History is replete with bitter triumphs and great tragedies, as well as its fair share of star-crossed lovers. For where would we be without the love that makes us human? Hence, we were inspired to create a series of poems about the passionate yet tragic love story of Abelard and Heloise.
They were brought together by love, and then separated by hate. Peter Abelard was a French philosopher who was established as one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. As a prominent lecturer of philosophy, he got close to Heloise by becoming her tutor and was 18 years the senior of Heloise. Heloise was the niece of Canon Fulbert and was doted on by him. She was a well-educated, beautiful young lady. Abelard, charmed by Heloise’s wit and beauty, conceived a considerable affection for her, and made it his endeavour to gain her heart. The lovers parted with a terrible end…yet continued to remain in love.
From the sources we read, it is said that Abelard and Heloise had a baby, called Astrolabe, out of wedlock during their secret affair. After Canon Fulbert found out about their relationship, they got secretly married. However, due to Canon Fulbert’s anger towards Abelard for starting a relationship with Heloise, he took vengeance on Abelard by having him castrated! Goes to show hell hath no fury like a maiden's uncle scorned…
Here are our humble attempts at blackout poetry below, which depict Abelard and Heloise's complex emotions after being separated by Heloise's uncle, Canon Fulbert. The texts which we have used are the actual letters they wrote to one another.
SIGNIFICANCE & CONCLUSION
Abelard and Heloise were significant because they showed that religion played a significant role in people's lives in the Middle Ages. Religion was one of the main reasons that they separated as Uncle Fulbert objected to their unchaste affair. After their separation, Abelard became a monk in Brittany and Heloise was abbess of the Oratory of the Paraclete, which was founded by Abelard. In their letters, they also reflected a tension between their longing for passionate love and their commitment to religious chastity.
Heloise was also significant as she was a highly educated woman during medieval times, which was uncommon. She was also of an equal intellectual status with Abelard. Furthermore, Heloise criticized marriage in her later letters to Abelard, even comparing it to prostitution, which was bold for a woman in medieval France. She wrote that she preferred free, romantic love over the restraining bonds of marriage.
Lastly, for those who are curious, their child Astrolabe was given to Abelard's sister. He was briefly mentioned in their letters but it is unknown what happened to him eventually.
As for Abelard and Heloise, their remains are supposedly buried together in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Death brings them closer together as they lay side by side, their hearts and bodies united as one as they rest in peace. May their love never cease in their afterlife.
- The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, J. B. Hare, 2006
- Abelard and Heloise: The Love Affair, Esther Lombardi, (n.d.)
- The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse Quotes, Goodreads, (n.d.)
- Abelard and Heloise: A New Musical, (n.d.)
- Marriage and Domestic Partnership (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), Elizabeth Brake, 2012
- Further reading: Lust, revenge and the religious right in 12th century, Priya Jain, 2004