Abelard, Peter

Born: 1079 AD
Died: 1142 AD, at 63 years of age.

Nationality: French
Categories: Clergymen


1079 - He was born in the little village of Pallet, about 10 miles east of Nantes, in Brittany, the eldest son of a noble Breton family.

 

1100 - Abelard went to Paris to study under William of Champeaux at the school of Notre Dame and soon attacked the ultrarealist position of his master with such success that William was forced to modify his teaching.

 

1112 - Abelard became master at Notre Dame but, when deprived of his place, set himself up at a school on Mont-Ste-Geneviève, just outside the city walls. Abelard's fame as a dialectician attracted great numbers of students to Paris. He next turned to theology and attended the 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 was able to meet Heloise, the learned niece of Fulbert, canon of Notre Dame, who had hired Abelard as her tutor. After Heloise bore a son, a secret marriage was held to appease her uncle. Fulbert's ill-treatment of Heloise led Abelard to remove her secretly to the convent at Argenteuil. Fulbert, who thought that Abelard planned to abandon her, had ruffians attack and emasculate him. Abelard sought refuge at Saint-Denis where he became a monk.

 

1120-1121 - He left Saint-Denis to teach. At the instigation of his rivals, the Council of Soissons had his first theological work burned as heretical. After a short imprisonment, he returned to Saint-Denis but fell out with the monks and built a hermitage near Troyes. To house the students who sought him out, he established a monastery, the Paraclete. When Abelard became abbot at Saint-Gildas-en-Rhuys, Brittany, he gave the Paraclete to Heloise, who became an abbess of a convent there.

 

1136 - He soon returned to the site of his early triumphs lecturing on Mount St. Genevieve in 1136 (when he was heard by John of Salisbury), but it was only for a brief time: a last great trial awaited him. As far back as the Paraclete days, his chief enemy had been Bernard of Clairvaux, in whom was incarnated the principle of fervent and unhesitating faith, from which rational inquiry like Abelard's was sheer revolt, and now the uncompromising Bernard was moving to crush the growing evil in the person of the boldest offender.

 

1142 - On his way there to urge his plea in person, Abelard collapsed at the abbey of Cluny, and there he lingered only a few months before the approach of death. Removed by friends, for the relief of his sufferings, to the priory of St. Marcel, near Chalon-sur-Saone, he died. First buried at St. Marcel, his remains were soon carried off secretly to the Paraclete, and given over to the loving care of Heloise, who in time came herself to rest beside them

 

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