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Abelard and Heloise the Witch

Often described as one of the world’s great love stories, the relationship between Abélard and Héloïse is often celebrated alongside such fabled affairs as Helen and Paris, Dido and Aeneas or Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. However, the Bretons of yesteryear carried a very different remembrance; that of Héloïse as evil witch but does either standing hang true?

A little of the background to this reputation might be helpful for those unfamiliar with the story of one of the greatest logicians of the Middle Ages and his love affair with a strong-willed and, unusually for the time, well-educated young lady.

Around the turn of the 12th century, Peter Abélard, left his comfortable home in Brittany to study rhetoric and dialectic from the leading teachers of the day. After a spell at the cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris, this able young man felt confident enough to establish himself as a teacher, first at Melun and then in Corbeil, near Paris. Abélard seems to have excelled in the art of the debate and soon earned a reputation as a brilliant scholar, having publicly bested his former teachers. Although undoubtedly clever, he does not seem to have been particularly wise, alienating many of his peers with his pride and arrogance while causing controversies that could have been avoided.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

Sometime around 1115, Abélard returned to the cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris as master and soon became aware of Héloïse; a precocious fourteen-year-old girl, well versed in the Classics, who lived within the cathedral precincts under the care of her uncle, a canon of the cathedral chapter of Saint-Étienne. Captivated by her intellect, Abélard resolved to seduce her and used his reputation to convince her uncle that he was the right man to continue the girl’s education but could only devote the necessary time to this endeavour if he lived in their household.

A romantic relationship duly evolved between the celebrated master of argument and his teenage pupil that seems to have become known to Héloïse’s uncle in early 1116. Abélard was cast out of the canon’s home but the couple continued their illicit relationship and Héloïse fell pregnant. With scandal looming, Abélard spirited his lover out of Paris and took her to his family home in Brittany, almost 400km away, and it was here, towards the end of that year, that Héloïse gave birth to their son. Leaving mother and baby under the care of his sister, Abélard returned to Paris to placate his lover’s furious uncle.

Abélard and Héloïse

A wedding was eventually agreed upon; a course of action that neither seemed to really want. Abélard demanded a secret ceremony so as not to endanger any future positions he might aspire to within the Church hierarchy. Héloïse seems to have been against the idea for fear that she was unworthy of Abélard and that marriage would distract him from his destiny; later, she would argue that marriage constituted a form of prostitution. Having left her baby son in Brittany, Héloïse returned to Paris and a very discreet wedding with Abélard.

To maintain the pretence that both parties were still single, Héloïse returned to live in the home of her uncle. However, it seems that he cared more for family honour than discretion and silenced the gossips by declaring that his niece was lawfully married to Abélard; a state of affairs that she publicly denied in order to protect her new husband’s standing. Her relationship with her uncle now destroyed by scandal, Abélard once again spirited her out of Paris and placed her in a convent at Argenteuil.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

Héloïse’s uncle was enraged and likely believed that his niece had been placed in the convent so as not to be an inconvenient embarrassment for her new husband. It was possibly this sense of injustice that led to him arranging for a group of men to bribe their way into Abélard’s home one night and castrate him. Such a barbarous attack on one of the city’s foremost citizens could not be quietly dismissed; Abélard’s valet and one of the perpetrators were punished with castration and blinded but no other assailants could be traced. Despite having denied any involvement in the affair, Héloïse’s uncle was removed from his position at the cathedral and had his assets seized.

The following year, solely out of obedience to Abélard’s bidding, Héloïse took Holy Orders; a commitment Abélard himself made shortly after. Once again, his teaching was in great demand and he continued to pointedly court controversy in some of his theological debates. However, in making a personal attack against one of his former masters, Roscelin de Compiègne, he fired the first salvo in a very public war of words. He was accused of supporting his wife with the fees that he had raised from his pupils; a breach of trust amplified by Roscelin, who rebuked him over his former pupil, saying: “Not sparing the virgin entrusted to you, whom you should have taught as a student … you taught her not to argue but to fornicate.”

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

When the convent in Argenteuil closed in 1129, Abélard subsequently arranged for Héloïse and her sisters to be rehoused at an oratory he had founded in Nogent-sur-Seine some eight years earlier but which had since been abandoned. Here, Héloïse, who became the newly rededicated priory’s Abbess, wrote Problemata Heloissae, a collection of forty-two questions, which she and her sisters raised and Abélard answered. However, it is the exchange of eight letters, written before Problemata, that form the basis of their status as one of the world’s great love stories.

Abélard’s Historia Calamitatum (History of my Misfortunes), ostensibly an autobiographical letter to “a friend”, formed the first part of this, now famous, correspondence. Perhaps something has been lost in the intervening years because I found little in this epistle to merit its august reputation. The letter might have been designed to shock Héloïse into accepting that their love affair was over but Abélard seems so self-absorbed that this seems unlikely. He confesses of his earliest intent to seduce Héloïse and his confidence that his famed eloquence would win her over: “Héloïse, I was convinced, would lend little resistance as she had a good education and wanted to broaden it further”. Abélard also talks of having to coerce her consent by threats and blows and even that: “I sometimes went so far as to hit her, blows given out of love.”

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

The letter is almost totally bereft of love, instead it reads as the eulogy of a man who wishes to be remembered by posterity after the fashion of his own making; a victim who loved logic and reason above all else and suffered because of this. A suffering imposed on him by God on account of his youthful pride and exacerbated by the persecution of his contemporaries; all driven by their envy of his talents. His romantic affair with Héloïse is almost dismissed as a reckless abandonment of the intellectual quest to which he was devoted; a short-lived lustful diversion from his vocation, an abhorrent interruption to his philosophy.

The letters written by Héloïse seem to talk of a completely different relationship. Perhaps in a sideswipe to him addressing his letter to a friend, she struggles to find an appropriate word to describe their relationship; “her lord, or rather her father, her husband, or rather her brother”, before deciding that: “sweeter to me is ever the word friend, or, if you be not ashamed, whore”. She expresses her bewilderment at having been so completely abandoned by Abélard, she talks a great deal of her mad love for him and the personal sacrifice she made by acceding to his demands that she become a nun and embrace a celibate life.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

She seems to have borne him little animosity, reminding him of her “love without measure” and lauding him as her master. Speaking of their earliest days, she tells him: “Who among kings or philosophers could equal you in fame? … What wife, what maiden did not yearn for you?” and “You possessed two talents, among all, capable of immediately seducing the heart of a woman: that of writing verse and of singing”. She seems to continually define herself by her associations with Abélard, regretting that her devotion to him led to their current state and that it was perhaps the “lot of women to bring total ruin on great men”.

In her last letters, Héloïse appears to accept Abélard’s rejection of her but not his constant calls for her to repent past sins and find the love of God, she even appears to tease him by confessing: “The amorous pleasures we tasted together are so sweet to me that I am unable to hate them or even drive them from my memory.  … Even during the solemnities of the Mass, when prayer should be purer still, obscene images assail my soul and occupy it more than the office.” Perhaps it was declarations like this that prompted Abélard to observe in a letter to his son: “There are some who revel in the sins they have committed, so much so that they never really repent. So sweet is the lure of this pleasure, let them suffer no penance. This is what our Héloïse has become used to, to constantly complain, to me, to herself”.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

Although Abélard’s reputation was established across the border in France, his attachment to Brittany ran deep and remained so throughout his life. He was born, around 1078, into minor nobility in the small Breton village of Le Pallet, just a few miles away from the thriving city of Nantes. The family estate would be his sanctuary during some of the most turbulent periods of his life, such as when, around 1105, he returned for a few years to recover his constitution after the stresses of his work had become too much to bear. It was to this place that he took Héloïse to have their baby; a boy they named Astralabe who would stay in Le Pallet until taking Holy Orders in 1145.

Unfortunately, Abélard’s six years spent as Abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys in southern Brittany were not, for him, a happy time: “It was a barbarous land, an unknown language, a brutal and savage population and monks whose behaviour was notoriously rebellious to all checks. … The whole horde of the country was equally lawless, there was no one whose help I could claim. Outside, the lord and his henchmen did not cease to overwhelm me; inside, the brothers perpetually laid traps for me”.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

Somehow, the letters of Abélard and Héloïse survived the ages but it was not until 1616 that some were first published in Latin and it would be another hundred years before their collected letters were translated and printed in 1718. Slowly but steadily, the mythologising began; here were the prototype doomed lovers, the medieval lives that had breathed the passion of Tristan and Iseult or Lancelot and Guinevere. The Romantic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries recast Abélard as a rebellious free thinker, a dangerous bohemian battered by an unmoving Church; a Renaissance man born out of time with Héloïse a model of female emancipation and unjustly overlooked philosopher.

One of the chief recorders of traditional Breton ballads in the 19th century, Théodore de la Villemarqué, collected some twenty variants of a song about Héloïse, or sometimes a nameless witch, that casts the good Abbess in a most sinister light. To me, the best rendition of this old song into English was produced by the Scottish author Lewis Spence in 1917; he gives it a dramatic, poetic flourish that I would not have had the nerve or skill to do. This then is the Ballad of Héloïse and Abélard or Loiza hag Abalard in Breton.

Oh Abélard, my Abélard,
Twelve summers have passed since first we kissed.
There is no love like that of a bard:
Who loves him lives in a golden mist!

No word of French nor Roman tongue,
But only Breton could I speak,
When round my lover’s neck I hung
And heard the harmony of the Greek.


The Mass I chant like any priest,
Can shrive the dying or bury the dead,
But dearer to me to raise the Beast
Or watch the gold in the furnace red.

The wolf, the serpent, the crow, the owl,
The demons of sea, of field, of flood,
I can run or fly in their forms so foul,
They come at my call from wave or wood.

I know a song that can raise the sea,
Can rouse the winds or shudder the earth,
Can darken the heavens terribly,
Can wake portents at a prince’s birth.

The first dark drug that ever we sipped
Was brewed from toad and the eye of crow,
Slain in a mead when the moon had slipped
From heaven to the fetid fogs below.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

I know a well as deep as death,
A gloom where I cull the frondent fern,
Whose seed with that of the golden heath
I mingle when mystic lore I’d learn.

I gathered in dusk nine measures of rye,
Nine measures again, and brewed the twain
In a silver pot, while fitfully
The starlight struggled through the rain.

I sought the serpent’s egg of power
In a dell hid low from the night and day:
It was shown to me in an awful hour
When the children of hell came out to play.

I have three spirits – seeming snakes;
The youngest is six score years young,
The second rose from the nether lakes,
And the third was once Duke Satan’s tongue.

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

The wild bird’s flesh is not their food,
No common umbles are their dole;
I nourish them well with infants’ blood,
Those precious vipers of my soul.

Oh Satan! grant me three years still,
But three short years, my love and I,
To work thy fierce, mysterious will,
Then gladly shall we yield and die.

Héloïse, wicked heart, beware!
Think on the dreadful day of wrath,
Think on thy soul; forbear, forbear!
The way thou takest is that of death!

Thou craven priest, go, get thee hence!
No fear have I of fate so fell.
Go, suck the milk of innocence,
Leave me to quaff the wine of hell!

Brittany - Héloïse - Abélard - love

While Spence’s version is full of dark drama and poetry, there are a few notable phrases from the original that were necessarily omitted for the sake of form and verse. In the original, Héloïse states that: “I was only twelve years of age when I fled my father’s house to follow my dear clerk and be Abélard’s spouse”; a subtle but important difference that better sets the scene for the depravity that follows. The original song also tells us that it was the left eye of the crow that was imbibed with magical power for her witch’s brew, while another variant tells that the fern seeds were collected on the night of Midsummer. In the version above, Héloïse gathers eighteen measures of rye for her brew but the original talks of wreaking sabotage and famine: “From the eighteen armfuls of rye that the Abbot’s monks had sown, they harvested only two handfuls of corn”.

We learn in the original that her three snakes are adders that are hidden in a silver casket where they brood a serpent’s egg that, if hatched, “the damage caused will be dire; for seven miles around, it will spit flames and fire”. These brooding snakes she feeds with the blood of innocents, the first she killed in a churchyard. The baby boy was buried by a crossroads but she took off her shoes and dug him up. The ending to Spence’s version is wonderfully defiant and you can almost hear Héloïse, the great sorceress, screaming into the wind. The original carries an ending that would likely have felt just as powerful to the audiences of old: “Take great care, Héloïse, of your soul, for if this world is yours, the other belongs to God!”


Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

144 thoughts on “Abelard and Heloise the Witch

  1. Interesting tale and I cannot help but admire the amount of work you put into this material…by the way I recently watched a video about the erosion of the cliffs in Brittany which was pretty scary: climate change is causing serious problems everywhere

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I am glad that you thought so! I can see how the story appealed so much to the Romantics but cannot see why it still features in modern anthologies of great loves. 🙄

      Funnily enough, I recently saw a graphic of what Brittany would look like if the sea level rose a few metres – surprisingly much the same along the north coast but not so the south east! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I saw some scary images…but even here sea resorts get systematically destroyed by sea storms that are turning this stretch of Mediterranean coast near Rome into something much like the Atlantic

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you!! Yes, that dramatic collapse was in Seine-Maritime and I believe I saw a similar clip last year when the same type of rock cliffs collapsed into the sea off the English coast opposite! 😯 Scary!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I knew nothing about the fabled Heloise and Abelard. It’s a horror story not a love story despite the romantic letters. A predator, an evil uncle and an innocent girl. It would make for a rather unsettling movie but very well written!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Personally, I agree with you! I had always heard of them feted as this magnificent tale of star-crossed lovers but having read their letters, I just do not see it! 🙄🤔 A middle-aged celebrity grooms a young teen, blinded by his fame and talent. 😔😔

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Some of the earliest “spin doctors” or so it would seem. Beware of anyone who can persuade with but a few well crafted words. An intriguing tale for sure. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful illustrations. The story shows how off track people can get when conflicted between duty, the rules of society and what I think was a very real connection that was unfortunately blended with zealotry. Or perhaps that is because of the language around their communications at the time. Regardless – fascinating and beautifully researched and written Colin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is remarkable isn’t it? The consensus seems to be that the letters stayed in the archives of the convent before being discovered and moved to Paris a few centuries later. At that time, the elegance of Héloïse’s writing caught the eye and their story became attached to the idea of courtly love that writers of the time were back-projecting onto the past! And here we are, almost a thousand years later!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, my dearest Colin, and I am also happy for you and for me that you’ve written it and that this shows how good you’ve been doing in body and mind! Spring is here and in our hearts! My best regards as always and take good care of yourself! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much as well! I wish I had some more free time to talk with you for all sorts of things but translation and proofreading are so timeconsuming plus hospitals and doctors day after day and so many stuff to arrange here in the pension that I barely eat and sleep, you know! My best regards and hope we could meet some day in this life I hope!!:-)

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, even allowing that attitudes were different back then, there were a mass of boundaries that he carefully crossed! I think the fact that his former teacher publicly rebuked him shows us that, even by the standards of the time, Abélard’s behaviour was not ok.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Yes, it seems that it was her intellect that captivated him! (You will read in some places that it was her looks that attracted him but in his letter he is clear that she was no beauty!) Perhaps he was intimidated by that and somehow tried to take ‘ownership’ of it? 🤔

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I can’t find the words to describe my admiration for this wonderful article.
    I spoke in my posts of Abélard and Héloïse, too, but never in such a detailed and in-depth way. Thanks for the masterful storytelling⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for the excellent post and many pictures. it reminded me of this story and the book I have. Your presentation is perfect and additional facts worth knowing,
    Thank you!


    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never heard the story of Abelard and Heloise before. It was interesting to hear about all the scandals and secrets surrounding their relationship. It makes you wonder if either of them were ever happy to begin with, especially based on those letters.

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  9. Grandma had a copy of Helen Waddell’s Peter Abelard. Like most so called great love stories, not in the least romantic. Heloise the sinner, Abelard repentant ( and insufferable ? ) Was her uncle simply naive ?

    Presenting their own version of the Abelard/Heloise story, did our high school teachers mislead us deliberately, or did they know only an airbrushed version ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right, it has long been held up as some great romance and I can’t help but wonder whether that was due to the deep impact of Alexander Pope and his ilk and the romantic paintings of the 19th century? 🤔

      I suppose your teachers might have only read the equivalent of Lamb’s tales of Shakespeare for their background bur perhaps they chose to spin it as an edifying tale of carnal love being trumped by love for the Divine? Hmm🤔🤔

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Hmmm… while I love a love story…

    It almost seems like since she so young, he manipulated her and her family with no intentions of marriage even though they did marry

    And any man who uses his strength and hits a woman is not an actual man – less than 👎

    I think my own things get entangled in this one

    I can not fathom still loving satan after what he put another human being through. I had severe satan

    We do not speak – it is lawyers only – period… I want nothing to do with him – I don’t want him knowing anything of my life. He was horrific

    I do understand the brainwashing, manipulation and fear… not love

    Yeah my things get too entwined in this one

    There is no way I would still profess love to someone who has caused me so much pain – but there is a level of trauma bond

    And the evil you know, seems better than the evil you don’t know.

    I can not see this story clearly because it gets too tangled in my own

    And you hurt a member of my family I would never forgive.

    I feel like there was a trauma bond there ?? And since she was so young he had time to manipulate her thoughts and beliefs or to keep him

    Who else would want in that time period without judgement ?

    So to her maybe it was him – the only lover she knew – or god?

    And in these cases, the men give just enough for you to believe they love you… but do they?

    His concern was his future and his standing … not hers … and what it meant to his life … where she was so devoted

    I dunno like I said … this hits me too oddly with my own experiences

    17 … domestic violence – while I was loyal he was not… his discretions and adultry free’ed me to leave without sin ✌️

    So no way that man has my love or devotion – times have changed / I hope he burns in hell

    I don’t know that I would say this is love story? That is not love story to me?

    Love is when you feel for another, when you love and appreciate the value another brings to your life ❤️ You want the best for them and you want to care for them. They enhance your life … you would never hurt one you love because hearts are intertwined

    Of course my beliefs could be a fairy tale ??? Dunno 🤷‍♀️

    I can’t imagine if I love someone I would ever hurt them or their family.

    At such a young age, that is hard – and in those times with so much judgement or proper

    Something brings them together and let’s her just accept what he wants to give her

    Maybe I see wrong? But this comes too close to the satan I know

    His love for her was only on his terms – do I read this wrong ??

    What am I missing from this? Cause this sounds like manipulation and hurt – not really love ?

    But then is that love for some? Because it was for me for a long time, before I wake up

    It took another woman coming to my door to free me

    Otherwise the beliefs I was taught… made me believe that was ok, and he made me think that was love… would give just enough to keep you in love

    It was only adultery that free me from sin to leave.

    I try to see the love here but I just see manipulation from church and judgement ??? Maybe circumstances and era too?

    I’m probably seeing wrong – you will have to explain to me if I see wrong ??

    And I could because of own experiences ??

    Love is different to me now?

    Love is…

    … patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    But love is kind

    So ??? I don’t know that I find this a love story? Rather a trauma bond??

    But also – different era and different thoughts

    How would she be the witch? Would he not be the devil – saying he loved god but on the back side cheating?

    Yeah I don’t know 🤷‍♀️ my own things cloud my judgement here ??

    I would not consider this love ??

    I would never hurt someone I love … and if they hurt me – there was never love there to start ?

    This one has to be explained to me?? I can not see in terms of love ?? I’ve been blinded and brainwashed before so that clouds my perception here

    I would consider Romeo and Juliette a love story… to want so badly to be together one way or another – yes

    Everyone has different perception of love?

    But is not ok to hurt another … or their family and profess love … not to mention supposably be church going? 😮

    I am Catholic and way too clouded on this one lol

    I see love way differently “now” – but to look in this era with a story like this – it confuses me considered love story rather than manipulation? But then is that love?

    Also what is life if not to question and understand lol ✌️

    I hope you don’t take offense that I question … I love your stories .. but love is something different to me now.

    So I question the love?? Sorry ✌️it’s the experiences I have that cloud my view

    But you do tell amazing stories always ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Personally, I think you are right to be wary of this one! Just because it has this reputation as a great love story does not, I think, means it really deserves it! There is much that is unsettling here – a middle-aged celebrity deliberately sets out to groom a fourteen year old and admits to have used his charms and his fists to ensure her surrender to him. The fact that she still spoke of her love for him so many years later could easily be because it had been ‘programmed’ into her so completely?

      I do get that things were different back then but if his own contemporaries were accusing him of abusing trust and inappropriate behaviour then, I guess attitudes to such were not so different as now.

      So, I’m with you – I see little love here and certainly nothing to merit its reputation as one of the world’s greatest loves! 😔

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This would be a brilliant screenplay. His letter revealed so much about him, as he tried to put her down or paint an unflattering picture.
    I read this one twice. Fascinating story to say the least.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is quite a story isn’t it? Sadly, our newsfeed has been filled with such similar tales over the last few years! 😦 How can so little have changed in almost a thousand years?? I know the saying ‘people are people’ but really? Really? 🙄🙄😔😔

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “He was accused of supporting his wife with the fees that he had raised from his pupils;”

    How else was he supposed to support his wife. I thought that’s what husbands did??? Support their wives with the money they made?

    My goodness. How times have changed.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes but I think the complaint here was that pupils were paying money to the oratory where he taught and that he then passed this on to his unavowed wife who should not have been in a position to receive any funds as she was only then a simple nun. At least I think that was their argument! 😉🤔


      1. What I’m trying to understand is how was it anyone’s business what he did with his money? Teacher don’t teach for free. And what her being a nun had to do with her husband supporting her. Didn’t several nuns and monks back then have husbands and wives?

        I read somewhere that it hasn’t always been the way things are today for monks and nuns.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Although definitely frowned upon, it was still allowable back then for priests to be married but that was finally outlawed during their lives. The notion being that a domestic arrangement was too much a distraction from the devotion needed to God and His work.
        You are right, teachers did not teach for free but they did not do it in expectation of an income – the monies were either for their order or for their establishment. Officially, they were not a slush fund that could be moved around. Same true for individual nuns who had to assign their goods over to the convent; none were officially allowed to have their own source of funds.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. This reminds me of Garcia Marquez’s “Of Love and Demons” which is a similar tale of a priest engaging in a romance with a teenage Colombian girl in the 1700s. Like Heloise, the girl comes off the worse. Perhaps Garcia Marquez modeled his story on Abelard and Heloise.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I of course have heard of the great medieval romance of Abelard and Heloise and how it was said they had a forbidden love condemned by the Church of the day.

    Your excellently researched historical background of the matter certainly shatters that late 18th Century and early 19th Century myth.

    I had no idea that Abelard came from Britanny.

    It’s a pleasure for the Bretons to claim Abelard as a native son since he was one of the great minds of the Middle Ages.

    I had no idea Abelard was such a cad however.

    I remember reading about the disputes between Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard.

    At first I sided with Bernard when reading them but then I thought maybe I’m being a little hard on Abelard.

    But after reading what you wrote here, I don’t think so.

    Abelard treated Heloise very badly.

    Heloise was obviously in love and Abelard was ultimately more concerned with ambition.

    Sad that Heloise was considered a witch.

    Although Lewis Spence’s poem was brilliantly written in terms of poetic style, it seems to me wrong to view Heloise as a witch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is how I was taught the tale too – two besotted lovers driven apart by an uncaring Church! Isn’t it remarkable that a few popular poets such as Alexander Pope can spin a story and it is the spun that then gets remembered? I suppose not as, sadly, that kind of thing still happens even today! 🙄
      As you can see, I did not go into Abélard’s philosophy in any detail at all but, you are right, his battles with Bernard and the heresy charges are fascinating!

      Like you, I have seen nothing to merit Héloïse being cast in the role of a witch and can only assume that her name was used as someone that people may have vaguely heard of? 🤔

      Many thanks for having taken the time to read this and for sharing your thoughts – much appreciated!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! I have to admit that I only recently read their letters, rather than the potted history I had read years ago, and was struck by how little they related to what I have previously thought! 🙄😔


  15. So, basically, Abelard abused his position to satisfy his lust on a young girl. Admits to coercing her with violence then moves her to a nunnery once she’s pregnant and instructs her to let go of their relationship in order for him to preserve his reputation…. I have words for this man, but they definitely aren’t polite!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not really….. interesting how the romantic version you describe paints the picture of Abelard being the repentant victim and Heloise the seductive sorceress….. yet the letters reveal quite the opposite.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly! This is a great example of folk putting an extremely positive, romantic gloss on something and that false narrative being so oft repeated by people who did not read the actual letters that the grubby truth becomes lost. 🙄😔

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I will find the movie and the book. I listen to one scene on YouTube. The actresses made the tale come alive. I want to read her letters my friend. I want to read Salinger letters to his love lost to Charlie Chaplin when he served in WW2. I found some letter written by my Uncle. A Captain who served and died in the Civil war. They are amazing.

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