abelard, pierre

abelard, pierre defined in 1939 year

abelard, pierre - Abelard, pierre (1079-1142);
abelard, pierre - French scholastic philosopher and theologian. Born at Le Pallet, near Nantes, Brittany, he sacrificed his heritage and health to the pursuit of knowledge, becoming a rival to his former master, the dialectician William of Champeaux. A thinker of subtle and commanding intellect, in 1115 he was appointed lecturer at the cathedral school of Notre Dame, Paris, and from all parts of Europe drew students, including Peter Lombard and Arnold of Brescia.

In the house of Fulbert, a canon of Notre Dame, Abelard was tutor to his host's niece, the accomplished and beautiful Heloise, with whom he fell passionately in love. A son was born, and the two were then privately married in Brittany, with Fulbert's consent. But when Heloi'se, in order not to mar Abelard's career in the Church, fled to the convent of Argenteuil, her uncle, in revenge, caused Abelard to be castrated, in the hope that all chance of preferment would be denied him. Thus maimed and humbled. Abelard, whose scholastic fame had made him many enemies, retired to the abbey of S. Denis, and induced Heloise to take the veil. During the remainder of his life he was continuously pursued with charges of heresy, particularly in reference to his views on the Trinity. Condemned by the synod of Soissons in 1121. he afterwards built a hermitage at Xoirent-sur-Seine. and a chapel dedicated to the Holy Ghost. Here he regained some of his former fame.

Appointed abbot of S. Gildas de Rhuys, Brittany, he founded at Nogent the abbey of The Paraclete. appointing Heloise first abbess. Then were written the famous letters which inspired Pope's Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard. and have served more than anything else to preserve the memory of their writers. Persecuted by Bernard of Clairvaux and others. in 1141 Abelard was condemned for heresy by the council of Sens. It was while on his way to Rome to perform the prescribed penance that when at Cluny he won the friendship of Peter the Venerable, who reconciled him to Bernard and the pope. Broken in health, he died, April 21,1142, at the priory of S. Marcel near Chalon-sur-Saone. He was buried at The Paraclete, as was Heloi'se twenty-two years later. In 1817 the remains of the lovers were interred at Pere-Lachaise, Paris.

Abelard's teaching was an appeal to reason against tradition. His works were written in Latin, and first printed in Paris, 1616. A hymn by Abelard, O quanta qualia! (0 what the joy arid the glory must be !) is in popular use in the Church of England.

Bibliography. Biographies : J. McCabe, 1901; J. G. Sikes, 1932. Letters : ed. C. K. Scott-Moncrieff, 1925. Novels : Heioi'se and Abelard, George Moore, 1921 ; Peter Abelard, Helen Waddell, 1933.

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