Abelard and Heloise

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Medieval manuscript illustration of Abelard and Heloise.
Medieval manuscript illustration
of Abelard and Heloise.

Peter Abelard was the most famous philosopher of his time. He was a brilliant lecturer. His classroom was packed with students from all over the world who traveled long distances to study with the great teacher. Then Abelard, the cool cerebral philosopher who devoted all his time to studying and teaching the logic of Aristotle, met the beautiful young Heloise and fell madly in love. The story of their love affair became one of the best known stories in all the Middle Ages.


1079 Birth of Abelard in Brittany. (d. 1142)
1100 Birth of Heloise. (d. 1163)
1117 Abelard meets and seduces Heloise while living in house of her Uncle Fulbert a Canon at the Cathedral of Paris.
1118 Heloise becomes pregnant and Abelard carries Heloise to his home in Brittany where she gives birth to their son Astralabe. Heloise and Abelard secretly marry in Paris (Fulbert present). When rumors spread, Heloise denies the marriage. Abelard sends her to Argenteuil convent disguised as nun to either protect her from scandal or to protect himself. Uncle Fulbert's henchmen sneak in to Abelard's house and castrate him. The scandal in Paris is without precedent. It seems that Abelard's university career is ruined. Both Abelard and Heloise decide to enter monastic orders.
1121 Abelard's teachings become more and more controversial. Council of Soissons: he is condemned. His enemy Bernard of Clairvaux is working against him.
1123 Heloise becomes Prioress of her convent. Abelard and friends try to help her and protect her.
1131 Pope Innocent II grants permanent charter to Heloise's house thus protecting her. She is always in danger (enemies).
1132 Abelard's Historia Calamitatum. Friends have copies.
1136 Abelard teaching in Paris; the scandal had not stopped him. He now is back lecturing.
1142 Death of Abelard. Heloise lives on for twenty years as honored head of her monastic institution.
1163 Death of Heloise. Both now buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris.

12th C.

1108 Death of King Philip I of France (Fat Philip). Succeeded by son Louis VI the Fat (like father like son).
1115 Bernard of Clairvaux expanding Cistercian order. Peter Abelard lecturing at cathedral school, Paris. Abelard huge success. Begins life-long duel: Bernard the mystic Abelard the Aristotelian rationalist.
1117 Abelard meets Heloise. They begin their affair.
1118 Heloise pregnant. Birth of son Astralabe. Scandal of the action against Abelard by her Uncle Fulbert's henchmen.
1121 Council of Soissons. Condemns Abelard's teaching.
1122 Birth of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Father is Duke of Aquitaine.
1137 Eleanor of Aquitaine marries King Louis VII of France.
1140 Complete facade of Saint Denis in north Paris. First Gothic building in France.
1142 Death of Abelard. Bernard has outlived his lifelong antagonist.
1144 Dedication of new abbey church of St Denis in Paris. Queen Eleanor & King Louis present.
1145 Birth of Eleanor and Louis' daughter Marie de France. Marie is later a great inspiration for the world of Courtly Love. Her court becomes important center & she is a poet.
1147 Second Crusade. Queen Eleanor goes too.
1151 Death of Abbot Suger. Suger the genius behind success of French government early 12thC.
1152 March: Divorce of Eleanor and Louis VII. May: Eleanor marries young Henry, Duke of Normandy. Soon Henry is King of England.(Henry II)
1153 Death of Bernard of Clairvaux. (b. 1090)
1154 Henry, Duke of Normandy, now becomes also King of England. Beginning of the Angevin (Anjou) Empire, both sides of the English Channel.
1162 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Second most important man in England. Closest friend to King Henry II.
1163 Begin construction of Notre Dame of Paris (the one we now see).
1164 Finish west front of Chartres. One of first Gothic cathedrals. Death of Heloise.
1167 Foundation of Oxford University.
1170 Chretien de Troyes writes Lancelot (Courtly Love romance). Murder of Thomas Becket; crisis for King Henry.
1180 Death of Eleanor's former husband, King Louis VII of France. Louis succeeded by his son Philip II called Philip Augustus.
1182 Birth of Francis of Assisi. (d. 1226)
1187 Moslems conquer Jerusalem. provokes new Crusade by Christian West.
1189 Death of King Henry II of England. Richard the Lionhearted succeeds to the throne. New power for Queen Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine.
1190 Gather Third Crusade at Vezelay, France. Extraordinary gathering of the kings of Europe.
1191 ENGLAND: Citizens of London given the right to elect their own mayor. Increasing independence of London from the crown.
1192 King Richard on Crusade captured in Yugoslavia. Held for ransom by agents of the Holy Roman Emperor.
1194 Eleanor raises ransom. Rides to Rhineland meeting to save son. Dramatic journey across Europe for the grand old Queen. Crowds greet her on way and on return. Extraordinary scene in England: Queen Mother brings home King Richard.
1199 Death of King Richard. King John succeeds (Robin Hood doesn't like). Eleanor once again influential.
1204 Death of Eleanor of Aquitaine: Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France, Queen of England, Queen Mother to two kings of England and four queens.


Sources, Editions, Maps

An excellent outside resource for all things Abelard and Heloise.