This may be one of the most famous French love stories but it is also one of the saddest.
Père Lachaise purportedly hosts these two famous lovers, Heloise and Abelard, in a beautiful tomb in the South of the cemetery near the main entrance.
Abelard was a famous French philosopher, theologian, and logician. He began his career wandering throughout France and ended up in Paris at the cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris which he attended for some time. He soon began teaching and became famous, with students coming from all over to learn from him.
During this time, he met the Canon of Notre-Dame, Fulbert (a canon held an ecclesiastical position but also an administrative and executive one as well). Abelard began lodging with Fulbert and his niece Heloise. Heloise was a scholar who could read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. She was well known for her talent in reading and writing. Heloise became a student of Abelard, who taught her about medicine and other traditional subjects of the time.
Abelard became entranced by Heloise and began courting her in secret. They eventually began an affair together. It is believed their affair lasted two years before Fulbert found out and put an end to it. However, they kept seeing each other in secret. During this time, Heloise became pregnant and when Abelard found out he arranged for her to go to his sibling’s house in Brittany.
It was there that she gave birth to their son, Astrolabe. Their son was raised by Abelard’s family in Brittany. While Heloise was in Brittany, Abelard approached Fulbert and offered to fix the situation by marrying Heloise. Fulbert agreed to this however Heloise refused. Her reasoning being that it would ruin his career but in the end she consented and went back to Paris to marry.
The marriage, however, was kept secret with Heloise moving back in with her uncle and Abelard living in his own lodging. But rumors began to spread and Heloise vehemently denied that she was married which angered Fulbert. Abelard, once again, helped Heloise escape to the nuns at Argenteuil, where she had been raised as a child.
Fulbert believed that Abelard simply found a way to get rid of Heloise, not that he was actually helping her and he came up with a plan to punish Abelard. Fulbert had a group of his friend’s break into Abelard’s room and castrate him. After this terrible act, Abelard became a monk at the Abbey of St Denis. Heloise became a nun at Argenteuil.
According to history, they never lived together again and did not speak for 12 years until Heloise learned that Abelard had written a story about them, Historia Calamitatum. They then began writing their famous love letters to one another until Abelard’s death.
It has now become tradition for modern lovers to leave letters at the tomb of Heloise and Abelard. After your tour of Pere Lachaise with Sight Seeker’s Delight you can ask your guide to point you in the direction of these two lovers forever together in Pere Lachaise.