop, an oratory made of reeds and thatch, which I called the Oratory of the Trinity. I had only one cleric with me, and I could sing with the prophet: I fled, I went away, and I lived in solitude. [Such were the beginnings of the famous abbey of the Paraclete in this thatched and reedy hut, built on the banks of the Ardusson, a league from Nogent-sur-Seine, around the year 1131.]

    [Abelard was then a little more than fifty years old, and since he had wanted to take Heloise away from the world, that is to say, for ten to twelve years, he has not yet spoken of her, he has not even named her in pursuing the confession of his life, he has not seen her once, he has not written her any letter! [...]

    When my disciples heard of my retreat, they were seen to rush from all sides, leaving cities and castles to build humble cells in my desert. They were seen abandoning layers of down for beds of foliage, the tables where they sat for mounds of grass, and delicate food for coarse grass. This is how, as Saint Jerome says, the philosophers of antiquity fled from the cities, gardens and rich countryside where the soft shade, the concert of birds, the coolness of the fountains, the murmuring stream could charm the eye and the ear, seduce the senses and soften virtue. This is how the disciples of Pythagoras, lovers of solitude, lived in the desert. [...]

    My disciples, in building their little cells, on the banks of the Ardusson, looked more like hermits than schoolboys; but the more their number increased, the harder and more severe their life, and the more my enemies seemed to see their shame spread with my glory. Soon, in Quintilian's phrase, envy came to find me in my retirement. "What has it served us to persecute him?" said my opponents. We have only made his name more conspicuous. His disciples, renouncing all the comforts of life to make themselves voluntarily miserable, flock to him and populate his desert! and here he is, leading the world after him!"

    However, it was intolerable poverty that had forced me to reopen my school. I could not give myself up to the hard work of the land; I would have been ashamed to beg for my bread: I therefore had recourse to the art that was known to me, and necessity made me replace the work of the hands with the office of the tongue. My disciples were busy cultivating the fields and building the cells, and, so that no domestic care would distract me from my study, they were busy with the from my study, they took care of everything that concerned food and clothing.

    Soon the cells became insufficient to house them, and they began to erect regularly, in stone and frame, a large monastery. And as, in my misfortunes and despair, I had found in the middle of the desert this asylum and rest, with a little allegiance to my misery, I changed the name of Trinity that I had given to my oratory into that of Paraclete (a word that means consoling spirit).

    Abelard and his students near the Ardusson. Jean-Achille Bénouville 1837 (link).
    Reprinted in lithography by Caboche et Cie : 1 2 (link).

    My enemies sought, even in this invocation, a pretext for their calumnies: they cried out violently that it was not permitted to dedicate a church especially to the Holy Spirit, to the exclusion of God the Father; and that, according to ancient usage, temples could only be dedicated to Jesus alone or to the Trinity. They could only base their calumny on the error which does not distinguish between the Paraclete and the Spirit of the Paraclete, whereas, according to the Gospel, the name of Paraclete or sustainer is given to each person of the Trinity. [...]

    But this true Paraclete did not delay in bringing, in the midst of my sorrows, a great consolation. It happened that the abbot of Saint-Denis (it was then the famous minister Suger), asserting some ancient right of his abbey over the monastery of Argenteuil, where our sister in Jesus Christ, rather than our wife, had taken the veil, acquired this monastery in one way or another, and violently drove out all the nuns of whom our companion was prioress, and who dispersed to various places.

    When I heard this news, I rushed from the depths of Brittany: I invited Heloise and those of her companions who wanted to follow her to retire to the Paraclete. I gave them the gift of this monastery and all its dependencies. The bishop gave his consent, and soon Pope Innocent II confirmed this donation and added privileges. The life of these nuns was poor and difficult at first; but in one year the goods of the monastery received more increase than I could have given them if I had stayed there for a whole century. God knows, the weaker women are, the more their needs find sympathetic hearts; and their virtue is no less pleasing to men than it is to God.

    Now, our sister, who outshone all her companions, had received from heaven the gift of pleasing everyone. The bishops called her their daughter, the abbots their sister, the laity their mother. All admired her piety, her prudent wisdom, her patience which was accompanied by an incomparable gentleness. She rarely showed herself to the eyes of men; and the more she liked to give herself up, in her cell, to prayer and meditation, the more outside people asked for her presence, the more they desired to see and hear her. [...]

    [Abelard here alludes to the order of Fontevrault, then newly founded by Blessed Robert d'Arbrissel, and of which the abbess had under her supreme dependence, not only the chaplains, directors, confessors, but also several monasteries of men, the government of which devolved upon her]

    [Here we come to the fifteenth and last chapter of Abelard's Memoirs. He tells us that, in spite of the calumnies spread against him, he made frequent trips to the Paraclete, and that he came to retire there, as in a port, to shelter himself from the storms of Saint-Gildas].

    Always crossed by Satan, I could, he said, find neither where to rest nor even where to live. I was a wanderer and a fugitive, like Cain cursed by God. I had more to suffer from my children [so he called the robber monks of his abbey] than from the tyrant who oppressed us all. When, returning from the Paraclete, I approached Saint-Gildas, I had everything to fear from the external enemy and his violence; and, when I entered, other more terrible enemies were in my presence, and I had to support incessantly their ambushes and their machinations. [...]

    The most mutinous monks of Saint-Gildas were expelled from the abbey, and I came to take over its government; but I found the monks who had remained even worse than those who had been expelled. It was no longer by poison, but by the sword that they attempted to kill me. I had a lot of trouble to save myself, protected by a lord of the neighborhood, who came to save me from the raised iron of the assassins and who led me to his manor.

    [Here ends, for biographical facts, the relation of Abelard: he wrote it in his new asylum, when he had fled the dagger of the monks of Saint-Gildas. But he was far from being reassured. He speaks with terror of the dangers that he believes still threaten him].

    Drawing Petr Dillinger (Czech, link)

  11. Héloïse's love for Abelard (excerpts)

    [[Continuation of M. Villenave's words in the 1840 book, this time giving the floor to Heloise]] [A copy of this letter, or rather of these Memoirs, fell, as if by chance, into Heloise's hands. Reading them made a deep impression on her and restored her love to its original exaltation. She wrote to her former lover; and this letter is the first that destructive time has preserved in the number of those she must have traced before that time, especially during her long stay with Abelard's sister, when she had goneėe to hide her pregnancy and her childbirth in an obscure village of ancient Armorica].

    [Thus, let us first fix, as a historical fact, that no letter of Abėlard's, no letter of Heloise's, remains which goes back to the time of their love [[no longer...]]; and that those which have been preserved are posterior to twelve or thirteen years to their cruel separation. Heloise had been a nun or prioress of the convent of Argenteuil for eleven years; she had been abbess of the Paraclete for two or three years when she wrote this letter which Pope and Colardeau have neither translated nor always imitated, but in which they have found happy inspirations. They wanted to adapt to the mores of the eighteenth century the passions, the feelings and the language which, in the twelfth, had less delicacy, but more abandon, strength and energy]. [...]

    Abelard. Supplements: 1 2 3.

    [[Letter #2. Letter 1 from Heloise to Abelard, summary]] [Heloise recalls the main facts of the relationship] where almost everything is full of gall and absynthe. I do not believe, she says, that any mortal can read or hear without shedding tears this deplorable story! [..]

    I remain always in a long astonishment that you forgot Heloise, since, so young still, she renounced for you the world; that neither the fear of God, nor your love, nor the example of the holy Fathers carried you to support me in my perplexities, in the sorrow where all my days ended, without that, neither present by your speeches, nor absent, by your letters you came to support and to console me!

    [Thus Heloise tells us that, after having made her take the veil in the monastery of Argenteuil, Abelard allowed eleven years to pass without seeing her and without writing to her; that he saw her again only for a moment when he made her enter the Paraclete; that finally she had not yet received any letter from him when she read, by chance, a copy of the one he wrote to one of his friends and which contained the story of his life. Who could share Heloise's astonishment, help but add to it a more painful feeling!]

    And yet you must have felt all the more obliged to me, as I was more closely united to your destiny by the sacrament of marriage; and you were all the more guilty as always, and who can ignore it? always I loved you with a love without measure. All our friends know, dear Abelard, what I lost by losing you; by what miserable destiny the treason of which you were victim, dragged me in your ruin; and how much more keenly I felt your misfortune than mine! But the greater my pain, the greater my need for consolation need for consolation. It is not from any other, it is from you, from you alone that I can receive it. You alone cause my sorrow, and you alone are worth consoling: for you alone have the power to afflict me and to cheer me up; you alone can charm the troubles of my life. But you alone are obliged to me: for, after having accomplished, as far as it was in my power, all that you ordered me, always subject to your supreme will, I would not hesitate to lose myself if you ordered it again. I will say more, O wonder! My love has entered into such a state of exaltation, that what was the object of all its desires, it would deprive itself of it without hope of ever finding it.

    [In the text, the words are more obscure than the meaning: I will not seek to clarify the text. Heloise continues, without coming out of her delirium:] So much so, when you ordered it, I suddenly changed my inclinations, in order to show that you alone had possessed my body and my soul. [...]

    Never, she cries, God knows never have I sought in you only you, you only and not your fortune. I have desired neither marriage nor dowry. I sought neither my wills nor my pleasures; I sought only yours. You do not ignore it, you saw it; and if the name of wife is holier and more powerful, that of lover always seemed to me sweeter, even (and do not be indignant about it) that of concubine and prostitute; because, by humiliating me more, your glory was preserved greater. I saw, in the account given to your friend, that you did not disdain to expose the arguments by which I sought to turn you away from a hymen which was to be so fatal; but you passed over in silence what I said to justify the preference which I gave to love over marriage, and to the freedom of lovers over the chain of spouses. I take God as witness that if Augustus, master of the world, had offered me, in the honors of the hymenate, this world to govern, it would have seemed to me more sweet and more honorable to be called your lover than the empress of the world; because one is not better to be rich and powerful. Wealth and power are derived from fortune, but one excels only by virtue. She who marries a rich man more willingly than a poor man, desires in her husband his goods rather than himself. [...]

    Who, I ask, when you appeared in public, did not hasten to fix their eyes on you and to follow you in your walk, with their neck stretched and their eye fixed on your person? Which married woman, which virgin did not desire you in your absence and was not inflamed when you were present? [...] What queen, what powerful woman did not envy my happiness? There were in you, I confess, two talents which could immediately seduce women: the art of your speech and the grace of your song. You composed verses which, by the suavity of the style and that of your voice, made your name come out incessantly from all the mouths, so that the sweetness of your songs charmed even the most illiterate men. It is especially your songs which made all the women sigh for you, and, as you sang our loves, my name spread in distant regions, and the jealousy of a great number of women ignited against me. And what qualities of the spirit, what beauties of the body missed to your youth!

    [Héloïse then deplores all that she has lost, and complains, after having been an object of envy, to have become an object of pity. She complains especially of having been forgotten, and of still being forgotten by Abelard]. [...]

    And, I confess, I have suffered much, I have blushed to see in thee this defiance of my love; but, God knows, if the stake were awaiting thee, and thou commandedst me to go before thee or to follow thee, I would not hesitate a moment: for my soul is not with me, but with thee; and if it is not with thee, it is nowhere! But my soul cannot be separated from you! [Ah, I beseech you by the God to whom you have given yourself! I beseech you to bring some consolation to my love by your presence or by your letters, so that I may, thus rejoiced by you, go about my divine service with greater zeal. [...]

    J. B. Simonet after Moreau le Jeune (link)

    The Poisoned Brother (Jean Gigoux 1839).
    [[Letter #3. Letter 1 from Abelard to Heloise, summary]] [Abelard replied to Heloise's so passionate letter, with a cold volume of sentences, taken, thirty-eight in number, from the Holy Books; this reply is a sermon, such as was then made. The founder of the Paraclete calls Heloise my dear sister once in the age, now very dear in Jesus Christ. "Do not accuse me," he says, "of negligence: I rested on your prudence, and I did not think you needed of my advice nor of my exhortations to lead your sisters and to direct yourself." This is how Abelard claims to justify an absence and silence of about fourteen years!

    [Finally Abelard adds, "I have all the greater need of your prayers, as I find myself exposed to the gravest dangers. If I fall under the iron of my enemies, or if, by any other means, I go out of this life, have my corpse fetched for burial in your cemetery, and let our daughters and sisters of the Paraclete come often to pray over my grave." Abelard's position and dangers may perhaps excuse the coldness of this letter; it ends with these two Latin verses, the only ones known to be certainly by Abelard:
    "Vive, vale, vivantque tuae, valeantque sorores :
    Vivite, sed Christo; quaeso, mei memores.
    Live! be well! May my sisters also live and be well ! Live, but in Christ ! and, I pray you, remember me.

    [[Letter #4. Letter 2 from Heloise to Abelard, summary]] [Heloise replied to this distressing letter, and this is the suscription of that reply: To her one after Christ, her one in Christ. The style is still quite tender, but it is no longer inflamed; it is no longer the passion which devours, but the desolation of a lover:] You have added to my despair; I begged you to dry up the source of my tears, and you have only increased it. [She recalls what Abelard says about her violent and imminent end, about her funeral and about her desired tomb in the Paraclete:] You want me to pray on your tomb: how can I do that when my reason is lost, my despair without rest, my tongue frozen! when, in my delirium, irritated against God himself, I will be more tempted to accuse Him than to invoke Him, and it will be easier for me to follow you in death than to bury you! For I will lose my life in yours; and may I go before you and not after you! Forgive, ah! forgive! but your words have pierced my soul like the sword of death.

    [The rest of the letter offers a little swelling in great pain. Héloïse finds it difficult to resign herself; she cannot yet erase the memory of the rapid days of her happiness, and she accuses herself of having caused Abélard's misfortunes]. [...]

    [[Letter #5. Letter 2 from Abelard to Heloise, summary]] [Abelard's reply has as its suscript: "To the bride of Christ, the servant of Christ". It is again a kind of sermon in four points, Where we find forty-eight passages of the Holy Scripture] [...]

    [However, he reminds Heloise of the old days of their drunkenness and love, but it is not to indulge in this memory; it is to find in it a great subject of repentance and penance: "Remember, he says, that we lived immersed in obcene voluptuousness; that, even in the days of the Lord's Passion, my criminal passion was unrestrained, and that I dared, fighting your scruples, to overcome your refusals with punishments. Remember that on a certain day, in the refectory of the monastery of Argenteuil, our intemperance defiled the asylum consecrated to the Virgin, mother of the Savior." Abelard then says that he was justly punished].

    [[Letter #6. Letter 3 from Heloise to Abelard, summary]] [Heloise's reply to this letter is far from yielding to it in length and in passages from Scripture and the Peres; they number ninety-eight, and among these sacred or pious passages is a quotation of some verses from the Art of Loving. Always obedient, always submitted to her husband, Héloïse's resignation is complete: she seems at last to have forgotten everything, and no longer to write or live except as Abélard demanded. She asks him to trace, for her and for her companions of the Paraclete, the origin and the history of the monastic life; and to draw up, which had not yet been done, a rule, which was not, like that of Saint Benedict, common to the religious of both sexes, but which was applicable to women only. This letter is the last we have from Heloise to Abelard, but it is less an epistle than a treatise on monastic life; and, on reading it, one recognizes, with astonishment mingled with admiration, that the twelfth century had no more profound theologian, no more erudite and eloquent writer than Heloise].

    [[The lives of Abelard and Heloise after their epistolary exchanges]]

    [[Eighteen years had passed since Abelard had been condemned at the Council of Soissons (1121). In that interval he had written, he had taught; and his theology, like many others, did not seem free from error. His life had undoubtedly become less stormy, and he no longer had to fear poison, iron and the ambushes of the monks of Saint-Gildas. But another religious more terrible for him, the famous abbot of Clairvaux, carried away by an ardent zeal, which it would be rash not to believe pure and disinterested, crossed cruelly the last years of Abelard, and made him expiate, perhaps also regret the brightness of his fame. Abelard was more than sixty years old, when William, abbot of St. Thierry, wrote to St. Bernard: "This man begins again to teach novelties. His books pass the seas and cross the Alps. His new doctrine is being published and defended; it even has, it is said, supporters in Rome. Your silence is dangerous for you and for the Church. I am sending you the theology of Abelard: he fears you, and if you keep silent, he will fear no one."] [...]

    [The council was called by the archbishop, and St. Bernard, invited to be there, replied that it was the challenge of a heretic in the cause of the faith. The eloquent abbot of Clairvaux accused Abelard of cunning and deceit]. [The Council met on January 11, 1140, but what happened there is known only from the letters of St. Bernard, just as what is reported by Abelard in his account of the Council of Soissons is known. If Abelard had extended the story of his calamities to that time, we would have a version quite different from the one I am going to give by extract, and which, written by his adversary, was sent to the pope, as a synodal letter of the bishops of the council. The king of France, Louis VII, called the Younger, was present, as well as William, Count of Nevers, and Thibaut, Count of Champagne; St. Bernard produced the propositions incriminated in the theology of Abelard, and Abelard was summoned to deny them; or, if he admitted them, to prove them; or, if he could not prove them, to correct them, as being absurd, or rather absolutely heretical]. [...]

    [But it was not unknown, and I shall prove it, that Abelard had many supporters in Rome among the cardinals; that several of these princes of the Church had been his disciples, among others Gui de Castel, who was soon afterwards enthroned on form. The condemnation of Abelard by the Holy See could therefore appear difficult, uncertain; and much had to be done, as we shall see, to get Pope Innocent II to confirm the sentence which the Council of Sens had hastened to pronounce, not on the eve of the appeal, but immediately after the declaration of the appeal].

    The Council of Sens as seen by Henri-Désiré Porret, after Jean Gigoux, 1839. Details about this council in this page.

    [[M. Villenave continues with excerpts from letters to Pope Innocent II from Bernard of Clairvaux pushing down Abelard and from Cardinal Gui de Castel (future Pope Celestine II) defending him]] [Finally, Pope Innocent II, who had been urged so long and so strongly by St. Bernard, condemned (1140) the errors of Abelard in a letter addressed to the archbishops of Sens and Reims, to their suffragans, and to his most chief son in Christ, Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux]. [It seems that the papal letters, a copy of which had been hastily sent to St. Bernard,] [...] [were late in being presented to the archbishops to whom they were addressed, and that Abelard himself was unaware for a long time that Rome had condemned him. He had set out to cross the mountains and to follow, before the Pope, the appeal he had made to the Council of Sens]. [...] [While he was still at Cluny, the abbot of Citeaux, named Raynard, came and, consulting with Peter the Venerable, proposed to reconcile Abelard with the abbot of Clairvaux. Abelard let himself be persuaded. His pride, which resisted the hatred of his enemies, fell before the leniency of an old man. He had resisted the threats, he gave in to the prayers. The abbot of Citeaux led him to Saint Bernard. He learned that Rome had condemned him He submitted, like Fénélon, and promised to recant. The two enemies were reconciled. Abelard returned to Cluny. There, touched by the paternal advice of Peter the Venerable, he resolved to leave the tumult of the schools, and to finish in peace, in this monastery, an existence so painful and so crossed. The abbot of Cluny wrote to Rome and obtained, without difficulty, for Abelard, permission to spend, in his monastery, the remainder of a life which the good abbot did not judge to be of long duration from now on. Abelard lived for two more years, edifying all those who saw him by his humility and his penitence]. [The most impartial of ecclesiastical writers, Father Fleury, himself agrees that, if one finds in the writings of Abelard most of the errors for which he was reproached, one also finds in them propositions to the contrary; for, he adds, he is not always in agreement with himself. But this was what his accusers should have recognized in pursuing him].

    [Little is known about Heloise from that time on. Heloise lived another twenty-one years. She was in correspondence with popes and bishops. A bull of Innocent II, the same one who condemned Abelard, had forbidden anyone to disturb the Paraclete, to take away its goods, to allow himself against this monastery any vexation; and, as a price for this privilege granted by the Roman Church, the pontiff mandated to Heloise: "You will pay, every year, slx êcus to our palace of Lateran". By another bull, the same pontiff had conceded to Heloise the privilege of not being molested by the diocesan bishop, or by any other person; and, for this favor, Heloise still had to pay! to Rome, every year an obolus of gold. Pope Eugene, in a bull of the year 1147, placed under the protection of St. Peter, and his own, the fields, the vineyards, the woods, the meadows, the mills, the waters, the decimals, and all the goods of the Paraclete, in return for the same annual payment of a gold obolus. This bull is curious in that it contains a very long enumeration of more than one hundred donations that had already been made to this abbey, with the names of all the donors. Other bulls of popes Luce, Anastasius, Adrian, Alexander, confirmed new donations or new privileges].

    [Heloise, the first abbess of the Paraclete, was also its legislator. She composed constitutions with additional acts. I will quote a few lines from the statutes: they will suffice to give an idea of the rest].

    [It is not sufficiently known that if Abelard was the first French poet of his time, Heloise was the best Latin poet: this is the testimony of several contemporary authors, among others, of Hugues Métel, of Toul...] [...] [ There remains none of the numerous songs of Abelard which were so famous, so widespread in Paris and in all France; which could owe their popularity only to the still unformed, but vulgar national language, in which the poet wrote them. Nothing remains of Héloïse's poems, nothing of the first letters of the two lovers [[si...]]. The monk-copists have piously neglected to collect them [[except one, partially...]]. They have perished: and the testimonies of Heloise, of Abelard and of some contemporary authors alone preserve the tradition].

    [Astrolabe or Astralabe (for Abelard gives him the former name and Heloise the latter), this child of an unhappy love, which an even more unhappy hymen could not legitimize, embraced the ecclesiastical state, following the example of his father, whom he survived, as we see from Heloise's correspondence with the venerable abbot of Cluny: "Remember," she wrote to him, "remember, for the love of our God, your stralabe, and obtain for him some prebend, or from the bishop of Paris, or in another diocese." And Peter of Cluny replied to the abbess of the Paraclete: "As soon as I can seize the opportunity, I will gladly work to procure a benefice, in some great church, for your Astralabe, which, through my attachment to you, is also mine." We do not know in what year the son of Abelard and Heloise died, and this is all that is known of his life. One finds some verses addressed by Abelard to his son Astralabe in the 3rd edition of the Philosophical Fragments of Mr. Victor Cousin].

    [The history of a single family shows what the spirit of the twelfth century was, in what honor monasticism was found there, and by how many secular fortunes it would grow rich. Abelard's father, Berenger, lord of Pallet, was persuaded to abandon his wife and children, to retire to a cloister in Brittany, and to die a monk. Lucie, Abelard's mother, also took the veil while her husband was still alive, and died, like him, in a monastery. Abelard, who is believed to have been first a canon of Notre-Dame de Paris, as was Fulbert, became a Benedictine monk at Saint-Denis, founded the monastery of Paraclet, and, having become abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys, in Brittany, died in a monastery of the Cluny order in Burgundy. Heloise, his wife, first prioress of Argenteuil, died as the first abbess of Paraclet, in Champagne. Two nieces of Abelard, Agnes and Agathe, took the veil in this abbey. Finally her son Astralabe, if he did not find a prebend, probably ended his life in a monastery. We do not know how Raoul and Denise, Abelard's brother and sister, ended their lives].

    [[Mr. Villenave ends with the successive tombs of Heloise and Abelard.]]

    The love that Heloise expresses
    Heloise's definition of love is threefold revolutionary, firstly because it is a woman who expresses herself on the subject, secondly because, by making the previous male philosophical elucubrations that her lover exposes to her and that go beyond her, she claims to affirm it concretely from her personal experience, thirdly because, as the difference of the sexes translates into different loves, she affirms a specificity of female love. Conversely, Abelard would confess to her eighteen years later, in the midst of a speech full of bondieuseries, that specifically masculine love, his own at least, consists, as such, of nothing but the most brutal concupiscence. [page Wikipedia]

    Is 21st century romanticism compatible with the lives of Abelard and Heloise? (link)

  12. The Long Aged Letters of Heloise and Abelard (summaries)

    [[Continuation of the two previous chapters and the book by Paul L. Jacob. After M. Villenave's long introduction, with the most interesting extracts from the letters, the author presents the entirety of the letters exchanged by the two lovers of the Paraclete. Each of them, of variable length (the number of pages of the book will be indicated), is introduced by a summary which is taken up below, still with the digitization of Gallica]].

    1. Letter #2. Letter 1 from Heloise to Abelard (12 pages, excerpts).
      Heloise, once a lover of Abelard, afterwards his wife, and finally abbess at the monastery of the Paraclete, which this philosopher had founded for himself, having read the letter addressed to a Friend, which, I do not know how, had fallen into her hands, writes him this one, begging him that he deign to instruct her of the perils which threaten him and of those which he has happily overcome, so that she may share in his grief or his joy. She gently chided him for the fact that, since his monastic profession, he had not written her a single letter: he used to send her so many passionate ones! She protests about her love for her husband, a love which was quite dissolute and impure in the past, but now chaste and truly platonic, and she complains bitterly that he does not pay her back. This letter, filled with violent love and touching complaints, as women know how to make them, reveals both a tender woman's heart and a male mind adorned with the richest erudition.

    2. Letter #3. Letter 1 from Abelard to Heloise (9 pages, excerpts).
      Abelard, replying to Heloise's previous letter, attests in all the sincerity of his soul, that her so prolonged silence is not at all the effect of forgetfulness and indifference, but only of the confidence he had in her, in her wisdom, in her erudition, in her piety and in her irreproachable morals, so much so that he did not believe that she needed advice or encouragement. He asks her to explain herself simply about the institutions and consolations she is asking for from him, and he promises to respond to her wishes. He begs her, as well as the very holy community of her virgin and widowed sisters, to conciliate divine help to her by their prayers. He clearly proves to her, by the authority of the Holy Scriptures, how powerful prayers are with God, especially those of women who implore for their husbands. He then recommends a formula of prayer which he would like the nuns to use in the monastery, at certain set times, for the salvation of their absent founder. Finally, he begs her to take care, in whatever way and in whatever place he leaves this life, to have his body brought to the Paraclete and buried there.

    3. Letter #4. Letter 2 from Heloise to Abelard (12 pages, excerpts).
      In this letter, filled with groans and pain, Héloïse, deplores her unfortunate condition, that of her nuns and that of Abélard himself, taking for the text of her lamentations the passage of the preceding letter, in which Abélard resigns himself to leave this life. She uses her most tender eloquence, and this affliction which is expressed with so much elegance, makes it still more pleasant. Her complaints, sweeter than the songs of the nightingale, would wring tears from hearts of iron, and the most stoic readers are forced to sympathize with the misfortunes of Héloïse and Abélard. She moans about the fatal mutilation which took away at the same time from Abélard his role of father, his name of husband and the ineffable happiness of his wife. She also complains about her burning desires and the delicious voluptuousnesses which she tasted formerly with her Abélard, voluptuousnesses which she lost since, and which she will never find again. Then she lowers the appearances of her piety and confesses that this piety is rather simulated than sincere. She thus begs Abélard to help her with prayers, and she humbly repels his praise.

    4. Letter #5. Letter 2 from Abelard to Heloise (24 pages, excerpts).
      Abelard deftly divides his reply into four points, to which he matches Heloise's previous letter; he deduces his reasons on each point, not so much to excuse himself, as to instruct Heloise, to exhort her, to console her. First, he states the reason why he had put Heloise's name before his own in his letter. Secondly, on the fact that he had mentioned various events and the danger of death which threatened him, he protests that she herself had urged him not to hide anything from her. Thirdly, he approves of Heloise despising praise, provided that this despise is sincere and free from the desire to be praised. Fourthly, he dwells at length on the circumstance which made them embrace the monastic life together. As for the wound inflicted on an obscene part of her body, a wound which she had deplored with such bitterness, he mitigates its importance, like a philosopher, and he shows her that this wound, very salutary to both of them, can be a source of good, considering the shameful acts of the flesh. He even exalts, because of his catastrophe, the divine wisdom and clemency. He ends this letter with a little prayer, so that the nuns of the Paraclete may make God favourable to Heloise and Abelard.

      Sculpture by Jules Cavelier 1856, Louvre Palace (link). Photos in context : 1 2 (link).
    5. Letter #6. Letter 3 from Heloise to Abelard (24 pages, excerpts).
      In this letter, Heloise urges Abelard to respond to her and her nuns on two main points: the first, that he teach them where the order of Nuns got its origin; the second, that he propose a Rule and prescribe a kind of life that may be particularly suitable for women, which had not been tried before by any of the Holy Fathers. Now, since the Holy Fathers had not imposed any Rules on the Nuns, she herself gives her opinion, maintaining that it is sufficient that women do not remain, in terms of abstinence and continence below the clerics and secular ecclesiastics or regular monks. She discusses at length the Rule of St. Benedict and its observance, as well as the prohibition of meat and the permitted use of wine. She also speaks more extensively about external acts, which she belittles in preference to internal acts. Finally, she warns Abelard not to be too rigorous in all that concerns fasts and religious practices and to take into consideration the weakness of the female sex.

    6. Letter #7. Letter 3 from Abelard to Heloise (53 pages)
      Abelard, to whom Heloise, in her last letter, had asked, both in her own name and in that of her companions, to write to them concerning the origin of the Order of nuns, gives an ample reply to this letter and to the desire they had shown him. He traces this origin back to the primitive Church, and even to the communion of the apostles of Jesus Christ; he reviews what the Jew Philo and the Tripartite history report about the first anchorites; but, in all parts of this letter, he exalts, with marvellous praise, the female sex; and virginity, not only among Christian and Jewish women, but also among pagan women, is the principal object of these praises. Finally, almost all this letter contains a very delicate panegyric of the female sex.

    7. Letter #8. Letter 4 from Abelard to Heloise (94 pages)
      Abelard, whom Heloise urged to give him reason for two important points, having satisfied the first in the preceding letter, answers the second in this one, which contains, according to Heloise's wish, a Rule for the nuns of the Paraclete: it is in this letter, or rather in this book, that he sets it out clearly, gathering like flowers a host of quotations from the Holy Fathers, with which he sprinkles his writings. He divides this treatise into three parts, because he deals especially with the three principal virtues of monks, namely: continence, the voluntary vow of poverty and silence. He establishes in the Congregation seven nuns to watch over with prudence the things which concern souls, as well as those which concern the material and the temporal; he allows the nuns the use of meat three times a week, and the moderate use of wine; then he disposes carefully and suitably of all that belongs to the Rule of the monastic life.

    8. Letter #9. Letter 5 from Abelard to Heloise (2 pages)
      [[There is no summary; here is the last paragraph:] "Hail in Jesus Christ, servant of the Lord, you whom I once cherished in the world and now cherish more in Jesus Christ: you were then my carnal wife, you are now my spiritual sister and companion in religious profession."

    9. Letter #10. Letter 6 from Abelard to Heloise (1 page)
      [[No summary; here are the last two paragraphs:] " I also declare that all sins are remitted in baptism; that we need Grace, with which we begin and complete good, and that penance raises up those who have failed. As for the resurrection of the flesh, what is the use of talking about it, since I would glory in vain in being a Christian if I did not believe that I must rise again? This is the faith in which I sit and from which I draw the strength of my hope. Under the shelter of this saving faith, I do not fear the barking of Scylla, I laugh at the abysses of Carybdis, I hear without trembling the deadly songs of the Sirens. If the storm bursts, I am not overthrown; if the winds roar, I am not moved, for I am founded on an unshakable stone."

    This book dates from 1840. It might not have aged, but we saw in chapter 7 that many short letters from Heloise and Abelard were discovered in the late 20th century.

    Based on an 1875 book, these letters, digitized by Wikisource, are available here in a 607-page pdf file.

    To conclude with the long late letters, let us take up these words of Guy Lobrichon (in this page) : "Besides the monastic customs of the Paraclete which she will have dictated to her nuns, almost nothing remains of Heloise's writings. Almost nothing? A brief correspondence saved her from oblivion. It is unheard of to the point of having worried her critics, but it is considered today as the most extraordinary love correspondence of the early Middle Ages. Five long letters that must be attributed to Heloise follow the autobiography of Peter Abelard and are accompanied by Peter's replies (1132-1137); in addition, there are two independent letters, one to Peter, around 1139-1140, and another to a major figure of the time, the abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable (1142). Seven letters that draw the inner journey of Heloise, her personal reconstruction without altering anything."

  13. Heloise and Abelard in their time and beyond

    This chapter is divided into several parts, the details of which are presented, at the beginning of the file, in the subchapter summary.

    1. Chronology of the Life of Abelard

      The following table is a reprint of a page from, which itself is a reprint from "Abelard, Heloise and Bernard" pages 411 and 412 by Georges Minois, Perrin, Paris, 2019. I add in brackets some remarks]

      • 1079: Birth of Abelard at Le Pallet, in "minor" Brittany.
      • 1090: Birth of Saint Bernard of Clervaux.
      • Circa 1090-1095: Birth of Heloise. [the date of 1092 is often given]
      • 1096: Beginning of the First Crusade.
      • 1095 - 1102: Abelard studying in Loches, Tours, finally Paris. Student of Guillaume de Champeaux. "Dialectic."
      • 1100: Foundation of the abbey of Fontevrault.
      • Circa 1102 - 1105: Abelard begins to teach at Melun. then at Corbeil.
      • 1105 - 1108: Abelard returns to Brittany, still at Le Pallet. Excess of work, depressive illness.
      • 1108: Advent of Louis VI. [after the death of Philip I]
      • 1108 - 1109: Abelard returns to Paris - Controversy with Guillaume de Champeaux about the "Universals"
      • 1109: Abelard leaves Paris and returns to Melun.
      • Circa 1110: Abelard founds a School on Ste-Geneviève Mountain.
      • Cent 1112: Abelard must confront the young "master of grammar" Gosvin d'Anchin.
      • 1112: Abelard returns to Le Pallet again. His father, Berenger, then his mother, Lucie become religious in monasteries. Bernard enters the abbey of Citeaux.
      • 1113: Guillaume de Champeaux is named bishop of Châlons. He founds the abbey of Saint-Victor. Abelard comes to Laon to study theology and polemicizes with Anselm of Laon.
      • 1114 - 1116: Abelard teaches in Paris at the school of Notre-Dame.
      • 1115: Bernard founds the abbey of Clairvaux.
      • Circa 1115 - 1116: Affair of Abelard and Heloise.
      • 1117: Birth of Astrolabe in the oppidum of Pallet.
      • 1118: Abelard comes to Le Pallet to fetch Heloise and leaves his son with Denise, then marries in Paris and sends Heloise to Argenteuil. He is castrated by Fulbert's men and retires to the abbey of Saint-Denis.
      • 1120: Abelard writes the "Theologia summi boni".
      • 1121: The Council of Soissons condemns Abelard's "Theologia."
      • Circa 1121: Abelard flees from Saint-Denis.
      • 1122: Suger becomes abbot of Saint-Denis and Peter the Venerable abbot of Cluny. Abelard settles in the diocese of Troyes and founds an oratory that will become the Paraclete.
      • 1123 - 1125: Abelard probably writes the "sic et non" and revises "his Theologia".
      • 1127: Bernard writes the treatise "Degrees of Humility and Pride" and the treatise "On Grace and Free Will." Abelard is elected abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys.
      • 1129: Suger has the nuns expelled from the monastery of Argenteuil. Abelard gives them the Paraclete.
      • 1130 :Beginning of the schism of Anaclet.
      • 1131:Travel of Pope Innocent II to France. First meeting at Morigny between Bernard and Abelard.
      • Circa 1131 - 1132: Abelard writes the "Historia calamitatum."
      • Cent 1132 - 1133: Abelard returns to Paris and teaches at the Ecole Sainte-Geneviève.
      • Circa 1132 - 1137: The "Correspondence" between Abelard and Heloise.
      • 1137: The advent of Louis VII and Eleanor.
      • Circa 1137 - 1139: Abelard writes the Ethica. Heloise addresses her "Problemata" to him.
      • 1140-1141: William of Saint-Thierry denounces to Bernard the errors of Abelard, who is condemned by the Council of Sens (1141). He appeals to the pope who declares him a heretic. Abelard retires to the abbey of Cluny.
      • 1142 (April 21): Death of Abelard at the priory of Saint-Marcel-lès-Châlons.
      • 1146: Bernard preaches the 2nd crusade at Vézelay.
      • 1147: Start of the 2nd Crusade.
      • 1148: Bernard attacks Gilbert de la Porrée at the Council of Reims.
      • 1153 (August 20): Death of Bernard of Clairvaux.
      • 1163 (May 16): Death of Heloise.

    1. Chronology of Heloise's life

      The following table is taken from pages 9 and 10 of the 2001 catalog "Très sage Héloïse" of the Troyes media library. A few corrections have been made to it to be consistent with the 2019 Abelard chronology that precedes.

      • 1079: Birth of Abelard at Le Pallet near Nantes.
      • 1090-1095: Birth of Heloise in the milieu of the French high aristocracy (1092?).
      • 1115: Beginning of the relationship between Heloise and Abelard.
      • 1117: Birth of Heloise and Abelard's son, Astrolabe.
      • 1118: Marriage of Héloïse and Abélard. Castration of Abelard, entry into religion of Heloise and Abelard.
      • 1121: Condemnation of Abelard at the Council of Soissons.
      • Circa 1123: Foundation of the oratory of Paraclete, near Nogent-sur-Seine by Abelard. Writing of the Titulus of Argenteuil attributed to Heloise, on the death roll of Vital de Savigny.
      • 1127: Election of Abelard to the abbacy of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys.
      • 1129: Expulsion of the nuns of Argenteuil by Suger, abbot of Saint-Denis.
      • 1130: Installation of Heloise and her nuns at Paraclet.
      • 1131: Confirmation of the donation of Le Paraclet to Heloise and her nuns by Pope Innocent ll.
      • 1132-1133: Writing of Abelard's "History of my Misfortunes" and beginning of the correspondence of Heloise and Abelard.
      • 1138: Visit of St. Bernard to the Paraclete to verify the orthodoxy of the rule and liturgy composed by Abelard.
      • 1139: Denunciation of Abelard to Bernard of Clairvaux.
      • 1140: Condemnation of Abelard at the Council of Sens. Abelard's stay at Cluny. Retreat of Abelard to Saint-Marcel near Chalon-sur-Saone.
      • 1142: Death of Abelard.
      • 1143: Peter of Cluny announces Abelard's death to Heloise.
      • 1144: Transfer of Abelard's remains to the Paraclete.
      • 1164: Death and burial of Heloise.
      • 1275: Writing of the second part of the Roman de la Rose by Jean de Meung.
      • 1290: Translation into French of the "Histoire de mes malheurs" by Jean de Meung.
      • Late 13th century: Copy of the manuscripts of the Letters of Heloise and Abelard (BM Troyes ms 802 and BM Reims ms 872).
      • 1489: Edition of the works of François Villon.
      • 1497: Transfer of the ashes of Heloise and Abelard to the choir of the abbey church of Paraclet.
      • 1577: Notice on Heloise and Abelard in "Les Annales" by Papire Masson.
      • 1607: Notice on Heloise and Abelard in "Les Recherches de la France" by Etienne Pasquier.
      • 1616: Edition of "Oeuvres de Pierre Abélard et d' Héloïse sa femme" by d'Amboise and Duchesne.
      • 1621: Transfer of the ashes of Heloise and Abelard to the Chapel of the Trinity inside the abbey church of Paraclet.
      • 1687: Translation of the "Letters of Heloise and Abelard" by Bussy-Rabutin.
      • 1697: Notice on Heloise in Bayle's "Dictionary."
      • 1701: Relocation of part of the tomb in the choir of the abbey church of Paraclet.
      • 1717: Publication of the "Letter of Heloise to Abelard" by Alexander Pope.
      • 1764: Publication of Julie or the New Heloise by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
      • 1780: Transfer of the ashes of Heloise and Abelard to the monument moved in 1701 and addition of a marble slab with an epitaph attributed to Marmontei.
      • 1792: Transfer of the ashes of Heloise and Abelard to the church at Nogent-sur-Seine before the sale of the Paraclete as national property.
      • 1794: The tomb of Heloise and Abelard in the church of Nogent-sur-Seine is damaged by revolutionary vandalism.
      • 1800: Transfer of ashes to Paris for Alexandre Lenoir's Museum of French Monuments.
      • 1815: Relocation of the tomb inside the Musée des Monuments franç²ais.
      • 1817: Transfer of the ashes of Heloise and Abelard to the Pére-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
      • 1853: Publication of "Héloïse et Abélard" in the series "Le Civilisateur, histoire de I' humanité par les grands hommes" by Lamartine.

      Cartulary of the Paraclete, detail (Bibl. mun. Troyes)

    1. Abelard and Heloise, individualists and loners.

      The Wikipedia page on the medieval renaissance of the twelfth century points out that "This flowering of initiatives is particularly noteworthy in Paris, where exceptional personalities animate the schools. First of all, we retain Abelard, who revolutionized theology through the dialectical approach". The literary exchanges of Abelard and Heloise reveal, besides the symbol of a cursed and eternal love, innovative personalities. Georges Minois explains it in his 2019 book (page 406) :

      Abelard and Heloise play a pioneering role in the birth of individua1ism, which Aaron Gourevitch, in his famous 1997 book Gourevitch, in his famous 1997 book "La Naissance de l'indididu dans l'Europe médiévale" (The Birth of Indidualism in Medieval Europe), places it around the 12th and 13th centuries. For this historian, "does not Abelard's own personality, his irrepressible tendency to act in an original way, to behave in an unusual and unconventional way, his egocentrism and his will to assert his self, speak in favor of a discovery of individuality ?" "The story of my misfortunes" is one of the first autobiographical works [...] One can only think of Montaigne  "Reader, I am myself the subject of my book". His whole work reveals an obsessive egocentrism  his pride as an overconfident intellectual, his sense of persecution, which also makes him a precursor of Rousseau, his casualness towards Heloise, whose distress he does not understand while he pities himself on his own misfortunes, his way of giving lessons to everyone and comparing himself to the greatest saints, when it is not to Jesus himself. [...]
      Abelard's individualism is the individualism of reason, which separates, isolates, distinguishes. His ambition was to rationalize the faith, but he His ambition was to rationalize faith, but he came up against the incomprehension of the defenders of a traditional religion, whose resistance he did not understand. The reason being universal, it should realize the unanimity. This naivety of the thinker, as well as his arrogance, was noted as early as the twelfth century by Otto of Freising, who described him as "tout a fait sot". Alone against all, misunderstood, Abelard finally submits and keeps silent.
      Aside from the individualism of reason, the individualism of passion. Héloïse also reaches this feeling of solitude, by another way: the solitude in love. On the one hand, she discovers that fusion with the beloved is impossible; he is always beyond, inaccessible, like the reflection of oneself that blurs when one touches him. On the other hand, his letters, at least those attributed to him, show a remarkable introspective lucidity. They are moving with sincerity, overflowing with raw eroticism and a sensual love without limits which goes until the blasphemy and the acceptance of the damnation. Héloïse, it is the despair of the forsaken lover and the sinner without hope of remission. Obsessed at the same time by a feeling of guilt and injustice towards Abélard as well as towards God, she submits and rebels at the same time. To her two husbands, Abélard and God, she asks: why did you abandon me?
      But also, as a woman of her century, she internalizes the prejudices of her time on the weakness and the inferiority of the female sex, while as a woman of high culture, she aspires to a full freedom of judgment. She is at the same time the repentant Madeleine and the demanding feminist. She submits to the orders of Abélard and to the exhortations of Bernard, but deep inside she feels alone, abandoned and dishonored. [...] "The lover does not resign herself to her debasement, she aspires to it, she delights in it," writes Etienne Gilson. She feels unloved by Abélard, and she does not understand the divine injustice: in this, she is desperately alone.

    2. Guardian angels Thibaut of Champagne and Peter the Venerable

      They are not completely alone... They have benefited, after their separation, from two remarkable supporters. Thibaut of Champagne, also named Thibaut IV of Blois (1093-1151), was Count of Blois and Champagne, making him one of the most important figures in the Kingdom, especially when his younger brother became King of England in 1135. It was he who in 1122 gave Pierre Abélard the lands of Paraclet, near the river Ardusson in Quincey. He would be of great support to Heloise (see part 8 of chapter 5) when, having become prioress of Argenteuil while her congregation was expelled from it, she settled there in 1131, under Abelard's guidance. At the death of Thibaut in 1151, his son Henri I the Liberal, Count of Champagne, who is also my ancestor, succeeded him. He was saved from an assassination by Anne Musnier, who is an ancestor of my wife. I discuss this at length in a neighboring page.

      Peter the Venerable (1093-1156), the ninth abbot of Cluny, the then most important and influential abbey in Christendom, canonized, a pupil of Abelard, was his best advocate. He took him in when he was old and sick and allowed Heloise to join him in death. He was also the most resolute opponent of Bernard of Clairvaux. We have seen here before in chapter 4 the reasons for this support.

      Abelard, Pope Calixtus II (born Gui of Burgundy), Peter the Venerable, wax figures, discuss
      of Cluny Abbey in a scene at the Grévin Space of Burgundy, in Dijon (1990s, link).
      The Venerable having become abbot of Cluny in 1122, Calixtus II having died in 1124, we would be in 1123...

    3. Ayatollah Bernard of Clairvaux, controversies and opinions. Bernard of Clervaux (1090-1153), founder of the Abbey of Clairvaux (in 1115), instigator of the Citeaux reform, preacher of the Second Crusade, and canonized, is considered by many to be a kind of ayatollah of the Catholic faith, in the sense of someone who was particularly uncompromising on a particular subject. He was the worst opponent of Abelard and his philosophy, the one who kept on seeing him condemned as a heretic. The very important controversy between Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, dealt with at the time at the highest level of the Church, council and pope, remains relevant, as the following three contemporary opinions show.

      "Dispute of Saint Bernard and Abelard," Robert Caumont, early 20th century
      (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, link) (variants: 1 2 3).

      1. A pro-Abelardian opinion. In a text signed by Lydya O. B., entitled "Abelard without Heloise (link, pdf), we read :

        Whereas when Thomas Aquinas enters philosophy, it will be as if it had always been so. Abelard, on the other hand, wanted to reconcile faith and reason. Not as two opinions, of course, but two sides of the same reality. Nowhere since Plato does one live as in the in the Theologia summi boni the term "theology" forcing more the bringing together of these two two sacred words - theos, logos. The term of theology had to supplant that of Pagina Sacra, because it carried in it this unattainable project of reconciling what was inexorably separated.

      2. A pro-Bernardian opinion. Chance in my research led me to read a article from 1975 entitled "The Conflict of Reason, Passion, and Grace." I opened my eyes wide when I discovered this conclusion :

        Bernard dragging Abelard to the discussion at the Council of Soissons. Claude Mellan circa 1650 (Geneva Museum, link)
        The purer love which he [Abelard] will carry to his mistress become his wife and then his spiritual daughter, will wait for him the heart and will dispose him undoubtedly to the mediation of a noble and very holy friendship, that of Pierre of Cluny. It is her who will incline him to consent finally to the grace of God, in the humiliation of the man and the defeat of the proud reason.
        But in the conduct of public events, those which compel man to bend under the mighty hand of God, it was the mediation of St. Bernard's intrepid faith which brought the wayward philosopher back to the port of faith, causing his condemnation. The Abbot of Clairvaux has been reproached for his verbal outrageousness and his obstinacy. It is to forget that he had to throw himself alone into this battle with all his zeal and ardor to obtain from the bishops and from Rome the necessary condemnation. In Bernard, it was the Church that acted, and she acted well: for the divine Truth, with good reason, in all justice and prudence. (...) It was necessary to condemn Abelard or all was lost (...)
        There will be Abelards in every era. But when Abelards arise, they must not be allowed to devour the flock in peace, they must not be allowed to devastate the Church and themselves (...) By condemning Abelard, the Church, moved by the greatest saint of his time, saved him from himself and saved all his wealth of intelligence to enrich the Christian heritage. By condemning what was wrong with this progress, she saved this progress itself.

        Who thus supported, in our time, the ayatollah Bernard de Clairvaux? Abbé Georges de Nantes. A quick search brought me to his Wikipedia page, where I read in the introduction : "Georges de Nantes, born in Toulon on April 3, 1924 and died in Saint-Parres-lès-Vaudes on February 15, 2010, better known as the Abbé de Nantes, was a traditionalist Catholic priest and founder of the Catholic Counter-Reformation League, considered a sectarian drift by Unadfi. The movement of the abbot of Nantes will be renamed in the XXIst century, after the failure of its millenarian predictions, League of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, abbreviated in "CRC". In 1966, he was struck with suspense a divinis, a canonical sanction forbidding him to administer the sacraments by the authorities of the Catholic Church. His followers consider him as " the man of God put into the world to defeat the Anti-Christ "".

        On the same page, Georges de Nantes had thus presented the intransigence of the bellicose and exalted Bernard de Clairvaux :

        Bernard in 1145 will go to convert the Albigensians; he will preach the Second Crusade at Vezelay in 1146, the one that will be a failure. When he will be reproached, reached by the doubt, he will ask God for a sign: that this blind child sees, and the child by miracle will see. He is not a man who seeks his own glory and makes his reason the measure of all things, even divine. He is a saint, burning with an ecstatic faith that keeps him crushed before the splendor of the divine glory and sometimes transports him into the vision of the beatifying Mystery. Far from pretending to give a personal explanation of faith, he only wants to make everyone hear the divine language of the Scriptures. And when a difficulty arises, he does not appeal to dialectic, which he deeply despises, which he considers an enemy of God, but listens to the teaching of the Magisterium, he seeks what Tradition says and always, in the final analysis, accepts the authority of the Pope, whom he considers infallible. Between such a man and Abelard, it was impossible that some dramatic confrontation would not finally arise...

        St. Bernard preaching the Second Crusade, at Vezelay, in 1146, Emile Signol 1840 (Versailles Museum, link).
        Abélard had been dead for 4 years, Héloïse would live another 18 years.

      3. The opinion of Pope Benedict XVI (article by Matthew A. McIntosh).

        In his general audience on November 4, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI referred to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard to illustrate the differences between monastic and scholastic approaches to theology in the 12th century. The Pope recalled that theology is the search for a rational understanding (if possible) of the mysteries of Christian revelation, which is believed in through faith - a faith that seeks intelligibility (fides quaerens intellectum). But St. Bernard, a representative of monastic theology, emphasizes "faith" while Abelard, who is a scholastic, emphasizes "understanding by reason."

        For Bernard of Clairvaux, faith is based on the testimony of Scripture and the teaching of the Church Fathers. Bernard can therefore hardly agree with Abelard and, more generally, with those who submit the truths of faith to the critical examination of reason - an examination which, according to him, presents a serious danger: intellectualism, the relativization of truth and the questioning of the truths of faith themselves. For Bernard, theology can only be nourished by contemplative prayer, by the affective union of the heart and mind with God, with one goal: to foster a living and intimate experience of God, an aid to loving God more and better.

        According to Pope Benedict XVI, an excessive use of philosophy made Abelard's doctrine on the Trinity and, consequently, his idea of God fragile. In the area of morality, his teaching was vague, as he insisted on considering the intention of the subject as the only basis for describing the goodness or evil of moral acts, thus ignoring the objective meaning and moral value of acts, resulting in a dangerous subjectivism. But the pope recognizes the great achievements of Abelard, who made a decisive contribution to the development of scholastic theology, which was expressed in a more mature and fruitful way in the following century. And some of Abelard's insights should not be underestimated, for example, his assertion that non-Christian religious traditions already contain some form of preparation for receiving Christ.

        Pope Benedict XVI concluded that Bernard's "theology of the heart" and Abelard's "theology of reason" represent the importance of healthy theological discussion and humble obedience to the Church's authority, especially when the issues being debated have not been defined by the magisterium. St. Bernard, and even Abelard himself, always recognized the authority of the magisterium without hesitation. Abelard showed humility in acknowledging his errors, and Bernard exercised great benevolence. The pope emphasized that in the field of theology there must be a balance between the architectural principles, which are given by revelation and which always retain their primary importance, and the interpretative principles proposed by philosophy (i.e., by reason), which have an important function, but only as a tool. When the balance is disturbed, theological reflection risks being tainted by error; it is then up to the magisterium to exercise the necessary service of truth, for which it is responsible.

      Incidentally, for those interested in the prehistory of comics, Bernard de Clairvaux is also the one who killed the art of sequenced illumination that was beginning to develop. It was not until 1830 that, under the impetus of the Swiss Rodolphe Töpffer, the "story in sequence of images" now called "comic strip" was reborn. Extract from the reference article, published in 1996 on "Le Collectionneur de BD" n° 79, by Danièle-Alexandre Bidon) :

      The eleventh and twelfth centuries are clearly the golden age of sequential narrative. [...] Examples of picture sequence narratives now abound throughout Europe. The books are illustrated with pages divided into "boxes", or even with new layouts. [...] In the first years of the twelfth century, the best example of a "comic strip" before the letter is to be found in the Bible of Etienne de Harding (Dijon). [...] In the third volume, a life of David unfolds in five registers of 17 boxes. [...] The drawing is narrative, full of energy, and the illuminator has not hesitated to practice the exit of image. A short text is inserted between the registers. Alas the artist worked for Citeaux, shortly before the period of iconophobia inspired by Bernard de Clairvaux. [...]

    1. Roscelin of Compiegne's insulting letter to Abelard

      In the Middle Ages, intellectuals knew how to insult each other... Roscelin of Compiègne was a renowned master. He had taught at Loches and Tours and Abelard was then one of his students. Around 1120, Abelard had sent him a letter "not to be taken lightly" for having attacked Robert d'Arbrissel. The fact that the latter had been very close to Hersende, the very probable mother of Héloïse, surely explains the strength of this reaction. This letter from Abelard is not known, but Roscelin's reply, the only writing from him that has come down to us, is explosive. This controversy has already been discussed previously in chapter 4.

      You have sent a letter overflowing with criticism against me, fetid with the filth it contains, and you depict my person covered with the stains of infamy like the discolored spots of leprosy. [...] You have spent a lot of time on the false account of my defamation, you have painted it yourself out of ignorance, like a drunken man who prolongs the delights of a feast as long as he can. Since you have satiated yourself like a pig in the filth and shit of my defamation, I, in my turn, not biting with the tooth of hatred, nor striking with the stick of revenge, but smiling at the barking of your letter, will discuss the unheard-of novelties of your life and demonstrate to what ignominy you have been lowered because of your impurity. Really, it is not necessary to imagine facts to outrage you, according to your way of acting, it is enough to repeat what is well known from Dan to Bersheba. Your decay is so manifest that, even if my tongue were to hold it, it would speak for itself.

      A Parisian cleric by the name of Fulbert received you as a guest in his house; he did you the honor of welcoming you at his table as a friend or a member of his family; he entrusted you with the instruction of his niece, a very wise and remarkably gifted young lady. But you have forgotten, what shall I say, you have despised the favors and the honor that this noble Parisian clerk, your host and your lord, has shown you. You did not spare the virgin that he had entrusted to you. You were supposed to protect and instruct her as a pupil; driven by an unbridled spirit of lust, you did not teach her reasoning but fornication. In your conduct you have combined several crimes: you are accused of treason and fornication; you are filthy for having violated the modesty of a virgin. But the God of vengeance, the Lord God of vengeance has acted with frankness: he has deprived you of the part by which you had sinned.

      Tortured by the pain of your shameful wound and by the fear of imminent death, driven by the awful ugliness of your past life, you have, as it were, become a monk. But listen, however, to what St. Gregory says, speaking of those who take refuge out of fear in the religious life: "He who does good out of fear, does not altogether depart from evil..."

      We have just seen the reasons and circumstances of your entry into the orders. In the monastery of Saint-Denis, you could not stay: yet everything is ordered there according to the faculties of each one, not by a severe rule, but by the mercy of the abbot. You then accepted from your brothers a priory which you could serve as you wished. Then you thought that this occupation could not suffice for your exuberance and your desires and you obtained from the abbot with the general consent of the brothers the possibility of resuming your courses. Let us leave aside everything else: there, in the presence of a barbaric crowd from all sides, you have, through vanity and ignorance, transformed the truth into nonsense.

      You do not stop teaching what you should not teach and the money acquired for the price of your lies you bring to your daughter of joy to reward her. What you used to give her, when you were normal, as a price for the expected pleasure, you only give as a reward. But you sin more seriously in paying for your past debauchery than in buying the one to come. Before, you were exhausted in pleasures, today you are still exhausted in desires, but, by the grace of God, you can no longer avail yourself of the need. Listen, then, to the formula of St. Augustine: "You wanted to do something, but you could not; but God noticed it, in his eyes it is as if you had done what you wanted to do. I speak with God and the angels as witnesses: I have heard the stories of the monks your brothers; when you return late at night to the monastery, you run to bring to a courtesan the wages of your teaching and your lies. Without any shame you pay for your past debauchery.

      You have taken the habit and usurped the office of doctor by teaching lies. You have ceased to be a monk, for St. Jerome, himself a monk, defines a monk thus: "The monk is not to be a doctor, but a weeper, a man who weeps for the world and, in the fear of God, waits." The abjection of your habit proves that you are not a cleric, but you are even less a layman: the sight of your tonsure reveals this sufficiently. If you are neither a cleric nor a layman, I don't know by what name to call you. But perhaps, out of habit, you will lie and say that I can call you Peter. But I am sure that a name of the masculine gender can no longer keep its usual meaning, if it has become separated from its gender. Proper nouns lose their meaning, if they happen to stray from their perfection. A house that has lost its roof or its walls is called an imperfect house. The part that makes a man has been taken away from you: you can no longer be called Peter, but imperfect Peter. The dishonor of being imperfect has even earned you the seal with which you seal your fetid letters: it represents a being that bears two heads, one a man, the other a woman. I had decided to say again against you many outrageous things, but true and manifest things; since I have to do with an imperfect man, the work that I had begun I will leave it imperfect.

      The pope Urban II preached the first crusade at the abbey of Marmoutier, near Tours, in March 1096 ("La Touraine,
      history and monuments," 1855). The master Roscelin and the student Abelard were probably present.

    1. Abelard and his students, from St. Genevieve Hill to the banks of the Ardusson.

      Abelard and his school on Mount Sainte-Geneviève in Paris. Engraving (link) based on the fresco by François Flameng 1889
      located in the grand staircase of the Sorbonne's peristyle (photo retouched, link) (detail, link). + engraving b&w 1887 (link).

      About the year 1100, there appeared, in the school of the cloister of Notre-Dame, in Paris, a cleric of twenty years of age, gifted with the most beautiful figure, the noblest manners, and a marvelous faculty of saying well. His name was Pierre Abélard, which seems to mean, in Breton language, Pierre, son of Alard. Son of a Breton knight, from between Nantes and Clisson, he had given up his share of the inheritance to his brothers, and ran around the provinces, studying and arguing from school to school. [analysis of illustration below, Henri Martin, "Histoire de France", 1886, link]

      Abelard on Mount Sainte-Geneviève, Paris, engraving by Georges Burgun, after Emile Antoine Bayard, 1886 (link).

      Another striking fact, almost revolutionary even. While living as a solitary hermit at Paraclet, Abelard was joined by a crowd of students, sons of wealthy families seduced by the return to nature and by his philosophy. From 1122 to 1126, they settled in huts, became masons to build the dormitory of their 43 year old master and provided for all his material needs. More than a school, a community life without monastic rule, lay, was organized [text according to Wikipedia]. When the experiment gains notoriety, the ecclesiastical establishment takes offense and puts an end to this strange episode.

      Peter Abelard and his followers, where the Paraclete would be founded, at Quincey (Aube), along the Ardusson River.
      Jean Michel Moreau le jeune, circa 1796, engraver Jean Dambrun (link). Trichon engraver (link)

    1. Abelard, from Brittany to Burgundy to Paris

      In his book "Abelard" (Flammarion 1997), Michael Clanchy drew this map of the places visited by Abelard.

      This map is also present in a page of the site, with links to a page dedicated to some of the places cited, a link that we will repeat below with the indication "there**", adding "here" links to the present file. Here they are, in alphabetical order :

      • Paraclete (The): here (in chapter 8)
      • Paris: there**, there** (Ste Genevieve), there** (Saint Aignan Chapel) and here (in this subchapter)
      • Wines: there**
      • Saint Denis: there**
      • Saint-Gildas de Rhuis: there** and here (in this subchapter)
      • Soissons: there** and here (in this subchapter)
      • Sense: there**

      On the left, Abelard seen as the father of theology (link). Right, lithograph by J. Bruneau, 1979. (link).

      The Pallet

      Le Pallet (Loire Atlantique), birthplace of Abelard and Astralabe.

      Black and white engravings by Claude Thiénon, 1817 (BnF, link). Color engraving by William Dorset Fellowes 1818.

      Above:"View of the Cacault Bridge and the town of Le Pallet, near Clisson; behind the church, the ruins of Abelard's house can be seen." + variant.

      Opposite: "View of the passage of the torrent called the Sanguese, and the ruins of Abelard's house at Le Pallet, on the road from Nantes to Clisson".

      Link to other engravings, with introductions to the authors, Thiénon and Fellowes.

      On Le Pallet (history, keep, etc.), one may consult the sub-site "Le Pallet, homeland of Abelard" at
      François-Frédéric Lemot having bought a property in the commune of Gétigné, near Clisson and Le Pallet, had the idea of creating a cave there, largely artificial, with an entrance at first sight natural. At its first, he had a poem by Antoine Peccot (1766-1814) engraved on it in 1813, including these three verses about Heloise: "Perhaps in this wild reduction, Alone, more than once, she came to sigh, And freely taste the sweetness of weeping". Thus was born Héloïse's cave, supposedly discovered in 1805. It was popularized in 1817 and 1818 by the romantic engravings of Thienon (black and white) and Fellowes (color). More details on the dedicated page at Wikipedia and on this page at

      Peter Abelard before his meeting with Heloise
      Abelard was born in Le Pallet, a town south of Nantes around 1079. His mother Lucie, probably the daughter and heiress of the local lord, married Berenger, a knight from Poitou, shortly before. From this union were born at least two other sons (Raoul and Porcaire) and a daughter (Denise). Bérenger trained his son in the art of war, while giving great importance to things of the mind. Abelard attended the urban schools of Nantes, Angers and Loches - where he met Roscelin, a renowned master. It was then that Abelard "was chained to such a love for letters," that he "abandoned to his brothers the pomp of military glory with the inheritance and prerogatives of the birthright and renounced altogether the court of Mars to be nourished in the bosom of Minerva." In 1100 [at the age of 21], he left to exercise his gifts for the disciplines of the trivium (dialectic, rhetoric, grammar) in Paris. He followed the teachings of Guillaume de Champeaux who then ruled the school of the Notre-Dame cloister.
      But the pupil Abelard wanted to become a teacher in his turn and opened a school in Melun (1102) and then in Corbeil (1104). In 1108 [at the age of 29], he succeeded in establishing himself in Paris on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. His students flocked in numbers from all over Europe! Eager to deepen his knowledge of the Pagina Sacra, he followed the teaching of Anselm, in Laon, from 1113. Abelard returned triumphantly to Paris in 1115 [at the age of 36] and obtained a chair at the Notre-Dame school. The next episode of his life is better known: he falls in love with Heloise.
      [Bénédicte Duthion, Monum catalog 2001]

      Abelard became angry with his masters: Guillaume de Champeaux (link), Roscelin of Compiègne (link), Anselm of Laon (link).
      There was no university yet, the prestige of the masters took precedence. Master and students (Cluny Museum).


      Wikipedia 2022

      "Abelard," Michael Clanchy, 1997

      Above, 19th century print (link) and Wikipedia map (link). + another illustration, from a drawing by N. Dailly (link). + illustration of Jean Gigoux 1839.

      Abelard: "No respect for decency nor respect for God could pull me out of the quagmire in which I was rolling."
      Heloise: "How unseemly and deplorable it would be to see a man, created by nature for the whole world, enslaved to a woman and bent under a shameful yoke." (link).

      Plan of Paris in 1150, as Heloise and Abelard walked it 30-40 years earlier. University of Cincinnati (link).

      German supplements: the study (pdf) by Werner Robl on Abelard in Paris (with additional illustrations)
      and his other articles: 1 (Le Pallet) (pdf) 2 (the name Abelard) 3 (Argenteuil) 4 (his last illness).


      In September 2019, on the occasion of his exhibition within the city of Laon, entitled "Concordance des temps", Christian Guémy aka C215 also took the opportunity to dot the city with portraits of emblematic personalities or with a link to the city. In the street that bears his name, C215 offers us the portrait of Pierre Abélard (1079 - 1142), philosopher, dialectician and Christian theologian, he made in 1113 a study stay in Laon with Anselme (philosopher and teacher of the school of Laon). In Paris as well as in Laon, Abelard was noticed for the originality of his thought and for his difficult character, which would often be the source of his troubles (clichés 29/09/2019). Location: rue Pierre Abélard, Laon (Dépt 02 - Aisne)
      Street-art in Laon (link). + article presenting Abelard's opinion of Anselm of Laon. + image (link).


      At the Council of Soissons in 1121, Abelard was condemned for heresy. To make complex debates simple, Abelard had to explain his writings formulating the doubt of the Trinity... Above all, our man, a great orator, embodies the emergence of the intellectual wishing to clarify the facts in a rational way. The "crime" of Abelard would thus have been to mix too much faith and reason. His condemnation constitutes in fact the first steps of the inquisition... This council, whose 900th anniversary we are celebrating, attests once again to the eminent place of Soissons in the great history. A great and complex history made of so many twists and turns in the heart of which this weekend's symposium invites you to dive. [link]

      Saint-Gildas de Rhuys

      Founded in the 6th century on the remains of a Roman oppidum by the monk Gildas, who came from England, fell into ruin after the Norman invasions, this abbey at the end of the world was rebuilt in the Romanesque style.

      Conan III, Duke of Brittany and new ally of King Louis VI, dreams of restoring it to its former glory, by appointing a prestigious man to head it. For his part, Abelard was in the crosshairs of the ecclesiastical authorities. If his lessons remain popular with the students in Nogent-sur-Seine - in the abbey of Paraclet, where he found refuge -, he keeps a bitter memory of his mutilation and his condemnation in Soissons, where he had to burn his treaty on the Trinity in public. Becoming the abbot of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys meant exile, but also the opportunity to flee from danger and join the ranks of the highest dignitaries of the Church. In 1127, the scholar will spend a year, perhaps two, on this "barbarian land", whose language he does not speak.

      His mission: to correct the deregulated monastic mores, in line with the Gregorian reform. But his lack of personal wealth prevented him from setting things right and earned him the hostility of the monks. On two occasions, the monks tried to get rid of their abbot by pouring poison into the chalice during mass and by ambushing brigands. Barely escaping, Abelard ends up leaving the ship... Having fallen into disuse over the centuries, then sold during the Revolution, the monastery was restored in the 19th century. In the church, the visitor discovers intact the apse where the unfortunate abbot and philosopher officiated, between the magnificent sculpted capitals of the Romanesque period...
      [Pascale Desclos, Historia n°871/872, link]

      The abbey of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys of which Abelard was the bébédictin abbot.
      Interior and exterior, the apse, walls and cliffs that Abelard knew.
      It is here that he wrote "Historia calamitatum", "History of my misfortunes".

      Chalon-sur-Saône (4 km away, the priory Saint-Marcel)

      The death of Abelard in 1142 at the priory of Saint Marcel lès Châlon.
      Engraving by Charles-Désiré Rambert 1839, after Jean Gigoux (link).

      [In this page of his site, Werner Robl analyzes the circumstances of Peter Abelard's death. Here is the summary] Considering all the circumstances and symptoms of the disease as well as the form of therapy chosen, it is therefore most likely that Abelard died of advanced organ tuberculosis. At least, this cause of death seems far more plausible than any of the hypotheses put forward so far.

      The case of Abelard's illness highlights the fact that the Cluniac abbot Petrus Venerabilis was striving on the one hand to improve and reform the monks' medicine internally, but on the other hand he also could not partially solve the serious hygiene problems of epidemics in his mother monastery of Cluny. Although he rather refused a privileged private treatment for the monks, he still granted such preferential treatment to his friend and brother in the Lord, Peter Abelard.

    2. Abelard a castrated monk, Heloise a young nun: what relationship?

      We have seen the loving, overly passionate and sometimes conflicting relationships of the two lovers before Abelard's castration. The reference text is then the letter n°1 of Abélard, "Histoire de mes malheurs" (Historia calamitatum) and also a part of the letter n°2, of Héloïse. The following letters are revealing of the relationship between the two lovers, we have understood the essential. Georges Minois, in his book of 2019, brings a new glance on their exchanges. And, first, what can we imagine of their physical relationship (page 244) ?

      The situation of Abelard and Heloise from 1130-1131 is, to tell the truth, rather strange: Heloise is prioress of the monastery of Paraclet, of which her husband was abbot, while living most of the time 560 kilometers away in another monastery, of which he was also abbot, in Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys. The sisters of Le Paraclet, as well as the inhabitants of the surrounding area, found, moreover, that Abelard should come more often to instruct the community and bring them the good word : "All their neighbors strongly blamed me for not doing all I could to help their misery, when, by preaching, the thing was so easy for me. I therefore made more frequent visits to them, in order to work to be useful to them. We do not know the frequency of these visits, which allowed Abelard to escape periodically from the monks of Saint-Gildas, but they must have been quite spaced out: it took him about three weeks of travel to go from one monastery to the other. Soon, however, people began to gossip, and to insinuate that Abbot Abelard's visits to his wife the prioress had more than a spiritual purpose: "It was clear, they said, that I was still dominated by the lure of carnal pleasures, since I could bear neither a little nor a lot of the absence of the woman I had loved."

      Being castrated, Abelard believes that he should be above all suspicion : "How is it that suspicion persists, when for me the means of accomplishing these turpitudes is no longer ? What is the meaning of the scandalous accusation raised against me ? The state in which I am repels so much the idea of turpitudes of this kind, that it is the custom of all those who keep women to let eunuchs approach them. And he accumulates examples of holy people who had lived in the company of women without being suspected of fornication, he also recalls that husbands must provide for the material and spiritual needs of their wives, and that Leo IX is said to have declared  "We absolutely profess that it is not permitted to a bishop, priest, deacon, subdeacon, to We profess absolutely that it is not permitted for a bishop, priest, deacon, or subdeacon to dispense, on account of religion, with the care to which he is bound towards his wife, not that he is permitted to possess her according to the flesh, but he owes her food and clothing." Is Abelard sincere ? Is he falsely naive ? Does he ignore that castration does not necessarily prevent any sexual activity, unless he has been emasculated, which does not seem to have been his case ? It is, in any case, surprising that he is surprised that his visits to his still young wife raise questions.

      At this point, a consultation on the great World Wide Web is in order to find out if castration and erection are compatible. The page Wikipedia on castration briefly answers yes "in some cases." Another page presents concrete cases :

      • Following a traffic accident, I have a brother-in-law who had both testicles removed at age 34. Nothing stops him from having erections. He does not produce sperm and therefore does not ejaculate. According to him, sex is longer and better. Their last child (11 years old) was "made" by artificial insemination. He is doing very well...
      • I have a friend who had testicular cancer so he emptied the bursa and put prostheses (like those that are put in the breasts but testicle model, question of aesthetics) and he can still have an erection and pleasure but, obviously, it is not like before !

      Let us take up Georges Minois' account for what he designates as an "epistolary settlement of accounts" (c. 1132-1135) (page 246) :

      Strange correspondence, without indication of places or dates, between two people who are supposed to see each other from time to time without knowing how much time elapses between two letters. It is Héloïse who begins, in reaction to reading the Historia calamitatum, whose text she says she saw "by chance." She appears to discover her husband's misfortunes, even though she is supposed to see him occasionally. She reminds him of his unfailing love, his boundless devotion, assures him that she would have preferred to be his "whore" rather than his wife, that she entered the convent only to please him, that she sacrificed her life to him, and she reproaches him for having left her without news for so long. Yet, did they not necessarily see each other several times, since rumors circulate about the resumption of their affair? These inconsistencies remain unexplained and suggest a late rewriting of the letters.

      The most remarkable and human part of this first letter is the one in which Héloïse proclaims her indignation at what she considers a betrayal by Abelard : You seduced me only to satisfy your carnal desire, and then you abandoned me and got rid of me by having me locked up in a convent : "After our entry into religion, of which you alone took the decision, I find myself so neglected and forgotten that I have neither encouraged You were the first to make me put on the habit and take the monastic vows; you vowed me to God before yourself. This defiance, the only one that you ever showed me, penetrated me, I confess, of pain and shame; I who, on a word, God knows it, would have, without hesitating, preceded you or followed you until the fiery abysses of the hells.".

      Abélard's answer is rather pitiful. Uncomfortable, he distances himself, affects detachment and gives moral lessons : while Heloise addresses him as her "master or father", "husband or brother", he uses the official titulary towards an abbess  "To my beloved sister in Christ". How can you talk to me about your little personal problems, "while I despair and fear for my days ?" "How dare you accuse God of our misfortunes ?" [...] Abelard's egocentrism reaches the odious here.

      Héloïse's answer is a violent accusation, not against her husband, but against God. A sacrilegious, even blasphemous letter, which reveals her deep distress : "God is unjust, indeed, while we were savoring the delights of restless love, or, to use a cruder but more expressive term, while we were indulging in fornication, the severity of heaven spared us  and it was when we legitimized this illegitimate love, when we covered with the veil of matrimony the shame of our fornication, that the wrath of the Lord rudely laid his hand upon us  and our purified bed did not find grace before him who had so long tolerated its defilement. [...] It is he, finally, who, extending to us his accustomed malice, has lost by marriage him whom he had not struck down by fornication  he has done evil with good, having been unable to do evil with evil."

      And Heloise, far from repenting, sinks into sin, proclaims her carnal desire, in the famous passages where she admits to being obsessed with erotic thoughts, day, night and even during mass. "They praise my chastity is that they do not my hypocrisy is not known... My religion is praised in a time when religion is no longer in large part only hypocrisy." Terrible confession, which she is convinced will earn her hell, for, she says, "in all the states of my life, God knows, until now I have always been more afraid of offending you than of offending him himself ; and it is to you much more than to himself that I have desire to please."

      Her despair is due to the conviction of having been the cause of Abélard's misfortunes, because she is a woman, and women have always caused the loss of men. I have no use for appeals to virtue, and since you are castrated, "my incontinence can no longer find a remedy in you." If this letter is authentic, it ruins in advance all the praise that Pierre le Vénérable, Hugues Métel, and even Saint Bernard will address to Héloïse. But can such a terrible letter be authentic?

      Abelard is appalled. In his answer, he tries to calm the anger and the ardors of his wife. It is necessary to sublimate our love : pathetic attempt to save the face on behalf of a man who tries to awkwardly excuse his selfish conduct. Pitiful and tortuous excuses. [...] And anyway, since I'm unhappy, it's only fair that you be unhappy too: "While my life is plagued by all the tortures of despair, would it be appropriate for you to be in joy ?" And then, stop complaining and blaming God. [...] What happens to us is just, I will show you. Abelard resumes his role of professor: fifteen pages of intellectual demonstration to justify the punishments they deserved: "To soften the bitterness of your pain, I would still like to demonstrate that what happened to us is as just as it is useful, and that by punishing us in marriage and not in fornication, God did well." Castration is a blessing : how good God is to have deprived me of my testicles ! It saves me from sinning : "Yes, by the deprivation of those parts so contemptible which, because of the shame connected with their function are called shameful and cannot be named by their name, divine grace has purified me rather than mutilated me." [...] What luck  you were Eve, and here you are Mary !

      Reading these letters again, one wonders why they were considered love letters. They resemble, indeed, more a settlement of accounts between two ex-lovers who blame each other for their misfortunes. Abelard continues: our love was not a true love, it was concupiscence  we were like animals, in the mire and the turpitude. [...] Then rejoice and abandon yourself to your new husband, Christ. And Abelard ends his sermon thus  "Bear yourself well in Christ, bride of Christ, in Christ bear yourself well and live for him. Amen." Heloise understands that it is useless to insist. The tone of her reply is a complete break with her previous letter. [...]

      Héloïse, at the beginning of this letter, makes it clear that once again she submits to Abélard's last request, solely out of love and a spirit of obedience, and that if from now on she will refrain from writing anything about her erotic desires and concupiscence, she will not be able to stop herself from thinking about them or even talking about them : "By writing to you, I shall know how to stop what, in our talks, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prevent"  "there is nothing less in our power than our hearts", our desires "spread even more rapidly by speech, which is the ever-ready language of the passions"  I shall keep within me "what my tongue could not refrain from saying".

    3. The life of Astralabe, son of Heloise and Abelard (from the page "Astrolabe, cleric, monk, perhaps abbot" at and the page "Astralabe" at Wikipedia, where the reader will find supplements).

      It was Heloise, herself, who chose the name Astrolabe: "one who reaches the stars." This odd name, with no Christian reference, has provoked questions. Brenda Cook, a London genealogist, in her 1999 study, following W. G. East, suggests an explanation. It is difficult to see, she says, that in the 12th century parents chose such an unorthodox name. Astralabe could therefore be an anagram indicating the real paternity of the child. PETRUS ABAELARDUS II could give ASTRABALIUS PUER DEI. It would then be necessary to say as in Latin: Astralabe. In French, the practice is instituted to say Astrolabe, but it is attenuated, as testifies Wikipedia, and the anagram goes in this direction.

      Astralabe will not follow her parents to Paris and will stay in Le Pallet for some time with Denise, Abélard's sister. The couple leaves alone for the secret marriage which was negotiated with Fulbert. This is confirmed by Abélard when he comes to fetch Héloïse. Perhaps Astralabe joined Héloïse later in Argenteuil? In any case, he is not a rejected child. Héloïse's joy at having a child has already been noticed. The affection of the father who will dedicate to him much later a poem is also affirmed "Astralabi fili, vite dulcedo paterne", "Astralabe my son, sweetness of the life of your father !".

      Around 1143, after the death of her father, Astralabe being 25 years old, Heloise will write to the abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable, and ask him to intervene with the bishop of Paris so that her son can obtain an ecclesiastical office. She would like a prebend, in Paris or in any other diocese. The embarrassed answer of the abbot of Cluny, who feels powerless in front of the reluctance of the bishops, proves nevertheless that Astralabe is indeed a man of the Church, a cleric. He became a canon of the cathedral chapter of Nantes. He took part in the rivalries that broke out in Brittany after the death of Duke Conan III in 1148. In 1158, the suspicious death of Geoffroy VI of Anjou occurred, the victim of a plot to oust him in order to restore the power of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, as Count of Nantes. Astralabe would have been involved in this affair, on the losing side. He left hastily for the Cistercian monastery of Cherlieu to find asylum. In 1162, he was elected or appointed abbot of the abbey of Hauterive, in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. He died there on August 5, 1171, at the age of 54, seven years after his mother.

      Ruins at the abbaye de Cherlieu, in Haute-Saône, where Astralabe is a monk, after his departure from Nantes.
      Recent photo of the cloister of the abbey of Hauterive, where Astralabe later became abbot (link).

      Brenda Cook concluded her study by opining that, far from being a pale figure, Astralabe was a strong personality, worthy of her parents. Georges Minois is harsh, not on Astralabe, but on his parents "admirable lovers and deplorable parents."

    4. Would the long letters come from a vast fabrication?

      We have seen, in chapter 7 how much the short letters of youth have been disputed, in their attribution to Heloise and Abelard. What about the long letters ? After all, doesn't Abelard invite us to doubt? According to Georges Minois (page 151), it was necessary to wait until 1841 for the first doubts to be expressed, then various theories were imagined. And various proofs were brandished, listed by Georges Minois. The arguments can be astonishing, to the historian Etienne Gilson (link), who in 1938 defends authenticity with the "decisive" argument that this story is too good not to be true, another renowned historian, Georges Duby responds that it is too good to be true ! Too good and too moral... One of the latest is by Hubert Silvestre, in a 44-page paper, "La part du roman" (excerpt, link). It would be Jean de Meung (1240-1304) who would have invented this story while writing the Roman of the Rose. The all-too-good story would have been made up... Other challenges, more or less global, have been advanced, notably for Abelard's "Histoire de mes malheurs" (chapter 9). In this case, however, Heloise would have pointed it out in her letter of reply... Sincerity is the order of the day in the epistolary relationship of the two lovers, both by their love and by their religion. But can we believe Héloïse too?

      From what has come down to us, Jean de Meung was the first to tell the story of Heloise and Abelard (Delpech after
      Hippolyte Lecomte, link). A page from the "Roman de la Rose" (link). At right Jacques Dalarun and, before, his book.

      These assumptions turned sour when medieval historian Jacques Dalarun published the book "Monastic Model" (CNRS Editions) in 2019. In chapter VII "Abelard, Heloise, the Paraclete", he demonstrates the authenticity of the correspondence between Abelard and Heloise based on a scientific, codicological analysis of manuscript 802 of the municipal library of Troyes, which presents the best guarantees of proximity with the facts. He dates this manuscript from 1230 (Jean de Meung was not born). It is related on a page of the site and supported by complementary documents :

      "This means that the gap between the supposed date of the writing of the epistolary exchange (between Heloise and Abelard) and its earliest witness (this manuscript) falls to a century, and all the hypotheses of forgery (made notably by John Benton in 1972) of the Correspondence evaporate (then)." Jacques Dalarun rejects at the same time the interpretation of Jean de Meung. [...]

      A fortiori we ignore this essential document which follows the letter VIII, that is to say "Institutiones nostrae", our institutions, as well as four other documents following in the same manuscript. [...] They are thus five documents which it is necessary to join to the eight initially retained. But "Our institutions" is not a text of Abelard but a central text of Heloise to fix and promulgate the rule of the community of the nuns of the Paraclete. [...]

      To conclude on authenticity we can say with J. Dalarun: "The Abelard of the Correspondence must more than ever be confused with the Abelard of history".

      As for Héloïse, she is no longer only the passionate lover of letters II and IV . She does not disavow this period of her life but, "fully free of her choices, she assumed the constraints of the religious life". By writing this "statutory text with effective value," she devotes herself to this austere literature which deviates sometimes from the provisions of the letter VIII of Abélard. But it is the Heloise, the very wise Heloise, in accordance with the praise that Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny after the death of Abelard at St-Marcel-les-Châlons in 1142, bestows on her.

      This does not exclude that there was some recomposition of the original letters in the first copies. These are the long letters (chapters 9, 10, 11). For the short early letters, we have seen, in chapter 7, that their authenticity is still disputed. But should we not associate with systematic doubt the intimate conviction based on the multiplicity of converging clues and the absence of probative contestation ? This is the reason why I have given the same authenticity to the short and long letters in this file.

      In addition to the "short" and "long" letters exchanged between Heloise and Abelard, there were some others, between them and around them :
      • The aforementioned page at provides information on other "ignored" letters, appendices, from Abelard and Heloise, including one entitled "Problemata," from Heloise.
      • This other page on the same site presents "Translations of Texts by Abelard, Heloise and Others," including Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux.

      About all these letters, Georges Minois (page 156) makes us understand that they had a particular consistency in the 12th century :

      All these legitimate questions around the authenticity of letters can however be relativized by a reminder of the characteristics of the epistolary genre in the twelfth century. Writing a letter did not have the same meaning as today: it was a literary work in its own right, which obeyed precise rules, because it was not a private work; it was intended to be read by a group, a community, even if it was addressed to a particular person. It is then copied in several copies in a scriptoriurn, and copies are kept in appropriate registers. This is because only important, literate and cultured people write letters, whose content goes beyond the individual level. Rare, the epistle must show literary qualities. The epistolary rhetoric includes references to to the great classical authors as well as to biblical texts, quoted explicitly or incorporated in the body of the sentence. It is a difficult exercise, requiring time and concentration, if only because the writer writes in Latin and not in his or her native language. He or she follows classical patterns, borrowed from Cicero, Virgil, Quintilian and others.

    5. Did Heloise truly convert?

      Beyond the authenticity of the letters there is the question of their sincerity, especially for Heloise. The one who was forced by Abelard to become a nun, the one who during mass abandoned prayers to take refuge in her pornographic memories, did she become a believer ? Are her abbess's habit, her great culture, her efficiency in managing the abbey only screens ? Georges Minois, in his book of 2019, asks the question (page 158):

      Table of Contents : 1 2 3 4.
      Historians wonder about the sudden change of attitude and opinion between her first two letters, in which she presents herself as a sensual woman, reliving in her mind all the joys of sex experienced with her lover, without feeling the slightest remorse or desire for conversion, and the third, in which she shows herself to be a pious, austere abbess, concerned solely with spirituality and monastic reform. Who is the real Heloise: the one who wants to be Abelard's "whore" or the repentant Mary Magdalene? How to explain such a reversal ?

      Its implausibility has moreover provided John Benton with one of his arguments for asserting that the third letter of Heloise was in fact written by Abelard. It contains a long quotation of 275 words from the treatise "On the Conjugal Good" of Saint Augustine, which is exactly the same, word for word, with the same cuts and the same error of transcription, as that which Abelard produces in his treatise on "Sic et non". There are also several other similarities between quotations from Macrobius, Jerome, Paul, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, in the letter of Heloise and in the last letter of Abelard: does this not prove that he is the author of both? Not necessarily. The two lovers, who at the time of their love affairs worked together, could very well have used the same books, from which they copied and exchanged quotations.

      So, if the three letters of Héloïse are indeed all three of her, it means either that her "conversion" is not sincere, or that she practices, as Peter Von Moos suggests in a contribution on "Le silence d'Héloïse", in 1981, the aposiopesis, or praeteritio, that is to say a rhetorical procedure consisting in leaving aside an unsolved problem, without bringing a solution to it. All the rest of her life as a respectable abbess would plead in this sense.

    6. Was Abelard's old age a shipwreck?

      Reading Georges Minois' book questions in multiple ways. It is subtitled "Passion, Reason and Religion in the Middle Ages". Heloise embodies passion, even if reason eventually prevails, as we have just seen. Abelard the theologian embodies reason, the one that will lead to Descartes. Bernard de Clairvaux embodies the rigor of religion. As he wrote, Abelard knew many misfortunes in his life, he also caused some. He who, in his youth, fought vigorously against his masters Roscelin, Champeaux, Anselm, exhausted himself against Bernard to the point of ending up in Cluny in silence. He never fought religion in itself, he defended it by trying to bring it into harmony with reason. In his old age, he even argued that it should be accompanied by extreme rigor for the nuns. His remarks on the women, come to join that of Roscelin de Compiègne... Georges Minois (page 286) :

      In the eighth and last letter, by far the longest (more than a hundred pages in our pocket editions), he elaborates the project of monastic rule that Heloise demanded. And the result is much less brilliant. Abelard is a pure intellectual, and it is an intellectual's rule that he proposes, that is to say an inapplicable rule. It is a long babble, a commentary loaded with quotations, a kind of utopia in which he exposes his ideas, in striking contrast with the text so precise, so practical, concise and organized, of the rule of Saint Benedict. While the latter has the rigor of a text of law, Abelard's rule has the talkative and unrealistic side of a theological treatise.

      In a doctrinal tone, he announces that "the monastic life includes three points: chastity, poverty, silence; that is to say, it consists according to the evangelical rule, in girding up one's loins, renouncing everything, avoiding useless words". There follow developments on these three Virtues, with particular emphasis on silence, "because women are talkative and speak when they should not." Accordingly, he advocates "perpetual silence in the oratory, in the cloister, in the dormitory, in the refectory, in all the places where one eats, in the kitchen, and especially from Compline: one can only communicate by signs in these places and during this time, if it is necessary." Silence must also reign in the environment: it is therefore necessary to establish the convent in a solitary place: "Solitude is all the more necessary to the weakness of your sex, as one is less exposed there to the assaults of the temptations of the flesh." With the same goal, the monastery must live in autarky, in order to avoid any contact with men at the furnace and the mill.

      We shall see in part 5 of the following chapter 13, that Abelard had, at one time, held women in higher esteem... Several authors, and also his contemporaries, such as Bernard, have emphasized his changing opinions, already when he was young... His fights against Bernard, against the pope, against the disease made him return in the row, to the point that Pierre the Venerable was able to make a eulogistic portrait of it, in which one does not recognize any more the singularity which was his.

    7. Sites, books, exhibits, symposiums....

      To delve deeper into the topic, here are some Wikipedia links first: Heloise, Pierre Abélard, Hersende de Champigné, Canon Fulbert, Etienne de Garlande (chancellor of France), Guillaume de Garlande (father of Etienne and Gilbert), Foulques III Nerra of Anjou, The De Mathefelon family, the letters of Abélard and Héloïse, the unpublished letters, the twelfth-century renaissance, the liberal arts, the abbey of Fontevrault, Paraclete Abbey Bernard de Clairvaux, Peter the Venerable, Thibaut of Champagne, Robert d'Arbrissel, Bertrade de Montfort, Pétronille de Chemillé, Héloïse's Cave.

      And here are some other links: a short biography of Hersende de Champigné (or of Champagne) on the Fontevraud Abbey website (the date of death of 1109 is questionable...), Abelard and Heloise website from the Pierre Abélard cultural association, Les sires de Montsoreau, Thierry and Hélène Bianco's site (with other very thorough studies), Héloïse on the Roglo base page, Abelard at the Council of Sens (and the mousetrap of Bernard of Clairvaux), From Robert d'Arbrissel to Abelard (or from Fontevrault to the Paraclete, or from Hersende to Heloise : links decoded...) by Constant Mews 2007, A Love Story in the Middle Ages by Monique Dessegno, Héloïse, d'Argenteuil au Paraclet by Guy Lobrichon, Nineteenth Century Research on the Mathefelon Family (The Historical Cabinet, Volume 11) (in text mode, search for "Mathefelon"), Château and seigneury of Clervaux in Poitou, the site "Abaelard" by Werner Robl, intellectual and moral portrait of Peter Abelard, Abelard and Philosophy in the Twelfth Century by Jules Simon 1846. The Pierre Abélard Center, studies medieval philosophy at the Sorbonne University, Paris. Audio presentation on Youtube, 2 h 18', "Pierre Abélard, la Passion de la Raison" by Jérôme Rival, February 25, 2022. Other links are cited in this file.

      While I was doing the first part of this file in May 2015, there came out a book by Jean Teulé entitled "Héloïse, ouille !" dealing with the loves of Héloïse d'Argenteuil and Pierre Abélard. I did not miss to read it. Here are some of my thoughts (+ a analysis and a interview) :
      • The two lovers were not 20 and 40 when they met (but 22 and 35 in 1214, the beginning of their love correspondence), and Hersende did not die when her daughter Heloise was born. Nothing about the supposed father. It is not realized that Héloïse had very strong support in the nobility, beyond that of the simple canon Fulbert.
      • Faced with this type of historical novel, I am both circumspect by the difficulty of distinguishing the proven from the imaginary and attracted by the power of evocation that it confers.
      • I regretted that the author did not imagine how Heloise and Peter fell in love with each other.
      • In the first half of the book, I enjoyed the unbridled eroticism, on the other hand I found some trying heaviness, especially in the caricature of Uncle Fulbert.
      • The second half proves effective, and by the end I found myself overwhelmed by Abélard's impossibility of dealing with his contradictions and by the incandescent love of Héloïse, who manages to sublimate everything.
      • The little that is known about Hersende's life would provide the material for a fine novel...

      The opinion of Guy Demangeau, president of the cultural association Pierre-Abélard is severe, in particular : "He makes Bernard of Clairvaux intervene at the Council of Soissons, whereas it is at the Council of Sens, twenty years later. [...] He lends Abelard the ambition to become pope, which is fiction" (article from Ouest-France). + interview with Jean Teulé.

      And as I take up this file in October 2022, the author Jean Teulé suddenly passes away. Thinking back on his book, I find it light, which, depending on the reader, is a quality or a flaw...

      Georges Minois
      I highly recommend Georges Minois' erudite and easy-to-read book for anyone who wants to understand what Heloise and Abelard were like. The table of contents of his book "Abélard, Héloïse et Bernard" is shown as a caption to the illustration in part 12 of this chapter.

      Abelardian Library. Texts, biographies, literature, studies are listed in a long page of the reference site With also a page of Youtube videos and other mp3s. At the beginning of chapter 16 of this file, there are the covers of many books, but they are selected only by their graphic interest. All this gives an idea of the echo encountered both by Abélard's ideas, by his love for Héloïse, and by their respective and blended lives.

      The three exhibitions of 2001
      In Troyes
      At the Troyes Museum of Art and History, from June 9 to September 2.

      Organized by the Historic Champagne Association.
      "Very Wise Heloise" catalog of 96 pages in A4 format, which can be ordered by mail order, at the price of 10 euros, postage included, with these links: 1 2. Already featured with excerpts at chapter 8.
      In Paris
      At the Musée de Cluny, from September 13 to November 18.
      Monum 'éditions du Patrimoine' catalog "Between passion, reason and religion", 21 x 19 cm, 32 pages, long out of print, in pdf file (53 MB).
      In Nantes
      Organized by the Pierre Abélard Association and the University of Nantes.
      17 panels of 90 x 120 cm on rigid supports, gathered on this page of the site and in this pdf file (2 Mb). The panels can be loaned...

      Colloquia. Browsing the page "Academic Colloquia" on the website shows how much, since 1972, meetings of scholars have advanced knowledge of the two eternal lovers and the century in which they lived. Moreover, this page gives access to numerous contributions. For example, the full text of the 22-page study "The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and the Theology of Peter Abelard" by Constant J. Mews. Today, the Peter Abelard Center regularly sponsors or co-sponsors study days (link). In March 2023, the University of Rouen is organizing the colloquium " Heloise and Abelard, Love and Knowledge as Seen by the European 19th Century" (link).

      The colloquia allow meetings and visits... Thus, during the 2001 Nantes colloquium, the Australian historian
      Constant J. Mews visited Le Pallet (photo inside the dungeon) (page about the visit and others).
      On the left, the contributions to the 2001 Nantes colloquium were published in 2003. On the right, a collection of those
      from a 2017 colloquium, organized by Le Collège de France, with the theme "Philosopher au XIIème siècle".

    8. Romanticism with the impulses of Pope and Rousseau.

    The Romanticism constructs an ideal figure of Heloise and Abelard - The Alexander Pope
    In the Middle Ages, Heloise was "the very wise Heloise" of Villon. In the 17th century, Bussy-Rabutin and Madame de Sévigné made her a gallant and precious heroine. In the eighteenth century, the unprecedented success of the poem by the English writer Alexander Pope (1688-1744), with The Epistle of Eloise published in 1717, opened the era of pre-Romanticism. This poem, translated into several languages and imitated more than twenty-five times in prose and verse, offered excellent food for the sensitive heart.
    "To souls eager for amorous infortunes, sensuality, outrageousness, gothic cloisters and sepulchres, the adventures of Heloise and Abelard offered a theme of choice." Charlotte Charrier, Heloise in History and Legend, Paris, Honoré Champion, 1933 p.444. [From a page at]

    "The New Heloise," espistolary novel by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, published in 1761

    "Multiple times republished, it was one of the greatest bestsellers of the late eighteenth century, revealing the place made for sensibility during the Enlightenment. Originally entitled Lettres de deux amants, habitants d'une petite ville au pied des Alpes, La Nouvelle Héloïse was inspired by the story of Héloïse and Pierre Abélard, in which the passion of love is overcome to give way to a sublimated renunciation. The lovers of novels could see in it a myth, which can welcome the deepest values of romanticism. Despite the novelistic genre under which The New Heloise is presented, the work also takes the form of a philosophical meditation in which Rousseau sets forth his vision of autonomy as well as an ethic of authenticity, preferred to rational moral principles." [page Wikipedia]
    Voltaire puts it this way: "Who does not know the adventures of Heloise and Abelard? Who does not know that this illustrious man always balanced the reputation of Saint Bernard, and sometimes his credit? He had a very rare merit, common weaknesses, singular misfortunes. The loves and letters of Abelard and Heloise will live forever: "Vivunt qui commissi calores Helosiae calamis puellae". The truth especially puts the seal of immortality on the touching letters that these two lovers wrote to each other. They have been translated into verse and prose in all languages. Jean-Jacques began to invent this ancient story under other names; but, angry that a man as well made, and of such a pleasant figure as Abelard is portrayed to us, had lost in the course of his love affairs the principal merit of his figure, he cut out of his novel this particularity of the story: and as he is as great, as nobly made as Abelard; as he is, like him, the object of the sighs of all the ladies of Paris, he made himself the hero of his novel. These are the adventures and opinions of Jean-Jacques that we read in the Nouvelle Heloïse, and that unfortunately you have not read..." (link).

    Three illustrations for Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "La nouvelle Héloïse", 1773 edition, by Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune, who in 1795 would illustrate the "Lettres d'Héloïse et d'Abailard", as already glimpsed and as will be seen more fully in the next chapter. On the left, the frontispiece "Aided by Wisdom, we save ourselves from Love in the arms of Reason". In the center "Saint Preux infidel". On the right " Julie and Saint-Preux in the storm'. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF Gallica  links: 1 2 3). Claude Bornet illustrated the 1799 edition, notably with Jerome's deflowering of Heloise over the corpse of her lover Alberoni (image, link). Bornet also illustrated the Marquis de Sade...

    In 1789 appeared "The Last Heloise" by M. Dauphin, billed as a collection of letters from Junie Salisbury. Photos: 1 2 3 Links : 1 2 3 4).
    After Rousseau's "La nouvelle Héloïse" in 1761, the French writer Restif de La Bretonne (1734-1806) published a four-volume novel entitled "Le nouvel Abeilard", with the subtitle "Lettres de deux amants qui ne se sont jamais vus". The frontispiece, above, inspired by that of "La nouvelle Héloïse," shows Wisdom helmeted, surrounded by the young Abélard and Héloïse, under the gaze of the winged child Amour; with the caption "Write under the dictation of Wisdom, with a feather of Amour." Author of the drawing undetermined (Munich Bibl., link). Other links: 1 2 3

    The English appropriated the lovers of the Paraclete to the point of personifying them... [British Museum]
    On the left, Richard Cosway depicts himself and his wife, as if they were... Engraving by Robert Thew, 1789 (link).
    Satire on love in old age: a couple compliments each other by mistaking each other for... Anonymous 1778 (link).

    In France, the tributes are more romantic. Gilles Demarteau 1770: "Bust of Young Woman Reading Heloise and Abelard" (link). Bernard d'Agesci in 1780 painted this reader in ecstasy in a now American painting "Lady reading the letters of Heloise and Abelard" (Art Institute of Chicago, link) + variant (link).

    A madam "Heloise Abelard" has her portrait taken by a fake Gustave Courbet (19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, link). And Jean Gigoux depicts lovers meditating before the mausoleum's recumbents (link).

    1. In songs of the past and present.

      Many of Abelard's musical compositions have been preserved. Details can be found on this page on the website. It reads, "While the Latin text of all these works has been transmitted to us by manuscripts without major difficulty, the same cannot be said of the melodic line, since the staff does not yet exist. Specialists have had to do learned research to analyze and interpret elementary and sometimes enigmatic musical notations." Also : "The love songs of Abelard, which were transmitted by word of mouth, have not reached us, alas! We have, however, several testimonies that confirm the reputation that Abelard had.". It remains especially what one could call church songs, hymns, sequences, planctus (lamentations)...
      We saw at the end of part 12 of this chapter that letters from Abelard and perhaps Heloise might have been preserved, anonymously, in the Carmina Burana, featuring love songs, drinking and dancing songs, as well as religious pieces.

      Left, Manuscript of the planctus with musical notation Codex reginensis 288, Vatican library 12th - 13th
      Right, 1998 CD, "Theatre of voices", Los Angeles, USA, conducted by Paul Hillier. The album cover is
      a cover of a miniature by Jean Fouquet depicting St. Bernard, taken from the
      "Etienne Chevalier's Book of Hours" (the full miniature, with commentary).

      Right, 2016 CD album by the Ligeriana Ensemble (link) and, left, the image that inspired it,
      from the codex Manesse, unrelated to Heloise and Abelard. This album features.
      music and lyrics (in Latin) composed by Abelard, of religious inspiration. Here is one of them :
      "Planctus II. Jacob super filios suos," by The Ligeriana Ensemble (pictured below) - mp3 from 10 min 18"
      Infelices filii
      Patre nati misero
      Novi, meo sceleri
      Talis datur ultio

      Cujus est flagitii
      Tantum damnum passio
      Quo peccato merui
      Hoc feriri gladio
      Poor son
      From a miserable father, That this vengeance comes from.

      To bear the infamy of it, And this sin
      Deserves punishment.
      Joseph decus generis
      Filiorum gloria
      Devoraatus bestiis
      Morte ruit pessima.

      Symeon in vinculis,
      Mea luit crimina
      Post matrem et Benjamin
      Nunc amisi gaudia.
      Joseph who did honor to my race
      Glory to my descendants.
      Devoured by the beasts
      Suffered a horrible death.
      Simeon is in prison

      To redeem my crime; Have lost all joy.

      At left, The Ligeriana Ensemble, 2016. As detailed in this page at, several musical works have been created in recent years, including Enrico Garzilli's 1989 musical poem "Rage of the Heart" in the U.S., Ross Fiddes' musical drama "Abelard" (link), in 1997 in Australia, the opera "Heloise and Abelard" by Ahmed Essyad, in 2000 in France (Mulhouse) (attached), the opera "Heloise and Abelard" by Stephen Paulus, in 2002 in the USA (New-York), photo above right. Also a new musical "Abelard and Heloise" by Tom Polum, in 2003 in the USA. A dance show and several plays are also reported. And much of what follows. The survey is closed in 2006. In 2011, an unfinished opera by Charles Gounod "Maître Pierre," in 1877, was revived on CD in 2011 (1951 recording, cover recto, verso, critical details on this page).

      Abelard himself said it: "Most of my songs were spread in the provinces and sung by those whose lives resembled mine". And Heloise confirmed it, "It was mostly your songs that made all the women sigh for you." Composing and singing songs in their honor is therefore very appropriate. Here are some, in chronological order.

      Circa 1900 Yvette Guilbert, "Héloïse et Abélard" (links : 1 2).
      Lyrics below.
      This song has not been recorded...
      People of Navarre and France
      From the Batignolles and the Jura
      Oyez this sad romance!
      Oi! Oi! My mother! Oï! Oi! Daddy! That happened some time ago, Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!

      From his students, the story goes,
      Abelard, he was called like that,
      Fatigued a lot the memory
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      A canon of Saint Sulpice
      As a tutor gave it to
      His niece Heloise, a novice
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      The damsel's tutor
      Had already instilled in her
      More than one superficial lesson
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      But it didn't let her be surprised
      When the handsome Abelard gave her Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy! She was not complacent
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      Now the tutor, as in a drama
      One night at Abelard's house entered
      Decreasing his program to him
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      But in his criminal ardor, The most essential part
      Oi! Oi! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!

      And since this act of aggression
      Never did Abelard find
      The lost thread of his story
      Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      Even though she has developed a taste for preludes, Oi! Ouch! My mother! Oi! Oi! Daddy!
      1953 Georges Brassens, "La ballade des dames du temps Jadis", on a text by François Villon from 1489, "Les neiges d'antan".
      Or is the very wise Helois,
      For whom was chastely and then moyne
      Pierre Esbaillart in Sainct-Denys.
      For his love had this essoyne.
      [all lyrics]
      There are many interpretations...
      mp3 from 2 min 07"
      1973 Giani Esposito (text and music), "The Body is Abelard." From the island of the city
      To the vineyards of the Montagne Sainte
      Genevieve, in Paris - in the Xlle century -

      From the traffic circle of the Defense
      To the highest tower, called Mont
      Parnasse - today:

      The body is Abelard and the soul is Heloise,
      They live for each other, intimate no matter what is said.
      To the games of the Middle Ages, to the forces of today,
      It is love that begins and death that ends.

      Verso of the album.
      mp3 from 2 min 21"
      1983 Mannick (text and music), "Heloise and Abelard."
      Words Mannick
      Music Jo Akepsimas
      Lyrics below.
      mp3 from 3 min 51"
      Abelard, my beautiful Abelard,
      I lost my heart when I passed you,
      With a single glance you set me on fire
      With the tip of your eyes you took me, Teaching me your knowledge. That guided you here?
      It is true that at dusk
      After Greek and Latin,
      You will intoxicate me until the morning
      From the pleasure of making love.
      Abelard, my beautiful Abelard, Wherefore we are no longer afraid By my uncle or his servant?
      You are my heart and my flesh
      I know no more than to love you,
      Abelard, my beautiful Abelard, Why do you speak of sin,
      From penitence and remorse,
      The desire has fled your body,
      But has love flown away?
      You ask me to leave
      And go into a convent, [Coda]
      Abelard, my beautiful Abelard, My life is going, I'll find you again,
      2002 Claire Pelletier (text and music), "Mon Abélard, mon Pierre".
      Words: Marc Chabot
      Music: Pierre Duchesne and Claire Pelletier
      Lyrics below.
      mp3 from 6 min 32" (in public in Montreal)
      We lived two of the same love
      of words and books and life
      and we spoke the same speech
      From eyes, from hands, from heart too
      The men, the world, we discovered And our thoughts, they were entwined

      But what have they done with us
      My Abelard, my Pierre A sad love and prayers
      You were my cleric and my hope
      I was your soul, woman of knowledge
      You loved my feather in your mouth
      I loved your hands on my bed

      The glories of philosophy
      Are dead letter and tears
      Uncle Fulbert surprised us
      Only wounds remain of us

      But what have they done with us
      My Abelard, my Peter A sad love in a monastery
      I had to flee to Brittany
      To give birth to our boy
      All the misfortune and the anger
      Of our love were right

      From you I have a few songs left
      The distant echo of your lessons
      And if love has no age
      It was not in the Middle Ages

      But what have they done with us
      My Abelard, my Peter
      But what have they done with us
      A sad love alone on earth
      2012 Natalie Kotka (text and music), "From Heloise to Abelard." ...
      If my heart is not with you,
      It is nowhere down here...
      Remember, you were singing to me, ...
      mp3 from 4 min 52"

      video YouTube
      2015 Jean-Claude Rémy (text and music), "Héloïse et Abélard", spoken text to music. [Coda]
      Love stories hardly matter
      Some, however, deserve the eloquence
      Of a lover's advocate,
      A little poetry too, simply...

      BD "The Lost Singer," link
      mp3 from 3 min 29"

      video Youtube

    2. In cartoons and comics.

      At the beginning of the 20th century, references to Heloise and Abelard can be tenuous. The two lovers symbolize then the great love... Examples.

      To the left, print by Nathan Berr, ca. 1848 (Carnavalet Museum, link). Right, Fabiano 1909 (link).

      On the left, Draner 1875 (link) + sketch by Draner of General Boulanger (link). At right, Cham (link).

      Berenger of Poitiers and another supporter of Abelard (Gigoux 1839).
      In the collection "Belles histoires - Belles vies," 1953, "Saint Bernard," album of 42 plates, text
      by Agnès Richomme, drawing by Robert Rigot (link).

      The Pyrrhic Victory of St. Bernard [excerpts from Georges Minois' 2019 book (p 393)]

      In appearance, then, Saint Bernard won his case. The reality is more nuanced. First, neither Abelard nor Arnaud will be arrested; then, in spite of an autodafé for the form of some rnanuscrits of the works of Abelard in Rome, the decision hardly impresses the admirers of the philosopher, to begin with the cardinal Guy of Castello, future pope, who keeps his copies of the Theologia and the Sic and not ; finally, the sentence of heresy launched against Abelard causes the astonishment of his partisans and the fury of some which make, rightly, Saint Bernard responsible for it. The violent diatribe of Berenger of Poitiers against the abbot of Clairvaux bears witness to this. [...]

      These remarks, though outrageous, are no less revealing of the ambiguity of Abelard's condemnation. In spite of the grandiloquent formulas of Innocent II, the sentence of heresy wrested from the pope will not prevent the progress of the dialectical studies in the schools and the future universities. Saint Bernard, who makes the pope say in his letter that "no cleric, no knight, nor anyone else, should attempt to discuss the Christian faith in public", is a hornswinger of the past  the future lies with the disciples of Abelard. The former's "victory" is a Pyrrhic victory.

      [...] Bernard pursued Arnaud of Brescia, Abelard's companion, with his vindictiveness, had him expelled from France by the king, then from the diocese of Constance. In 1145, Arnaud, back in Rome, stirs up a revolt, is arrested and executed. In 1148, at the Council of Reims, Saint Bernard renews against Gilbert de la Porrée, a renowned dialectician, the same maneuver used against Abelard : he summarizes his theses in a few propositions, which he has the bishops condemn the day before his appearance. This time, the maneuver fails, and Gilbert, whose ideas are very close to those of Abelard, is not condemned.

      Above, postcard (verso, link). In the adventures of Fripounet and Marisette created by René Bonnet for the newspaper bearing their name, a secondary character became important. His name was Abélard Tiste. He met a Héloïse (in the episode "L'oeil d'aigle", 1951-1952) and married her (in "La bande blanche", 1952-1953). They had a child, Urbain, and were happy, despite some extravagances... (link).

      To the left, a panel from "L'histoire de France en bande dessinée" discusses Abelard and Heloise (scenario Roger Lécureux, drawing Raymond Poïvet, Larousse 1977). In 2018 a comic book was published in France with two children named Heloise and Abelard as heroes. And also a great ape who gives his name to the series, "Kong-Kong", two volumes published in 2022 by Casterman. Texts Vincent Villeminot, drawing and colors Yann Aitret (also in the scenario) (link).

      This "small adult format" comic book was published in France in August 1981 by Elvifrance, as #19 of "Hors-série rouge", entitled "Medieval Tragedy" (link). First published in Italy around 1980 as #132 of Terror (link), reissued in Italy in 1991 as Special Terror #47 (link), under a different cover entitled "Tragico amore", with added pages. Drawing by Tito Marchioro, 1980-1981 cover by Enzo Sciotti. This is a uchrony derived from the true story of Abelard and Heloise and Fulbert. The two lovers, despite their desires, remain pretty much chaste, except that they somehow have a son. The end is not catholic at all... Here are a few excerpts, with the plate numbers indicated.

      The 1981 French version (and probably the 1980 Italian version) has 181 plates. The Italian version of 1991 has 216, 35 more and some of the 181 plates are retouched. Comic book enthusiasts have translated the complete expanded story into French, with a neat new translation (notably, Abelard and Heloise's son loses his first name Julien from the first translation to get his first name Astralabe back) for a full pdf version (38 MB).

      On the left, Sale Debacksy 2014 (link). On the right, Ellen Lindner, a story of 10 plates (each with an image and text from either Heloise or Abelard) that appeared in "The Graphic Canon," Volume 1, 2012 (link), here in Turkish and English. This 500-page book, published by Telemaque (originally in the US by Seven Stories Press in 2012), was coordinated by Russ Kick. Fifty famous stories put into comic book form, from high antiquity to 1782. Introduction and the ten plates : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.

      Philippe Brenot in the scenario, Laetitia Coryn in the drawing, both in the dialogues and Isabelle Lebeau in the colors realized it in the page below, extracted from the album "The Incredible History of Sex - Book 1 - In the West", published in 2020 by the editions "Les Arènes" (link).


      In the manner of manga (links: 1 2 3 (Josh Fisher))

  14. Abelard's doubt, the couple's lust, their actuality

    1. Sic and no, weighing the pros and cons

      At that time, everything was written in Latin. This did not prevent a work by Abelard from being the first to be disseminated, during his lifetime, to a large non-specialized public. Of an unheard-of repercussion, it will be discussed even in the most remote countryside. Titled "Sic et non" ("Yes and no" or "For or against"), it exposes the contradictory answers of the Bible and the Fathers to 157 questions concerning ethics as well as Christian theology, liturgy as well as the conduct of daily life. Abelard has the audacity to add the divergent opinions of the ancient authors, placing pagan thought and the point of view of the Doctors on the same level. Ahead of the Humanists by four and a half centuries, five hundred years before Calvin, he thereby invites everyone, not just clerics, to refer directly to the text and not just to the word of preachers or bishops who are too often uneducated [according to Wikipedia, whose English version offers a page on the work]. The site pierre-abé presents a translation of the prologue.

      In the strongly religious context of the Middle Ages, this way of thinking is very disturbing. It is even still disturbing today, but in a more muted way. Let me take an example that I know well. The first bishop of Tours is supposed to be Saint Gatien, who never existed (cf. neighboring page on Martin of Tours). Historians, except perhaps those close to the Church, recognize this. But the lie of tradition means that Gatian is still the first bishop of Tours, even on the page Wikipedia, which acknowledges that there are "doubts and questions" but minimizes them and ignores them. The same is true of the first bishop of Paris, the one who, beheaded, walked for six kilometers with his head under his arm (see page Wikipedia of Denis of Paris). Abelard, when he was a monk at Saint Denis, looked into this phenomenon using doubt and reason. And it made sparks fly! Here is what Patrick Demouy says in the 2001 catalog "Très sage Héloïse" :

      When Abelard denounced the fake news of Saint Denis...

      Abelard [...] was relegated for a time to Saint-Médard de Soissons and then allowed to return to Saint-Denis. He returned to the abbey after this first experience in the Champagne region, and once again made himself obnoxious to his confreres by simply attacking their patron saint. There was reason to do so, and modern historians have long since criticized this web of legends that lumped together three different characters: Denis the Areopagite, converted in Athenes by Saint Paul, Denis, the first bishop of Paris, martyred around 250 and the pseudo-Denis, author around 600 of the Treatise on the Celestial Hierarchy which, among other things, inspired Suger to rebuild his abbey church. Abelard did not go so far in the historical analysis but, whereas the abbot Hilduin in his Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Denis had written, in the ninth century, that Denis the Areopagite had been bishop of Athens before becoming bishop of Paris, he contrasted him with a text of Bede affirming that Denis had been bishop of Corinth. This was a challenge to the traditional identification. At the time, it was enough to provoke a scandal in a community jealous of the merits of its patron saint and the virtues of his relics. Accused by the abbot of having damaged the glory of the abbey and consequently the prestige of the crown, called a "scourge of the monastery" and threatened with a trial before the king, Abelard sought his salvation in flight and went to take refuge in Provins with Count Thibaut II.
      [Denis is easily recognized here at Notre-Dame de Paris (link). The halo remains in place...]

      Abelard did not think he was being "obnoxious" by doing this, he was proceeding with his intellectual rigor, relying on doubt and reason, which he theorized in "Sic et Non". Here's how Damien Theillier discusses it, in 2006, on this page, also dealing with the "Querelle des Universaux", which, in my opinion, is of lesser interest but still worthy of attention.

      Abelard, the Christian Aristotle of the 12th century

      [...] Less known, however, is the philosophical and theological genius of Abelard.
      1. The quarrel of universals
        The question of the naming of things (that is, the question of language, in modern terms) is a central philosophical question for Abelard. It was moreover at the heart of a great controversy throughout the Middle Ages, until William of Occam: the quarrel of universals, a problem directly inherited from Plato. Is the universal a word or a concrete reality? Neither, according to Abelard, faithful in this to his master Aristotle. The universal is only a concept of the human mind formed by abstraction from a concrete reality. Abelard illustrates this question with an example become famous in our time since the novel of Umberto Eco "The name of the rose". [...]
      2. The "Sic et Non"
        The Sic et Non, (the Yes and the No), is a work by Abelard found by Victor Cousin in the library of Avranches (in Oeuvres inédites d'Abélard, 1836). This writing is, as its title indicates, only a collection of contradictory authorities concerning the principal points of the dogma. One says this but another says the opposite. What to think? Abelard's answer is surprisingly bold and wise.
        Here is what he says in his prologue:
          "I intend, as I have decided, to gather together the various writings of the holy Fathers as they come to my memory. Certain texts which at first sight appear dissonant will raise questions. They will force novice readers to search for the truth and will lead them to a more acute investigation. In truth, the primary key to wisdom is to ask questions assiduously and frequently. To seize this key must be the ardent wish of students. Aristotle, the most perceptive of philosophers, urges them to do so, and, speaking of the "predicament of relationship," he says this : "It is doubtless difficult to find a solution to these problems if one has not, repeatedly, examined them."
          Doubting each particular point is not useless. Indeed, by doubting we come to seek and by seeking we perceive the truth. This is also what the Truth itself says: Seek, it says, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. Doesn't Jesus himself give us his own example to instruct us? When he was about twelve years old, he wanted to be found sitting among the teachers and questioning them. He wanted to show himself as a disciple who questions rather than a teacher who teaches, though he himself was in the full and perfect wisdom of God.
        Abelard appeals to reason and questioning to explain these divergences. It is not to a sceptical doubt that he appeals (as Saint Bernard will unjustly reproach him) but to a methodical doubt, which prefigures Saint Thomas Aquinas as well as Descartes and Pascal. For Abelard never varied on one point: faith precedes reason but does not exclude it, on the contrary, it calls for it.

      1. Doubt and the search for truth

        In the prologue to "Sic et non", Peter Abelard wrote  "Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus ; inquirendo veritatem percipimus", i.e.  "By doubting we come to search, by searching we perceive the truth" or in shorter  "Doubt leads to examination, and examination to truth". Is this not what guided all the preliminary research for this dossier ?

        I wrote the above sentence in May 2015. In October 2022, when I took over this file, I was simultaneously working on the Brigitte Macron file on the neighboring page (she is another cousin, by marriage). Finding Abelard's maxim, without yet remembering the phrase, I thus highlighted Abelard's thought as an introductory complement, to emphasize how damaging the lack of doubt of a large part of the population had been in the Macronian Covid crisis of 2020/2022 :

        I don't like that word "conspiracy", I prefer "resistance", but since those I might call "collabos" refer to us as such :
        History is full of conspiracies. There are still some and there always will be. They hide behind lies erected as truths. I have known two huge lies of this kind, both originating from the United States : the "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq", in 2003, and "the only solution to COVID is vaxxination for all" with its French slogan "Tous vaccinés, tous protégés". In the first case, France had been dignified in denouncing the lie. In the second case, Macronian France has been fully complicit in a crime against humanity. And the French provaxx have their share of responsibility: those who wanted everyone to be vaxxed, and those who used the QR Code in places they could have boycotted, to denounce the discriminations. Also those who forced others, even children, to wear a mask...

        Here is the thought of a 12th century "conspiracist":"Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus", i.e., "In doubting we come to inquire; in seeking we perceive the truth" (Peter Abelard, Appendix B 16).

        At the end of this neighboring Page Appendix, I wrote, in early October 2022: "The very elaboration of this dossier is in full conformity with Abelard's formula  "By doubting, we come to research, and by seeking, we perceive the truth"". Forgetting therefore that I had worked according to the same principle seven years earlier with the Abelard file... That is to say how much his thought remains current ! In our time where all the big media are merging into a unique and globalist thought to manipulate the populations, it is more necessary than ever to adopt the "I doubt therefore I am", "Dubito ergo sum", a shortcut, certainly reductive (research is essential...), of his thought. Besides, doesn't truly thinking imply doubting?

        If Abelard did not utter "Dubito ergo sum" ("I doubt therefore I am"), but is not far off,
        René Descartes (1596-1650) became famous with his "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think therefore I am"). (link)

        While, speaking of Abelard, Damien Theillier dubbed him "The Christian Aristotle of the twelfth century", I notice that in my Macron / Trogneux / Covid file, I have an Appendix C 10 titled "Socrates, Plato, and Proctor vs. the Covid Sophists'. And I wonder about the Greek roots from which Abelard drew inspiration : who was he closer to, Aristotle, Socrates or Plato ? In my opinion, Plato, who with his allegory of the cave teaches us to doubt what we see and what can manipulate us...

      2. Abelard between Berenger of Tours and Rene Descartes

        The intellectual debates around Abelard are just a few of the bubbling aspects of this early twelfth century, a peculiar era called "Medieval Renaissance" or "Twelfth Century Renaissance." A double agricultural and urban development accompanies a renewal of the cultural world that meets many brakes. Pierre Abélard, Bernard de Clairvaux, Pierre le vénérable, Thibaut de Champagne are prominent figures.

        Another of my studies, on Martin of Tours (316 - 397) (page nearby, chapter 31), introduced me to Berenger of Tours (998-1088). Did this theologian, condemned by several councils, influence Abelard ? His opponents considered him as "a cleric imbued with the rational evidence given by dialectics".

        Berenger of Tours, by Hendrik Hondius 1602 (link), Peter Abelard by Gail Campbell 2019 (link),
        Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1528 (link) and René Descartes after Frans Hals circa 1649 (link).

        René Descartes
        (1596-1650). From Abelard, I remember first that he was a Cartesian before Descartes. If the latter had a lot of trouble expressing his philosophy in the 17th century, imagine what it could have been like five centuries earlier! With in addition a Saint Bernard at his heels... In his 2019 book, Georges Minois titles a chapter "A precursor of Descartes ? From Sic and not to the discourse of the method". He responds by relying on the writings of the philosopher Victor Cousin (1792-1867) for whom Abelard and Descartes have in common "the will to found knowledge on clear and sure foundations" and for whom "Abelard and Descartes are unquestionably the two greatest philosophers that France has produced. [...] Both doubt and seek, they want to understand as much as possible".

        Other than Abelard, who can we place between Berenger of Tours and Descartes? Certainly Martin Luther (1483-1546), for whom we can write "Believing in Reason or the Reasons to Believe" (article). We could also look before Berenger (Anselm of Canterbury ? Abelard differs from him...) and after Descartes, but we'll stop there, for this record...

      3. Was Abelard a wolf and Heloise a sheep?

        The Appendix B 16 on the adjacent page is entitled "Swing Your Pig: Pierre Abélard versus Jean-Michel Trogneux." It is based on the 2018 publication of a article on the "Actuel Moyen âge" website, entitled "Héloïse, #balancetonporc!!", which presents Abélard as "a sexual predator", "a manipulative and abusive lover" and "a violent husband and rapist"... With the conclusion  "How much sexual violence is hidden behind these beautiful myths of yesterday? Tristan drugs Isolde, Yvain kills Laudine's husband, Romeo spies on Juliet in her bedroom. [...] Heloise did not have Twitter to denounce the pig that was Abelard". In this "Appendix B 16", I compare Abelard with another "predator", Jean-Michel Trogneux, the one who turned into Brigitte Macron :

        So let's compare [Abelard and Heloise] with Jean-Michel Trogneux and his love with Emmanuel Macron [unofficial version]. Or even, based on the media "legend" [official version], let's compare with Brigitte Trogneux and Emmanuel Macron. In all three cases, which we will call Abélard, JMT and BM, we have a love affair between a mature teacher and one of his young students. Let's start with the age of the protagonists when they first meet. In the case of JMT, we have seen that the teacher is 47 years old and the pupil 14 years old, in the case of BM, they are 39 years old and 15 years old (often recorded at 17 years old). In the Abelard case, they are 36 and 23 years old, in 1215. [...] Another element of comparison: the confessions and confidences. The accusing article underlines that Abelard describes himself as a sexual predator, a "hungry wolf" who covets a "tender sheep". In the JMT case, everything is denied by a complete omerta. And in the case of BM, it is the 14 year old who seduced his teacher. On the one hand sincerity, on the other hand complete denial and inversion of the aggressor. [...]

        The accusing article points out that Abelard describes himself as a sexual predator, a "hungry wolf" who lusts after a "tender sheep." In fact, Abelard says that it was Heloise's tutor who somehow naively pushed his niece into his assaults [chapter 9]. But it was through his "caressing speeches" that the teacher seduced the student major.
        Let us add that the recent discovery of new letters from the tragic lovers, gathered in the book "Lettres des deux amants" [chapitre 7], makes Sylvain Piron say, in his introduction: "Contrary to what Abelard claims in his autobiographical account, he did not simply seek to seduce a young fille to satisfy his desires, guided by pride and lust. His desire had to take on the garb of eloquence and poetry, and their affair was initially built around a high-flying intellectual and literary exchange. [It is indeed she who, at each stage, relaunches the discussion, always with new demands, intellectual and emotional, to which her lover most often responds only imperfectly". The American historian Contant Mews agrees: "The philosopher probably accentuated his evil intentions in this apologetic account." So it seems that Abelard blackened his own behavior....

        In 2005, a article by Véronique Maurus in "Le Monde", without going so far, concluded : "Why did this exceptional woman impose on herself an entire life of rigor for the love of a man who was not worth it ?". Simply because, despite all his faults (and Heloise was not afraid to reproach him with them), Abelard was an exceptional man, the greatest thinker of his century, as some believe.

      4. Abelard, Heloise and Sadomasochism.

        On the sado-masochistic theme just sketched, Werner Robl puts it this way (in this article):

        To conclude, it is perhaps permissible to indicate that the story of Abelard's suffering even contains hints of a certain sexual perversion on the part of the philosopher : during his love affair with Heloise, he showed - and perhaps also Heloise - sadomasochistic tendencies. In a corresponding passage of the Historia Calamitatum, there is mention of corporal punishment which was probably intended to increase the desire for love.

        The suspicion is supported by another passage: in one of his letters to Heloise, Abelard clearly describes that he did not hesitate to penetrate the girl ruthlessly at times - by threatening her or using force :"Even when you did not want to and were defending yourself or looking for excuses, it often happened to me, although you were naturally the weakest, to make you docile by threatening or hitting you. So excited and eager was I for you...".

        It is up to the reader to decide if they want to consider this behavior as a simple variant to increase sexual pleasure or as a pathological perversion. Even if it is true that Héloïse never reproached Abélard for these misbehaviors and that she admitted to her sexual fantasies, which even occurred during mass, it is possible that she suffered at times from Abélard's lechery and aggressiveness.

        John Gorman: "Heloise among Abelard's images of her", "Heloise pregnant with Abelard".
        Chalkboard on pulp paper, 45 x 30cm (link). Below "Heloise and Abelard of Paris" (link).

      5. Abelard and the women

        If we can dwell on the couple's lust in their youth and on Héloïse's sexual freedom, who preferred to be Abélard's whore rather than his wife, we can also insist on their love-friendship in middle age. Thérèse Benjelloun Touimi puts it this way in a article entitled "Emergence of a new image of woman and love" :

        Héloïse asks that the nuns can be informed, educated in the same way as the monks; that they can have access to the sacred texts; that they have egalitarian religious rules but not identical to their own, more flexible living conditions. Abelard agrees. And one would be tempted to say that the face of the submissive lover to her lover-husband does not hide but accompanies the light of a quest for knowledge, sharing, justice, free from any hypocrisy. A figure that her husband does not disdain, far from it. [...]
        In the course of the letters which they exchange, the tone of Abélard, initially reserved, becomes softer. He accepts this role of adviser which Heloise asks him to assume insofar as the passion of the past has calmed down and that, although she entered the convent without vocation and always kept alive the memory of her love, she exceeded it while making of it a clarity which guides her in her spiritual life.
        Is it still relevant to seek in their now legendary story the elements of courtly love that run through the century and the literature of the time, even if [...], if Heloise bows to Abelard, if she strives for him to an obedience and fidelity that grows her, if their relationship continues in a friendship that she already advocated in her first letters?
        The image of the woman madly in love is the one that has marked the legend. However a poet guessed its spiritual significance to exalt it. Rainer Maria Rilke felt that women who love totally like Heloise erase their ego without losing their firmness, forget themselves rather than men in their passion, overtaken without the need to repudiate it.

        Abelard and Héloïse at the Conciergerie (see next chapter, Mid-19th century)

        In his 1997 book (page 310), Michael Clanchy underlines a strong evolution of Abélard in his consideration of women :

        By prefacing his decision to "watch over" Heloise and her nuns and "provide for them" with a word from Juvenal, Abelard indicated in what state of mind he intended to care for them. At the same time, he was riding on the antifeminist rhetoric of the schools. In this genre, the writings of Bishop Marbode of Rennes (1096-1123) [cf. part 12 of chapter 4], in whom a misogynist and homosexual was seen, were much admired in Abelard's time. Many clerics shared the antipathy towards women of this satirist, heir to the Roman tradition. [...]

        There is a fact which has received little attention, even though it is explicit in this correspondence: it is Abelard's renunciation of his antifeminism in response to Heloise. Casting off the traditionally condescending and satyrical attitude of the "Histoire de mes malheurs", he champions the religious equality of women in his essay on the origin of nuns. "He could hardly have gone further observed Mary M. Laughlin, in his search for arguments, testimonies, and examples to exalt and celebrate the sex and vocation of nuns." As if to make amends for his disparaging quote from Juvenal, he repeatedly insists on their dignity. he even gives a new inflection to the story of Adam and Eve by arguing that the "creation of woman surpasses that of man in dignity, since she was created within paradise, and he without."

        These words of Abelard are considered "excessive" and "suspicious" by Georges Minois (page 147), who, as we have seen (part 14 chapter 12), reported Abelard's anti-feminism. A dialectician must know how to support a point of view and its opposite... Young Heloise was in love with freedom and it was Abelard who had imprisoned her. In 1839, in the introduction to the book illustrated by Gigoux, M. and Mme Guizot judged Abélard's conduct with severity  "Incapable of supporting that Héloïse remained free when she ceased to belong to him, he demanded that she take the veil in the convent of Argenteuil".

        Two depictions of "The Temptation of St. Benedict," corresponding to Bishop Marbode's vision. The horned devil presents a woman to the haloed monk, who blesses the double diabolical apparition in order to make it disappear. The woman, in this composition, is not considered a person as such, but an object of concupiscence, a symbol of sexual sin. However, she presents her right hand to Benedict in the gesture of joining hands symbolizing marriage. The devil clutching her wrist, there is a kind of devaluation of marriage... On the left, Fleury Abbey, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (link). On the right, Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, Vézelay (link).

      6. Abelard, liberalism, secularism and individualism.
        On the site Contrepoints, Charles Gave wrote a March 2012 article entitled "Help Abelard, they've gone mad!" where he positions Abelard as a defender of liberalism and a precursor of secularism... Here is the beginning of it.

        Abelard's contribution to the development of Western thought was essential: a formidable logician, he brought to light a fundamental distinction that would eventually lead to the separation of church and state. According to Abelard, there was an essential distinction between crime and sin. The crime existed only if it was recognized by the law. Nulla crimen sine lege (no crime that is not recognized by the law) said already the Roman law and it was thus of the competence of the public power to punish it and to prevent it since any crime is destructive of the social order.
        Sin, on the other hand, is a matter of private morality and it is up to God to punish it. Each person must repent of it while trying to correct its effects by his or her subsequent actions. It is therefore up to the State to punish crime, but in no case to sanction sin. In the eyes of the state, an action may be a crime without representing a sin, while a sin in the eyes of the Church may not be a crime at all in the eyes of society.
        This distinction, which is essential to the functioning of any democracy, and which does not exist in the Muslim world for example, is at the direct philosophical origin of Protestantism first, and then of the Enlightenment. Curiously, it is completely antinomic with socialist thought, which constantly tries to reintroduce the notion of a collective morality, logically opposed to the law.

        Michael Canchy, in the conclusion of his "Abelard" 1997 insists, too, on Abelard's individualism, hoping that after the interest of the nineteenth century and the relative disinterest of the twentieth, we will know how to better appreciate the philosopher :

        In fact, friends and enemies alike recognized the singularity of Abelard and Heloise. Neither Peter the Venerable nor St. Bernard regarded Abelard as a second-rate or limited mind. In the eyes of St. Bernard, it was his intelligence and his continuity of thought that made him so dangerous. [The time has come to restore Abelard and Heloise to their former glory among the general public. However one interprets them, their accounts of themselves are documents of unparalleled humanity. Over the next few years, Abelard and Heloise should see their stock rise again.
        [If, as she maintains, Heloise came to Abelard with a well-fed mind but also a well-fed imagination, and if she was already closer to thirty than to twenty, her influence on Abelard may have been considerable, not least because she aroused his emotions as well as his intelligence. [...] Abelard was so intelligent, his genius so diverse, as Peter the Venerable wrote in his epitaph, that he should not allow himself to be stereotyped or to adopt an immutable role throughout his life, as society normally requires. [...]
        Mary M. McLaughlin concludes her study of "Abelard autobiographer" with this observation  "At the heart of his "History of my Misfortunes", both its author and subject, stands the autonomous individual bearer of his inner world, who constantly confronts private decisions and dilemmas, as well as the struggles of his environment, which repeatedly force him to define himself anew, the individual who by choice and action shapes himself." "Know thyself", "Scito te ipsum": this was the title that Abelard gave to his ethics. It was the advice of the Delphic oracle and a fashionable maxim among the intellectuals of Abelard's time because the formula was typically Greek while containing a message for Christians. [...]
        Abelard was "without equal, without superior," wrote Peter the Venerable in his epitaph. He forced the imagination of Peter, of John of Salisbury, of Berenger of Poitiers, of Gui of Castello, and of many others, of whom we have lost track ; but he could tolerate no equal or superior, except Heloise. It is to her that the last word : "I conclude briefly this long letter : Vale, unice", "God, my unique".

  1. Images of Heloise and Abelard through the centuries

    Chronological order may be slightly altered by layout constraints pdf.

    Fourteenth century. Abelard and Heloise in the manuscript of the The Roman de la Rose (Guillaume de Lorris and jean Meung). Condé Museum in Chantilly (links: 1 2). + the page entire (link).

    74 verses are dedicated by Jean de Meung to relate the story of Héloïse and Abélard. He, himself an opponent of marriage, says his admiration for the wonderful word of the one who refused marriage and wanted "Estre ta putain apelée". These verses, in Old French, are featured on this page at

    Pierre Abaalars reconfirms.
    Que suer Heloÿs, abbaesse
    Dou Paraclet, qui fu s'a mie,
    Acorder ne se voloit mie
    For riens that he preïst a fame;
    Ainz li faisoit la jeune dame
    Well heard and well read
    And well lover and well loved


    + other adaptation (Dominique Gobelin Mansour, link).

    15th century. The Roman de la Rose; Master of Boethius, illuminator (1401-1500). BnF, Manuscripts (fr. 1560 fol 58). (link).

    Fourteenth century. Composition of the Holy Writ, or the "Ci nous dit". Peter Abelard proposes a riddle before the council, to force Alain of Lille out of his anonymity. Miniature by an anonymous author, size 18 x 14 cm (link).

    Presumed portrait of Abelard. Oxford manuscript, 14th century (Bodleian library, link).

    Early 16th century, Flemish art, miniature. Heloise is talking about Abelard (spelled "Peter Abaielart") to an interlocutor, next to a group of women. The solid border contains the York motto "God and my right," an ostrich feather with the motto "Ic dene," an insignia of Beaufort crowned with a portcullis, and a red rose of Lancaster supported by a white greyhound and a red dragon; and an illuminated initial "T"(ous) with a fleur-de-lis. Miniature from the book "Art of Love; The Requests of Love; The book says grace entiere on the fact of the government of a prince". Royal Museum Amsterdam (link).

    1742. Charles Antoine Coypel. Pastel. Musée des Augustins in Toulouse (link).

    Between 1767 and 1790. Erik Pauelsen, "Abelard og Eloise" (Denmark, link).

    1779. "Abelard asks for Heloise's hand" (+ copy by the German school, link) and "Abelard presents Hymen
    to Heloise," Angelica Kauffmann, Burghley House Museum (Lincolnshire- UK) (links: 1 2).

    1779. Angelica Kauffman. The Parting of Abelard & Eloisa: The Parting of Abelard & Eloise. London (link). Above, reproduction by engraver Gabriel Scorodoumoff (Scorodomov) (link)

    1779. Angelica Kauffman, Austrian nationality. Heloise receives the veil from Abelard's hands (engraving B. Pernotin, link).

    + Reminder of two other paintings by A. Kauffman seen earlier in this file (here)  :

    + a series of the six captioned color engravings, in English, after A. Kauffamn (link).

    + a page with two of the engravings, link.

    1785. Fan "The accursed lovers, Heloise and Abelard". Wooden frame, ivory net, height 28 cm (link).

    Eighteenth century. Fan. Anonymous. Carnavalet Museum, Paris (link). Below: idem (link).

    Late 18th century (Museum of Old Argenteuil). + other reproduction.

    1795. "Reception of Heloise at the Paraclete by Abelard," by Rémi Delvaux and Louis Pauquet after Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune, printed work: Illustration for "Letters of Heloise and Abelard," volume I, 20.5 x 13.2 cm (link).
    + Other engraving, by Jean Louis Charles Pauquet (link).

    1795. From Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune (links: 1 2) (+ other reproduction, link). Appeared in the 3-volume edition :
    Other engravings after J. M. Moreau le Jeune: above, below, and, before, these :

    + other illustrations (link) : 1 2

    1795. Noël Le Mire after Jean Michel Moreau le Jeune. "Modern History, 11th Century" (link)

    1795. Engraving Robert Lefèvre after Auguste Desnoyers + map (link). On the right and below: unknown origin. (link).

    1803. Print by F. Huot and Noël. From the book "Heloise and Abeilard or The Victims of Love."
    by Joseph Marie Loaisel de Tréogate (link). + photo (link).

    1819. Abelard and Heloise surprised by Fulbert. 120.6 x 101 cm. Cliché Bruce M. White.
    Jean Vigaud. Joslyn art museum, Omaha, Nebraska (links: 1 2)

    1829. Jean-Baptiste Goyet. Private collection. (link).

    1839. "Heloise receiving Abeilard at the Paraclete". Print by Jules Challamel
    after Jean Gigoux, 14.6 x 11 cm. (flickr Internet Archive Book, link)
    + engraving G. Levy (BnF link).

    1831. Gérard Seguin, Heloise Receiving the Body of Abelard (Musée de Cluny, link)

    First half of the 19th century. Building of numbers 49 and 54 of the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in Paris. (link).

    1837. "The Astronomy Lesson." Oil on canvas by Charles Durupt (link).
    Anachronisms abound in the illustrations, especially in the 19th century. The first globe dates from 1492 (link). Still, both Abelard and Heloise were studying astronomy...

    For twelfth-century costumes, one might consult this image or this page.

    1839. Jean Gigoux (1806-1894) (who lived with Countess Hanska, widow of Honoré de Balzac).
    Illustrations from the book "Héloïse et d'Abailard", introduction by M. and Mme Guizot, edited by E. Houdaille, Paris.
    Seduction, escape, the infant and his parents, reconciliation of Abelard and St. Bernard (links: 1 2 3 4).

    1850 or so. Charles Lock Eastlake (1793-1865) (link).

    Origin and date undetermined. (Old Argenteuil Museum link)

    Nineteenth century, the Badin brothers, Paris. Pair of polychrome and gold flasks, height 26 cm (link).

    Mid 19th century. Nicaise de Keyser (1813-1887) and sketch (link). Other sketches: 1 2 3.

    1802. William Sharp, after Thomas Stothard (link). Engraving on a book by Alexander Pope (photos: 1 2 3 ).
    1845 or so. Achille Devéria, Genf Museum (link).

    1842. Print from the imagerie Pellerin.Musée de Bretagne, Rennes (link). + versions with other colors : 1 2 3.

    Between 1840 and 1852. Prints from the BnF, reprinted in color by Dembour and Gangel Imaging (Metz), (Bibl. Metz, lien)

    Mid 19th century. Prints from the BnF taken over in color by an imagery (links: 1 2).

    1847. Diptych Abelard & Heloise, Léon-Marie-Joseph Billardet, Nantes Museum of Arts. Oil on canvas 267.5 x 144.4 cm + other gros-plan (flickr photos Stéphane Mahot, link).

    1849. The new building at 9-11 quai des fleurs, in the Ile de la Cité in Paris, would occupy the site of the
    Fulbert's house, where the two lovers met. (links: 1 2 3 4). + drawing + photos : 1 2 3 4 (link).

    Mid-19th Century. Abelard and Heloise, capital of the central pillar of the guard room of the Conciergerie (photo, Ile de la Cité, Paris) (worldinparis photo, links: 1 2 3). Also below (flickr photo Conyers, link). + other photo. Sculptures made under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) (link).

    1859. Emile-François Chatrousse: Heloise and Abelard, The Seduction. Marble. Vendôme
    (flickr St. Mahot, links : 1 2) (+ image, from 1857, of the preparatory plaster).

    1876. "Eloísa y Abelardo," Juan Landa, Barcelona, flickr A 044092_0605, Seville Library (link).

    1882. Abelard and his student Heloise. Edmund Blair Leighton (link).

    1883. A. Aubry, illustration of the book "The Abbess of Paraclete" by Marc de Montifaud (supplement attached).
    1886. Abelard separating from Heloise. Emile-Antoine Bayard (1837-1891) and Georges Marcel Burgun (link).

    2nd half of the twentieth century. Mosaic by Biagio Barzotti (link).

    The mosaic above, depicting Abelard and Heloise, was inspired by the painting at left, "The Kiss in the Church," showing another couple. The painter Filippo Lippi had been commissioned in 1456 by the monastery of St. Margaret of Prato. To paint the Virgin, he took as his model one of the nuns, Lucrezia Buti, with whom he fell in love. Lippi kidnapped Lucrezia and brought her to Florence, where they had two children. To save him from death, Cosmo de Medici, his main patron and friend, obtained from the pope Pius II their pardon, in 1461. The two paintings opposite are by Gabriele Castagnola 1873 / 1874 (links :: 1 2). Other paintings of the couple Filippo - Lucrezia : 1 (Pietro Aldi) 2 (Paul Delaroche).

    1897 Héloïse - Far from the World
    Sculpture by Henri Allouard.
    Blue-gray marble and white marble
    (Camille Claudel Museum)
    (flickr photo melina65, link).

    While the story of the lovers was famous as early as the 13th century, it became very popular from the end of the 18th century. Numerous artists depict the lovers embracing, or mourning the reading of a letter from the absent one. Here, Allouard proposes an austere interpretation. He depicts the abbess deeply immersed in her reveries, a prayer book in her hand, though it is not clear whether she is turned towards spiritual or more carnal thoughts. For years, this sculpture was displayed outside. Weathering has eroded the marble, causing the veins in the stone to protrude, accentuating the relief of the fabric with its heavy, drooping folds and giving it a moiré look that is as successful as it is unintentional.

    (link) (autre commentaire)

    Another statue of Heloise by Henri Allouard, 1889 (link).

    1897. Abelard receives Heloise at the monastery of the Paraclete (1129)
    Extract from La France illustrée, volume I, by V.-A. Malte-Brun (BnF) (link)

    Late 19th century. Litography by E. Grand. Heloise and Abelard, comic opera in 3 acts by William Busnach
    (lien). + other illustrations: 1 (BnF, link) 2 (link).

    1907. "The Preaching of Abelard," "Abelard is surrounded by his pupils. In the lower part, the city of Nantes remains pensive.", by Edouard Toudouze and Maurice Leloir, 2.5 x 5.5 m (Palais de Justice de Rennes, links : 1 2). + photo indoors + engraving n&b (link).

    In Nantes, Heloise is absent...
    Abelard also taught at Corbeil and Melun...

    Same title, by Edouard Toudouze, horizontal variant, 0.615 x 1.11 m (link).

    Nineteenth century print (link).

    1910. Tavio, 30 x 42 cm, Italy link).

    1900 or so. Henrietta Rae (1859-1928), with actors Ellen Terry and Henry Irving
    as Heloise and Abelard (flickr photo Amber Tree, link).

    1911. Fernand Cormon (1845-1924). Marouflaged canvas. Musée du Petit-Palais, Paris (link).

    1900 or so. Robert Bateman (1842-1922). Oil on canvas 50.8 x 62.2 cm (link).

    Spanish engraving of unknown date and origin (link). At right, date and origin unknown. (link).

    1884 "Story of Abelard and Heloise - The Private Marriage," illustration of a text by Mark Twain (links: 1 2 3).
    1914. Elio Mazzi (link).

    1919. Illustration by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale, from her book
    "Golden book of famous women," London, Hodder and Stoughton (link).

    1926. Harry Morley, "Abelaird and Heloise" (England, link).

    1977. Published in London by "The Folio Society," woodcuts by Raymond Hawthorn (photo, link). + 1. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (link).

    1947. "Peter Abelard" by Helen Waddel, illustrations by Laszlo Matulay (lien). Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.

    Early 20th century. "Héloïse et Abélard", fascicles from éditions Albert Méricant. Text by Raoul Verneuil,
    illustrator undetermined (Dyck?). Interior illustrations from volume 1: 1 2 3. 4. ; from volume 2: 1. 2. 3.

    Early 20th century. Rouff Editions booklet.
    1957. Cover illustration for the 95-page paperback "Heloise and Abelard," by Paul Reboux, published by Brodard and Taupin.

    1963. Salvador Dali, 33 x 26 cm, work with double title, "Beatrice and Dante" and "Heloise and Abelard" (links: 1 2 3 4 5 6)
    1964. Illustration for a book by Alessandro Nastasio on "Pietro Abelardo ed Eloisia". Libreria Marini, Milan (link).

    1968. Pierre Bettencourt, collage on canvas, 104.5 x 69 x 12 cm (link).
    1976. Milena Pribis (link).

    1971. Michael Shenefelt's play, "Heloise." (links: 1 2 3).

    1973. "Héloïse et Abélard" TV movie by Jacques Trébouta in two episodes, starring Ludmila Mikael
    as Heloise and Pierre Vaneck as Abelard (summary) (link) (excerpt 3 min Youtube video).

    1988. "Stealing Heaven", 115-minute English-language film by Clive Donner, directed
    scene by Chris Bryant, shot in Yugoslavia from the novel by Marion Meade. Abelard is played
    by Derek de Lint and Heloise by Kim Thomson (links: 1 2 with 203 images including those below).

    Beyond, Heloise and Abelard on stage and screen (theater, opera, film): in the Appendix and on these pages 1 2.

    1979. Plaque commemorating the ninth centenary of the birth of Peter Abelard,
    ceramic sealed on the keep of Le Pallet. By Paul Dauce (link). original drawing.
    Link to the website of the "Pierre Abélard" association.

    2009. Opposite, Diane Rousseau, dry pastel
    on paper 60×80 cm (link).

    2010. Created by Alain Galoin from a
    thirteenth-century miniature (link).

    2004. Sculptures by Michel Lévy. Médiathèque de Melun (links: 1 2). + photo in Sarrebourg, Moselle (link).

    Other photos (flickr Delphine Cingal): 1 (link) 2 (link) 3 4 (link).

    2011. Statue made by Sylviane and Bilal Hassan-Courgeau, 2.25 m high, 300 kg of bronze.
    (presentation panel) (links: 1 2).

    It is in this commune of Le Pallet (Loire Atlantique), that Pierre Abélard was born and Heloise gave birth to their son Astralabe. Two postcards of Le Pallet, Sainte-Anne chapel, walls of the dungeon, calvary.
    Below, the artists have memorized, on this page of their site,
    the various stages of creating their sculpture, along with the preparation casts.

    XXI century. Heloise and Abelard by Jenny Chi (USA, flickr EIU Art Department link)

    XXI century. Covers of two books published in 2022 and 2021.

    Three works from 2001, from the "Very Wise Heloise" 2001 catalog. "Heloise" by Philippe Tykosinski.
    "A passion," sculpture by Beatrice Tabah. Photo-drawing "Hell'o Louise" by Bertrand Kelle.

    2016. "Ode to Heloise" by Viva Anderson (page from the artist's website)

    2013. "Heloise's Dream" by Omar Hafidi (USA, link).. 2015 Clement (link).

    Drawing by Pat Nicolle (1907-1995) (link). Digital print by Gabriel Cotelle 2019 (link).

    2018. This reliquary chest of Heloise and Abelard enters the collections of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Put together in the 19th century by medievalist and curator Alexandre Lenoir in the midst of the neo-Gothic and historicist movement, this chest contains relics, a bonelet of Abelard, as well as a phalanx and a tooth of Heloise, or a watercolor drawing and copies of the lovers' letters. Photo Cyrille George Jerusalmi / Getty Images, links: 1 2 3). Many details on this page at

  2. The Mausoleum of Heloise and Abelard

    Pierre Abélard died in 1142 at the Prieuré Saint Marcel in Châlon sur Saône.. Two years later, according to his last wishes, his remains were transferred to Le Paraclet where Heloise had erected a tomb for him in an annexed chapel. She organized a real cult there. When she died in 1164, she was buried next to her husband. The neighboring population maintained an annual procession there until 1792 and the Revolution. The convent closed and the ashes were transferred to Nogent sur Seine where the tomb was the object of devotion in romantic circles. Its fame will cause its transfer to Paris...

    "If there is a tomb in the prestigious Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris whose fame and symbolic charge are unparalleled, the monument erected in memory of Peter Abelard and his wife Heloise can more than any other claim that title." So begins an article by Xavier Dectot on the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, whose monumental dimensions make it a mausoleum, in the 2001 catalog "Très sage Héloïse". Of a style that can be described as neogothic, it is the work of Alexandre Lenoir. Born in 1761, having trained as a painter, he became a writer, and in 1793 he opposed the destruction of desecrators and looters and saved some works and relics from being ransacked. In 1795, a French Monuments Museum was created, of which he was appointed administrator.

    Alexandre Lenoir painted by Jacques-Louis David circa 1816 (link). Napoleon I and Josephine visit the Museum
    of French monuments with Alexandre Lenoir (Jean-Baptiste Réville1, 19th century, links: 1 2). + engraving.

    Lenoir did not build the mausoleum ex nihilo, he relied on two existing monuments, the tomb of the two lovers at Paraclet and the empty one (cenotaph) of Abelard at Saint Marcel. They have already been discussed on the chronology of Heloise's life, her remains and those of Abelard (part 1 of chapter 12). Let us begin with the tomb of the Paraclete, again with excerpts from Xavier Dectot's article.

    After his excommunication, Peter Abelard had taken refuge in Cluny, there, with Abbot Peter the Venerable, one of his main supporters against Bernard of Clairvaux. He stayed only a short time in the great abbey. When he fell ill, he left to recover in a small Cluniac priory, Saint-Marcel-les-Chalon, where he died on April 21, 1142. The monks seem to have wanted to preserve the body of this man to whom they had given the last care. Not only was this in accordance with custom, but the modest establishment could only be proud to possess the remains of one of the greatest theologians of the century. In doing so, the prior opposed the will of the abbot, who, at Heloise's request, intended to have the body transferred to the Paraclete.

    The abbot was therefore forced to steal the body at night, in November, before transporting it to the Paraclete. Although less known than certain parts of the life of the theologian, this rocky episode was to play a great role in the constitution of the myth of Heloise and Abelard. The abbess, who survived him by twenty years, died on May 17, 1164. She was buried in the tomb of her husband. Such a promiscuity seemed awkward at the end of the twentieth century, and the bodies were separated in 1497 and placed on either side of the choir of the abbey church, until an abbess, Marie de la Rochefoucauld, reunited them in 1701 in a chapel dedicated to the Trinity, under a sculpture supposed to illustrate the conceptions of the supposed to illustrate the conceptions of the theologian as for this mystery. In the 15th century, the statue was reputed to have been commissioned by Abelard himself. This tradition is undoubtedly the stuff of legend, but it is impossible to confirm or deny it, as the work was destroyed in 1794, after the tomb and the bodies were transferred to Nogent-sur-Seine.

    St Marcel: plaque recalling the first tomb(flickr Laurent Lenotre, link) and images of the cenotaph (links : 1 2) + drawings (link).

    In the foreground, Heloise thanks Peter The Venerable for bringing Abelard's remains to the Paraclete (painting by Gerard Seguin previously seen at Chapter 14 with date 1831). At right, a nun kneels at the tomb of Abélard and Héloïse. This painting by Auguste Lenoir himself, shows the statue before its destruction (Cabinet de dessin du Musée du Louvre, link). + engraving + other illustration.

    In addition to this tomb, there was a cenotaph (tomb without remains), where Abelard died, near Châlon-sur-Saône. Xavier Dectot tells how Alexandre Lenoir repatriated him to Paris.

    Meanwhile, the memory of the death of Peter Abelard at Saint-Marcel-lés-Châlon had been perpetuated. In the 15th century, the time of the "Voyages pittoresques", sort of the first tourist guides, one could admire in the priory a recumbent that an epitaph in painted letters attributed to Peter Abelard. Sold during the Revolution, threatened with destruction at a time when Gothic art was held in the deepest contempt, it was recovered by a doctor from Chalon named Boisset. Although he had no more respect than his contemporaries for the way the tomb was sculpted, he was sensitive to its historical significance. One of the doctor's friends, Guillaume Boichot, a sculptor, pointed out the work to Alexandre Lenoir.

    The latter fit obtained from the Minister of the Interior Lucien Bonaparte the authorization to transfer to Paris the bones of the Paraclete as well as the cenotaph of Saint-Marcel-lés-Chalon. The bodies were deposited in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in 1800. As for the cenotaph, its transfer took longer. Although Alexandre Lenoir had requested its transfer as early as 1800, it did not arrive in Paris until 1802. Work on its installation then began, and it was finally offered to the admiration of visitors, in a set that Alexandre Lenoir had the secret, on February 21, 1807.

    On the left, the cenotaph of Saint Marcel before its transfer to Paris. On the right, the mausoleum in a room of the "Musée des monuments français". Drawing by Alexandre Lenoir with a handwritten note  "Tomb of Heloise and Abelard transported from the garden where it was and placed in 1818 in the last courtyard of the Museum" (Louvre collection, link).

    Early drawings of the mausoleum... On the right engraving by Guyot on a drawing by Alexandre Lenoir (link).
    Next to the recumbent of Abelard in Saint Marcel was the recumbent of Heloise. + complement (link).

    White marble plaque, on the tomb, replica of the black marble one at the Paraclete, June 3, 1701.
    Right, a post-construction model circa 1820, bronze over marble, height 46.5 cm (link).

    As a supplement, one may wish to consult this chart timeline from VAL Magazine in 2003, on "The Journeys of the Tomb." And the following pages : 1 (Museum of French Monuments.) 2 (the successive burials) 3 (from Paraclete to Père-Lachaise) 4 (clever communication operation). 5, Wikipedia page "Funerary monument of Heloise and Abelard", from which several illustrations and this excerpt  come:

    This is a neogothic building open to the exterior, covering a tomb topped by two giants. The mausoleum is fabricated rather than reconstructed. Only the high reliefs on the vertical sides of the tomb and the recumbent of Abelard come from the tomb erected in 1142 at Saint-Marcel Priory. The other pieces were brought back from monuments of various times and places (columns from the abbey of Saint-Denis, the spire of the Grands-Carmes church in Metz, a bas-relief from the abbey of Royaumont, or decorations from the chapel of the Virgin in the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés), and even some facsimiles. None of them come from the Paraclete. The head of Heloise is carved by Pierre-Nicolas Beauvallet, joined to a female body that Lenoir picks from his reserve.

    Once finalized for the most part, the mausoleum was first located in the courtyard of the former convent Petits-Augustins, headquarters of the Museum of French Monuments. The inauguration in 1807 was done with great pomp, with an imposing demonstration of crowd reported by the press and with the visit of the empress Josephine. Dismantled, what is also called the "sepulchral chapel" was transferred to the Père Lachaise cemetery on June 16, 1817 before being officially inaugurated on November 6, 1817. Xavier Dectot concludes his article as follows::

    What Alexandre Lenoir wanted to do is a real-fake 12th century tomb. [...] The tomb of Heloise and Abelard is an essential monument by its nature, mixing originals, forgeries and pastiches, and by what it translates of the mentalities and of the perception of the work of art at the beginning of the XIXth century. In this, Alexandre Lenoir should not be considered as a forger and as an impostor, but rather as a predecessor of Viollet-le-Duc, seeking to return to the monuments he restored an ideal state, supposed to correspond to the will of the first builders, even though this state would never have existed.

    The garden of the Petits-Augustins cloister mentioned by Alexandre Lenoir is this one.
    The mausoleum was there from 1807 to 1817. Drawing by Jean Lubin Vauzelle in 1815. (link Gallica). + drawing.

    O creatures, O romantic peccores who on Sundays cover her coquettish mausoleum with immortals, you are not asked to study theology, Greek, or Hebrew, of which she held school, but try to swell your little hearts and enlarge your short minds to admire her intelligence and in her sacrifice all that immense love. [Gustave Flaubert, link]]

    Top, Anonymous 1842 (Carnavalet Museum, Paris, link). Bottom, Léon Leymonnerye 1869 (Carnavalet Museum, link).

    + a tableau by Lebelle 1835 with other monuments (Carnavalet Museum, Paris, link).

    The mausoleum at its creation, a symbolic place of romanticism

    To the left, engraving by Emile Lasalle 1839 (link). Right, 1820, Henri Courvoiser Voisin (link).

    Left, watercolor drawing 52.5 x 37.5 cm, by anonymous author (Musée du Louvre, link).
    Right, drawing by Christophe Civeton 1829 (link) (another drawing)

    The Eastern Cemetery, opened in 1804, was originally an English-style park with the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, here at upper right, as a walking goal (engraving, link). Having become the Père Lachaise cemetery, the number of its tombs rose from 2,000 in 1815 to 33,000 in 1830, after the transfer of the remains of Abélard and Héloïse, and also those of Molière and La Fontaine. 75,000 today. The area has grown from 17 to 43 hectares. + engraving of the period.

    The mausoleum in 1831 (link) and in 2013 (link), from two viewpoints (+ engraving from 1875, link).

    The tomb of Heloise and Abelard quickly acquired the status of the most famous tomb in France. At the height of the Romantic movement, the neo-Gothic chapel became a place of rendezvous and tender oaths exchanged. Tomb ornament (Akleboy flickr, 2012, link). "Clara at the tomb of Eloisa," John Young (link).

    Map of the mausoleum dated 1832 (BnF, link). Drawing of the recumbents by Jessie Marion King (Scotland, 1875 - 1949) (link)

    Getty photo (link).

    Postcard from about 1900 (Fernand Fleury collection, link).Abelard and Heloise, wearing the mitre
    which was conferred on him in 1147, carved on the aisle at the foot of the recumbents (+ photo flickr Patrick 2005, link).

    Photo from 2014 (flickr Patricia Ortiz, link). Below, flickr photos from 2009 (Philippe, link),
    2007 (Todd, link), 2005 (Patrick, link). In the center the June 3, 1701 inscription.

    Photo, links: 1 2. Below link.

    Photo from 2012, then Abelard and Heloise in insets. Akleboy flickr photos from 2012. (lien) And below (link).

    The major rehabilitation of 2013
    The diagnosis
    From the point of view of its sanitary condition, the building suffers from rainwater infiltration, instability of the superstructures, as well as the presence of numerous corroded metal frames and unsuitable mortars. From an identification of the disorders and the main metal frames, the diagnosis concludes that a complete dismantling-reassembly of the monument is necessary in order to allow the replacement and purging of all the materials that are the cause of some of the observed disorders.
    [link, photos of the work: 1 2 3]

    Ceramic from the Creil factory, Legros d'Anizy, circa 1820 (link) + other plate.

    Photo Pierre-Yves Beaudouin 2012 (link).

  1. Appendix: Bulk Images
    See next page

La même page en français
This file is licensed under a Creative Commons by-sa license.

Alain Beyrand, May 2015 for most of chapters 3, 4, 5, 8,
October to December 2022 for the rest,
review in February 2023.

Back to home - This file in french pdf format (appendix included).