Medieval Life, Personages, Celtic Art, Calligraphy and Illuminated Manuscripts
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Category — Medieval Women Mystics

Heloise ca.1100-ca.1163

Heloise and Abelard


Suggested Reference for further study;

Furlong, Monica, Visions and Longings; Medieval Women Mystics, Shambhala Publications, 1996.

Heloise was an exceptional women who was educated beyond virtually all but a select few. She read and wrote in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. This is rare in today’s world and all but unheard of in her day.


Heloise is best known for her love affair with Pierre Abelard. When Heloise was 17, Abelard, a noted if not notorious intellectual of the period, became her tutor. They quickly became lovers. Abelard wrote that after a chaste life he decided to seduce a woman and Heloise was convenient for his purpose. We’ll never know if this is the truth or common male vanity. Whatever the circumstance, the affair became widely known in Paris and Heloise became pregnant. Abelard ferried Heloise to the safety and seclusion of his family in Britanny where she bore a son, Pierre Astrolabe. Abelard offered marriage but Heloise refused. She wished to live with him as long as it pleased both of them to do so. From Furlong,

“She insisted that it filled her with pride to be Abelard’s whore, as she put it–she asked no more of life. “

There was finally a secret marriage and Heloise was imprisoned in a nunnery where she became prioress of Argenteuil. Abelard was attacked and castrated. Afterwords, he became a monk. Basically, Abelard betrayed her in every way possible and castration was a minor punishment for his deceits. Heloise, on the other hand, was a woman of great intellect obsessed with an older man she never truly knew.

Ideas for further reading:

Visions and Longings


The Letters of Heloise and Abelard

Heloise and Abelard: A New Biography

[tags]heloise, abelard, medieval woman, medieval history, 12th century[/tags]

November 5, 2006   Comments Off on Heloise ca.1100-ca.1163