Last Updated 25 Mar 2017

Peter Abelard

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Peter Abelard was born in Pallet, France on April 21st 1079. His father was in a military career but Peter followed the academic path studying dialectic. Later in his teens he went to school in Paris called Notre-Dame de Paris, William of Champeaux taught him. After being taught for a while Peter began to question William and argue against him. It was William’s school where Abelard’s application of logic all began. At the young age of only twenty-two he set up his first school in Melun, he later moved his school to Corbeil, which was near Paris, for more direct competition.

Soon after he moved his school his health suffered from over working. After his return he found William lecturing at a monastic retreat outside the city, and there they once again became rivals. Abelard was again victorious, and now stood supreme to William. Abelard later set up a school on the heights of Montagne Sainte-Genevieve which over looked Notre-Dame. From his successes in dialect he next turned to theology and attended some lectures of Anselm at Laon. His triumph was complete; the pupil was able to give lectures, without previous training or special study, which were acknowledged superior to those of the master.

Abelard was now at the height of his fame. He stepped into the chair at Notre-Dame, being also nominated canon, about the year 1115. After this crowds of thousands of students surrounded Abelard. During all this fame he encountered romance. Living with the precincts of Notre-Dame under the care of her uncle, Fulbert, he met a girl named Heloise. Abelard soon fell in love with her. He became a tutor to this girl and he used his power for the purpose of seduction. Soon everyone seemed to know about this romance except for Fulbert and as soon as he found out they were separated.

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They now could only meet in secret. She soon became pregnant and at this time Abelard took her home to Brittney where she gave birth to a baby boy. Abelard proposed a secret marriage so that he did not mar his prospects of advancement in the church. Heloise opposed this idea but eventually gave in to pressure. Fulbert did not keep the secret of marriage and spread the word despite his promise to Abelard to not say anything. Fulbert then became physically and verbally abusive towards.

Abelard removed her secretly from him house and took her to seek refuge in the convent of Argenteuil. Immediately Fulbert, believing that Abelard had taken her away to be rid of her plotted revenge. That night he and some others broke into Abelard’s chamber and castrated him! The priesthood and ecclesiastical office were canonically closed to him. Heloise consummated her work of self-sacrifice and became a nun. This how ever only affected his work temporarily and. After he gradually turned again to studying he reopened his school in the priory of Maisonceile.

His work was effected, but only for the good, Abelard stated in the Historia, that “the hand of the lord had touched me for the express purpose of freeing me from the temptations of the flesh and the distractions of the world so that I could devote myself to learning and there by prove myself a true photosphere not of the world but of god. ” He soon published all of his theological lectures and that was when his advisories discovered his rationalistic interpretation of the Trinitarian dogma.

This upset many people and he was forced to burn the book and he was also held captive in the convent of St. Medard at Soissons. He thought that this would be the worst experience that he would ever have to go through. One of the things that he did enjoy doing at convent was irritating the monks. He soon decided that life in the monastery was unbearable so he was able to go and live in a desert place until it was time for his persecution. He built himself a small cabin and he turned into a hermit. Soon after he moved to the desert students from Paris began to flock to him and he began teaching again.

Fearing prosecution yet another persecution for teaching when he was not to be he found another refuge far off shore of lower Brittney. There among other thing he wrote his famous Historia Calamitatum. The pope lifted his sentence and he spent the remaining eighteen months of his life at Cluny, a sister-house of St. Marcel at Chalon, where he rested during his last sickness. The most important thing to always remember Abelard is his scholastic manner of philosphisizing. Even though he got into trouble with the church and society, still had a great impact on the medieval times and changed many lives.

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