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Title: Historia Calamitatum
Author: Abelard, Peter, 1079-1142
Language: English
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An Autobiography by Peter Abélard

Translated by Henry Adams Bellows

Introduction by Ralph Adams Cram


The "Historia Calamitatum" of Peter Abélard is one of those human
documents, out of the very heart of the Middle Ages, that
illuminates by the glow of its ardour a shadowy period that has
been made even more dusky and incomprehensible by unsympathetic
commentators and the ill-digested matter of "source-books." Like
the "Confessions" of St. Augustine it is an authentic revelation of
personality and, like the latter, it seems to show how unchangeable
is man, how consistent unto himself whether he is of the sixth
century or the twelfth--or indeed of the twentieth century.
"Evolution" may change the flora and fauna of the world, or modify
its physical forms, but man is always the same and the unrolling of
the centuries affects him not at all. If we can assume the vivid
personality, the enormous intellectual power and the clear, keen
mentality of Abélard and his contemporaries and immediate
successors, there is no reason why "The Story of My Misfortunes"
should not have been written within the last decade.

They are large assumptions, for this is not a period in world
history when the informing energy of life expresses itself through
such qualities, whereas the twelfth century was of precisely this
nature. The antecedent hundred years had seen the recovery from the
barbarism that engulfed Western Europe after the fall of Rome, and
the generation of those vital forces that for two centuries were to
infuse society with a vigour almost unexampled in its potency and
in the things it brought to pass. The parabolic curve that
describes the trajectory of Mediaevalism was then emergent out of
"chaos and old night" and Abélard and his opponent, St. Bernard,
rode high on the mounting force in its swift and almost violent

Pierre du Pallet, yclept Abélard, was born in 1079 and died in
1142, and his life precisely covers the period of the birth,
development and perfecting of that Gothic style of architecture
which is one of the great exemplars of the period. Actually, the
Norman development occupied the years from 1050 to 1125 while the
initiating and determining of Gothic consumed only fifteen years,
from Bury, begun in 1125, to Saint-Denis, the work of Abbot Suger,
the friend and partisan of Abélard, in 1140. It was the time of the
Crusades, of the founding and development of schools and
universities, of the invention or recovery of great arts, of the
growth of music, poetry and romance. It was the age of great kings
and knights and leaders of all kinds, but above all it was the
epoch of a new philosophy, refounded on the newly revealed corner
stones of Plato and Aristotle, but with a new content, a new
impulse and a new method inspired by Christianity.

All these things, philosophy, art, personality, character, were the
product of the time, which, in its definiteness and consistency,
stands apart from all other epochs in history. The social system
was that of feudalism, a scheme of reciprocal duties, privileges
and obligations as between man and man that has never been excelled
by any other system that society has developed as its own method of
operation. As Dr. De Wulf has said in his illuminating book
"Philosophy and Civilization in the Middle Ages" (a volume that
should be read by any one who wishes rightly to understand the
spirit and quality of Mediaevalism), "the feudal sentiment _par
excellence_ ... is the sentiment of the value and dignity of the
individual man. The feudal man lived as a free man; he was master
in his own house; he sought his end in himself; he was--and this is
a scholastic expression,--_propter seipsum existens_: all feudal
obligations were founded upon respect for personality and the given

Of course this admirable scheme of society with its guild system of
industry, its absence of usury in any form and its just sense of
comparative values, was shot through and through with religion both
in faith and practice. Catholicism was universally and implicitly
accepted. Monasticism had redeemed Europe from barbarism and Cluny
had freed the Church from the yoke of German imperialism. This
unity and immanence of religion gave a consistency to society
otherwise unobtainable, and poured its vitality into every form of
human thought and action.

It was Catholicism and the spirit of feudalism that preserved men
from the dangers inherent in the immense individualism of the time.
With this powerful and penetrating coördinating force men were safe
to go about as far as they liked in the line of individuality,
whereas today, for example, the unifying force of a common and
vital religion being absent and nothing having been offered to take
its place, the result of a similar tendency is egotism and anarchy.
These things happened in the end in the case of Mediaevalism when
the power and the influence of religion once began to weaken, and
the Renaissance and Reformation dissolved the fabric of a unified
society. Thereafter it became necessary to bring some order out of
the spiritual, intellectual and physical chaos through the
application of arbitrary force, and so came absolutism in
government, the tyranny of the new intellectualism, the Catholic
Inquisition and the Puritan Theocracy.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, however, the balance is
justly preserved, though it was but an unstable equilibrium, and
therefore during the time of Abélard we find the widest diversity
of speculation and freedom of thought which continue unhampered for
more than a hundred years. The mystical school of the Abbey of St.
Victor in Paris follows one line (perhaps the most nearly right of
all though it was submerged by the intellectual force and vivacity
of the Scholastics) with Hugh of St. Victor as its greatest
exponent. The Franciscans and Dominicans each possessed great
schools of philosophy and dogmatic theology, and in addition there
were a dozen individual line of speculation, each vitalized by some
one personality, daring, original, enthusiastic. This prodigious
mental and spiritual activity was largely fostered by the schools,
colleges and universities that had suddenly appeared all over
Europe. Never was such activity along educational lines. Almost
every cathedral had its school, and many of the abbeys as well, as
for example, in France alone, Cluny, Citeaux and Bec, St. Martin of
Tours, Laon, Chartres, Rheims and Paris. To these schools students
poured in from all over the world in numbers mounting to many
thousands for such as Paris for example, and the mutual rivalries
were intense and sometimes disorderly. Groups of students would
choose their own masters and follow them from place to place, even
subjecting them to discipline if in their opinion they did not live
up to the intellectual mark they had set as their standard. As
there was not only one religion and one social system, but one
universal language as well, this gathering from all the four
quarters of Europe was perfectly possible, and had much to do with
the maintenance of that unity which marked society for three centuries.

At the time of Abélard the schools of Chartres and Paris were at
the height of their fame and power. Fulbert, Bernard and Thierry,
all of Chartres, had fixed its fame for a long period, and at Paris
Hugh and Richard of St. Victor and William of Champeaux were names
to conjure with, while Anselm of Laon, Adelard of Bath, Alan of
Lille, John of Salisbury, Peter Lombard, were all from time to time
students or teachers in one of the schools of the Cathedral, the
Abbey of St. Victor or Ste. Geneviève.

Earlier in the Middle Ages the identity of theology and philosophy
had been proclaimed, following the Neo-Platonic and Augustinian
theory, and the latter (cf. Peter Damien and Duns Scotus Eriugena)
was even reduced to a position that made it no more than the
obedient handmaid of theology. In the eleventh century however, St.
Anselm had drawn a clear distinction between faith and reason, and
thereafter theology and philosophy were generally accepted as
individual but allied sciences, both serving as lines of approach
to truth but differing in their method. Truth was one and therefore
there could be no conflict between the conclusions reached after
different fashions. In the twelfth century Peter of Blois led a
certain group called "rigourists" who still looked askance at
philosophy, or rather at the intellectual methods by which it
proceeded, and they were inclined to condemn it as "the devil's
art," but they were on the losing side and John of Salisbury, Alan
of Lille, Gilbert de la Porrée and Hugh of St. Victor prevailed in
their contention that philosophers were "_humanae videlicet
sapientiae amatores_," while theologians were "_divinae scripturae

Cardinal Mercier, himself the greatest contemporary exponent of
Scholastic philosophy, defines philosophy as "the science of the
totality of things." The twelfth century was a time when men were
striving to see phenomena in this sense and established a great
rational synthesis that should yet be in full conformity with the
dogmatic theology of revealed religion. Abélard was one of the most
enthusiastic and daring of these Mediaeval thinkers, and it is not
surprising that he should have found himself at issue not only with
the duller type of theologians but with his philosophical peers
themselves. He was an intellectual force of the first magnitude and
a master of dialectic; he was also an egotist through and through,
and a man of strong passions. He would and did use his logical
faculty and his mastery of dialectic to justify his own desires,
whether these were for carnal satisfaction or the maintenance of an
original intellectual concept. It was precisely this danger that
aroused the fears of the "rigourists" and in the light of
succeeding events in the domain of intellectualism it is impossible
to deny that there was some justification for their gloomy
apprehensions. In St. Thomas Aquinas this intellectualizing process
marked its highest point and beyond there was no margin of safety.
He himself did not overstep the verge of danger, but after him this
limit was overpassed. The perfect balance between mind and spirit
was achieved by Hugh of St. Victor, but afterwards the severance
began and on the one side was the unwholesome hyper-spiritualization
of the Rhenish mystics, on the other the false intellectualism of
Descartes, Kant and the entire modern school of materialistic
philosophy. It was the clear prevision of this inevitable issue
that made of St. Bernard not only an implacable opponent of Abélard
but of the whole system of Scholasticism as well. For a time he was
victorious. Abélard was silenced and the mysticism of the
Victorines triumphed, only to be superseded fifty years later when
the two great orders, Dominican and Franciscan, produced their
triumphant protagonists of intellectualism, Alelander Halesand
Albertus Magnus, and finally the greatest pure intellect of all
time, St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Bernard, St. Francis of Assisi, the
Victorines, maintained that after all, as Henri Bergson was to say,
seven hundred years later, "the mind of man by its very nature is
incapable of apprehending reality," and that therefore faith is
better than reason. Lord Bacon came to the same conclusion when he
wrote "Let men please themselves as they will in admiring and
almost adoring the human kind, this is certain; that, as an uneven
mirrour distorts the rays of objects according to its own figure
and section, so the mind ... cannot be trusted." And Hugh of St.
Victor himself, had written, even in the days of Abélard: "There
was a certain wisdom that seemed such to them that knew not the
true wisdom. The world found it and began to be puffed up, thinking
itself great in this. Confiding in its wisdom it became
presumptuous and boasted it would attain the highest wisdom. And it
made itself a ladder of the face of creation. ... Then those things
which were seen were known and there were other things which were
not known; and through those which were manifest they expected to
reach those that were hidden. And they stumbled and fell into the
falsehoods of their own imagining ... So God made foolish the
wisdom of this world, and He pointed out another wisdom, which
seemed foolishness and was not. For it preached Christ crucified,
in order that truth might be sought in humility. But the world
despised it, wishing to contemplate the works of God, which He had
made a source of wonder, and it did not wish to venerate what He
had set for imitation, neither did it look to its own disease,
seeking medicine in piety; but presuming on a false health, it gave
itself over with vain curiosity to the study of alien things."

These considerations troubled Abélard not at all. He was conscious
of a mind of singular acuteness and a tongue of parts, both of
which would do whatever he willed. Beneath all the tumultuous talk
of Paris, when he first arrived there, lay the great and unsolved
problem of Universals and this he promptly made his own, rushing in
where others feared to tread. William of Champeaux had rested on a
Platonic basis, Abélard assumed that of Aristotle, and the clash
began. It is not a lucid subject, but the best abstract may be
found in Chapter XIV of Henry Adams' "Mont-Saint-Michel and
Chartres" while this and the two succeeding chapters give the most
luminous and vivacious account of the principles at issue in
this most vital of intellectual feuds.

"According to the latest authorities, the doctrine of universals
which convulsed the schools of the twelfth century has never
received an adequate answer. What is a species: what is a genus or
a family or an order? More or less convenient terms of classification,
about which the twelfth century cared very little, while it cared
deeply about the essence of classes! Science has become too complex
to affirm the existence of universal truths, but it strives for
nothing else, and disputes the problem, within its own limits,
almost as earnestly as in the twelfth century, when the whole field
of human and superhuman activity was shut between these barriers
of substance, universals, and particulars. Little has changed except
the vocabulary and the method. The schools knew that their society
hung for life on the demonstration that God, the ultimate universal,
was a reality, out of which all other universal truths or realities
sprang. Truth was a real thing, outside of human experience. The
schools of Paris talked and thought of nothing else. John of Salisbury,
who attended Abélard's lectures about 1136, and became Bishop of
Chartres in 1176, seems to have been more surprised than we need be at
the intensity of the emotion. 'One never gets away from this question,'
he said. 'From whatever point a discussion starts, it is always led
back and attached to that. It is the madness of Rufus about Naevia;
"He thinks of nothing else; talks of nothing else, and if Naevia did
not exist, Rufus would be dumb."'

... "In these scholastic tournaments the two champions started from
opposite points:--one from the ultimate substance, God,--the
universal, the ideal, the type;--the other from the individual,
Socrates, the concrete, the observed fact of experience, the object
of sensual perception. The first champion--William in this instance--
assumed that the universal was a real thing; and for that reason he
was called a realist. His opponent--Abélard--held that the
universal was only nominally real; and on that account he was
called a nominalist. Truth, virtue, humanity, exist as units and
realities, said William. Truth, replied Abélard, is only the sum of
all possible facts that are true, as humanity is the sum of all
actual human beings. The ideal bed is a form, made by God, said
Plato. The ideal bed is a name, imagined by ourselves, said
Aristotle. 'I start from the universe,' said William. 'I start from
the atom,' said Abélard; and, once having started, they necessarily
came into collision at some point between the two."

In this "Story of My Misfortunes" Abélard gives his own account of
the triumphant manner in which he confounded his master, William,
but as Henry Adams says, "We should be more credulous than
twelfth-century monks, if we believed, on Abélard's word in 1135,
that in 1110 he had driven out of the schools the most accomplished
dialectician of the age by an objection so familiar that no other
dialectician was ever silenced by it--whatever may have been the
case with theologians-and so obvious that it could not have troubled
a scholar of fifteen. William stated a selected doctrine as old as
Plato; Abélard interposed an objection as old as Aristotle. Probably
Plato and Aristotle had received the question and answer from
philosophers ten thousand years older than themselves. Certainly
the whole of philosophy has always been involved in this dispute."

So began the battle of the schools with all its more than military
strategy and tactics, and in the end it was a drawn battle, in
spite of its marvels of intellectual heroism and dialectical
sublety. Says Henry Adams again:--

"In every age man has been apt to dream uneasily, rolling from side
to side, beating against imaginary bars, unless, tired out, he has
sunk into indifference or scepticism. Religious minds prefer
scepticism. The true saint is a profound sceptic; a total
disbeliever in human reason, who has more than once joined hands on
this ground with some who were at best sinners. Bernard was a total
disbeliever in Scholasticism; so was Voltaire. Bernard brought the
society of his time to share his scepticism, but could give the
society no other intellectual amusement to relieve its restlessness.
His crusade failed; his ascetic enthusiasm faded; God came no nearer.
If there was in all France, between 1140 and 1200, a more typical
Englishman of the future Church of England type than John of
Salisbury, he has left no trace; and John wrote a description of
his time which makes a picturesque contrast with the picture
painted by Abélard, his old master, of the century at its beginning.
John weighed Abélard and the schools against Bernard and the
cloister, and coolly concluded that the way to truth led rather
through Citeaux, which brought him to Chartres as Bishop in 1176,
and to a mild scepticism in faith. 'I prefer to doubt' he said,
'rather than rashly define what is hidden.' The battle with the
schools had then resulted only in creating three kinds of sceptics:--
the disbelievers in human reason; the passive agnostics; and the
sceptics proper, who would have been atheists had they dared. The
first class was represented by the School of St. Victor; the second
by John of Salisbury himself; the third, by a class of schoolmen
whom he called Cornificii, as though they made a practice of
inventing horns of dilemma on which to fix their opponents; as, for
example, they asked whether a pig which was led to market was led
by the man or the cord. One asks instantly: What cord?--Whether
Grace, for instance, or Free Will?

"Bishop John used the science he had learned in the school only to
reach the conclusion that, if philosophy were a science at all, its
best practical use was to teach charity--love. Even the early,
superficial debates of the schools, in 1100-50, had so exhausted
the subject that the most intelligent men saw how little was to be
gained by pursuing further those lines of thought. The twelfth
century had already reached the point where the seventeenth century
stood when Descartes renewed the attempt to give a solid,
philosophical basis for deism by his celebrated '_Cogito, ergo sum_.'
Although that ultimate fact seemed new to Europe when Descartes
revived it as the starting-point of his demonstration, it was as
old and familiar as St. Augustine to the twelfth century, and as
little conclusive as any other assumption of the Ego or the Non-Ego.
The schools argued, according to their tastes, from unity to
multiplicity, or from multiplicity to unity; but what they wanted
was to connect the two. They tried realism and found that it led to
pantheism. They tried nominalism and found that it ended in
materialism. They attempted a compromise in conceptualism which
begged the whole question. Then they lay down, exhausted. In the
seventeenth century--the same violent struggle broke out again, and
wrung from Pascal the famous outcry of despair in which the French
language rose, perhaps for the last time, to the grand style of the
twelfth century. To the twelfth century it belongs; to the century
of faith and simplicity; not to the mathematical certainties of
Descartes and Leibnitz and Newton, or to the mathematical
abstractions of Spinoza. Descartes had proclaimed his famous
conceptual proof of God: 'I am conscious of myself, and must exist;
I am conscious of God and He must exist.' Pascal wearily replied
that it was not God he doubted, but logic. He was tortured by the
impossibility of rejecting man's reason by reason; unconsciously
sceptical, he forced himself to disbelieve in himself rather than
admit a doubt of God. Man had tried to prove God, and had failed:
'The metaphysical proofs of God are so remote (_éloignées_) from the
reasoning of men, and so contradictory (_impliquées_, far fetched)
that they made little impression; and even if they served to
convince some people, it would only be during the instant that they
see the demonstration; an hour afterwards they fear to have
deceived themselves.'"

Abélard was always, as he has been called, a scholastic adventurer,
a philosophical and theological freelance, and it was after the
Calamity that he followed those courses that resulted finally in
his silencing and his obscure death. It is almost impossible for us
of modern times to understand the violence of partisanship aroused
by his actions and published words that centre apparently around
the placing of the hermitage he had made for himself under the
patronage of the third Person of the Trinity, the Paraclete, the
Spirit of love and compassion and consolation, and the consequent
arguments by which he justified himself. To us it seems that he was
only trying to exalt the power of the Holy Spirit, a pious action
at the least but to the episcopal and monastic conservators of the
faith he seems to have been guilty of trying to rationalize an
unsolvable mystery, to find an intellectual solution forbidden to
man. In some obscure way the question seems to be involved in that
other of the function of the Blessed Virgin as the fount of mercy
and compassion, and at this time when the cult of the Mother of God
had reached its highest point of potency and poignancy anything of
the sort seemed intolerable.

For a time the affairs of Abélard prospered: Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis
was his defender, and he enjoyed the favor of the Pope and the
King. He was made an abbot and his influence spread in every
direction. In 1137 the King died and conditions at Rome changed so
that St. Bernard became almost Pope and King in his own person.
Within a year he proceeded against Abélard; his "Theology" was
condemned at a council of Sens, this judgment was confirmed by the
Pope, and the penalty of silence was imposed on the author--
probably the most severe punishment he could be called upon to
endure. As a matter of fact it was fatal to him. He started
forthwith for Rome but stopped at the Abbey of Cluny in the company
of its Abbot, Peter the Venerable, "the most amiable figure of the
twelfth century," and no very devoted admirer of St. Bernard, to
whom, as a matter of fact, he had once written, "You perform all
the difficult religious duties; you fast, you watch, you suffer;
but you will not endure the easy ones-you do not love." Here he
found two years of peace after his troubled life, dying in the full
communion of the Church on 21 April, 1142.

The problems of philosophy and theology that were so vital in the
Middle Ages interest us no more, even when they are less obscure
than those so rife in the twelfth century, but the problem of human
love is always near and so it is not perhaps surprising that the
abiding interest concerns itself with Abélard's relationship with
Héloïse. So far as he is concerned it is not a very savoury matter.
He deliberately seduced a pupil, a beautiful girl entrusted to him
by her uncle, a simpleminded old canon of the Cathedral of Paris,
under whose roof he ensconced himself by false pretences and with
the full intention of gaining the niece for himself. Abélard seems
to have exercised an irresistible fascination for men and women
alike, and his plot succeeded to admiration. Stricken by a belated
remorse, he finally married Héloïse against her unselfish protests
and partly to legitimatize his unborn child, and shortly after he
was surprised and overpowered by emissaries of Canon Fulbert and
subjected to irreparable mutilation. He tells the story with
perfect frankness and with hardly more than formal expressions of
compunction, and thereafter follows the narrative of their
separation, he to a monastery, she to a convent, and of his care
for her during her conventual life, or at least for that part of it
that had passed before the "History" was written. Through the whole
story it is Héloise who shines brightly as a curiously beautiful
personality, unselfish, self sacrificing, and almost virginal in
her purity in spite of her fault. One has for her only sympathy and
affection whereas it is difficult to feel either for Abélard in
spite of his belated efforts at rectifying his own sin and his
life-long devotion to his solitary wife in her hidden cloister.

The whole story was instantly known, Abélard's assailants were
punished in kind, .and he himself shortly resumed his work of
lecturing on philosophy and, a little later, on theology.
Apparently his reputation did not suffer in the least, nor did
hers; in fact her piety became almost a by-word and his name as a
great teacher increased by leaps and bounds: neither his offence
nor its punishment seemed to bring lasting discredit. This fact,
which seems strange to us, does not imply a lack of moral sense in
the community but rather the prevalence of standards alien to our
own. It is only since the advent of Puritanism that sexual sins
have been placed at the head of the whole category. During the
Middle Ages, as always under Christianity, the most deadly sins
were pride, covetousness, slander and anger. These implied inherent
moral depravity, but "illicit" love was love outside the law of
man, and did not of necessity and always involve moral guilt.
Christ was Himself very gentle and compassionate with the sins of
the flesh but relentless in the case of the greater sins of the
spirit. Puritanism overturned the balance of things, and by
concentrating its condemnation on sexual derelictions became blind
to the greater sins of pride, avarice and anger. We have inherited
the prejudice without acquiring the abstention, but the Middle Ages
had a clearer sense of comparative values and they could forgive,
or even ignore, the sin of Abélard and Héloïse when they could less
easily excuse the sin of spiritual pride or deliberate cruelty.
Moreover, these same Middle Ages believed very earnestly in the
Divine forgiveness of sins for which there had been real repentance
and honest effort at amendment. Abélard and Héloise had been
grievously punished, he himself had made every reparation that was
possible, his penitence was charitably assumed, and therefore it
was not for society to condemn what God would mercifully forgive.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were not an age of moral
laxity; ideals and standards and conduct were immeasurably higher
than they had been for five hundred years, higher than they were to
be in the centuries that followed the crest of Mediaevalism. It was
however a time of enormous vitality, of throbbing energy that was
constantly bursting its bounds, and as well a time of personal
liberty and freedom of action that would seem strange indeed to us
in these days of endless legal restraint and inhibitions mitigated
by revolt. There were few formal laws but there was _Custom_ which
was a sovereign law in itself, and above all there was the moral
law of the Church, establishing its great fundamental principles
but leaving details to the working out of life itself. Behind the
sin of Abélard lay his intolerable spiritual pride, his selfishness
and his egotism, qualities that society at large did not recognize
because of their devotion to his engaging personality and their
admiration for his dazzling intellectual gifts. Their idol had
sinned, he had been savagely punished, he had repented; that was
all there was about it and the question was at an end.

In reading the Historia Calamitatum there is one consideration that
suggests itself that is subject for serious thought. Written as it
was some years after the great tragedy of his life, it was a
portrait that somehow seems out of focus. We know that during his
early years in Paris Abélard was a bold and daring champion in the
lists of dialectic; brilliant, persuasive, masculine to a degree;
yet this self-portrait is of a man timid, suspicious, frightened of
realities, shadows, possibilities. He is in abject terror of
councils, hidden enemies, even of his life. The tone is querulous,
even peevish at times, and always the egotism and the pride
persist, while he seems driven by the whip of desire for
intellectual adventure into places where he shrinks from defending
himself, or is unable to do so. The antithesis is complete and one
is driven to believe that the terrible mutilation to which he had
been subjected had broken down his personality and left him in all
things less than man. His narrative is full of accusations against
all manner of people, but it is not necessary to take all these
literally, for it is evident that his natural egotism, overlaid by
the circumstances of his calamity, produced an almost pathological
condition wherein suspicions became to him realities and terrors
established facts.

It is doubtful if Abélard should be ranked very high in the list of
Mediaeval philosophers. He was more a dialectician than a creative
force, and until the development of the episode with Héloïse he
seems to have cared primarily for the excitement of debate, with
small regard for the value or the subjects under discussion. As an
intellectualist he had much to do with the subsequent abandonment
of Plato in favour of Aristotle that was a mark of pure
scholasticism, while the brilliancy of his dialectical method
became a model for future generations. Afer the Calamity he turned
from philosophy to theology and ethics and here he reveals
qualities of nobility not evident before. Particularly does he
insist upon the fact that it is the subjective intention that
determines the moral value of human actions even if it does not
change their essential character.

The story of this philosophical soldier of fortune is a romance
from beginning to end, a poignant human drama shot through with
passion, adventure, pathos and tragedy. In a sense it is an epitome
of the earlier Middle Ages and through it shines the bright light
of an era of fervid living, of exciting adventure, of phenomenal
intellectual force and of large and comprehensive liberty. As a
single episode of passion it is not particularly distinguished
except for the appealing personality of Héloïse; as a phase in the
development of Christian philosophy it is of only secondary value.
United in one, the two factors achieve a brilliant dramatic unity
that has made the story of Abélard and Héloïse immortal.



Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are
soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words. And
therefore, because I too have known some consolation from speech
had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of
the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the
eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This
I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover
that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small
account, and so shall you come to bear them more easily.



Know, then, that I am come from a certain town which was built on
the way into lesser Brittany, distant some eight miles, as I think,
eastward from the city of Nantes, and in its own tongue called
Palets. Such is the nature of that country, or, it may be, of them
who dwell there--for in truth they are quick in fancy--that my mind
bent itself easily to the study of letters. Yet more, I had a
father who had won some smattering of letters before he had girded
on the soldier's belt. And so it came about that long afterwards
his love thereof was so strong that he saw to it that each son of
his should be taught in letters even earlier than in the management
of arms. Thus indeed did it come to pass. And because I was his
first born, and for that reason the more dear to him, he sought
with double diligence to have me wisely taught. For my part, the
more I went forward in the study of letters, and ever more easily,
the greater became the ardour of my devotion to them, until in
truth I was so enthralled by my passion for learning that, gladly
leaving to my brothers the pomp of glory in arms, the right of
heritage and all the honours that should have been mine as the
eldest born, I fled utterly from the court of Mars that I might win
learning in the bosom of Minerva. And since I found the armory of
logical reasoning more to my liking than the other forms of
philosophy, I exchanged all other weapons for these, and to the
prizes of victory in war I preferred the battle of minds in
disputation. Thenceforth, journeying through many provinces, and
debating as I went, going whithersoever I heard that the study of
my chosen art most flourished, I became such an one as the



I came at length to Paris, where above all in those days the art of
dialectics was most flourishing, and there did I meet William of
Champeaux, my teacher, a man most distinguished in his science both
by his renown and by his true merit. With him I remained for some
time, at first indeed well liked of him; but later I brought him
great grief, because I undertook to refute certain of his opinions,
not infrequently attacking him in disputation, and now and then in
these debates I was adjudged victor. Now this, to those among my
fellow students who were ranked foremost, seemed all the more
insufferable because of my youth and the brief duration of my

Out of this sprang the beginning of my misfortunes, which have
followed me even to the present day; the more widely my fame was
spread abroad, the more bitter was the envy that was kindled
against me. It was given out that I, presuming on my gifts far
beyond the warranty of my youth, was aspiring despite my tender,
years to the leadership of a school; nay, more, that I was making
read the very place in which I would undertake this task, the place
being none other than the castle of Melun, at that time a royal
seat. My teacher himself had some foreknowledge of this, and tried
to remove my school as far as possible from his own. Working in
secret, he sought in every way he could before I left his following
to bring to nought the school I had planned and the place I had
chosen for it. Since, however, in that very place he had many
rivals, and some of them men of influence among the great ones of
the land, relying on their aid I won to the fulfillment of my wish;
the support of many was secured for me by reason of his own
unconcealed envy. From this small inception of my school, my fame
in the art of dialectics began to spread abroad, so that little by
little the renown, not alone of those who had been my fellow
students, but of our very teacher himself, grew dim and was like to
die out altogether. Thus it came about that, still more confident
in myself, I moved my school as soon as I well might to the castle
of Corbeil, which is hard by the city of Paris, for there I knew
there would be given more frequent chance for my assaults in our
battle of disputation.

No long time thereafter I was smitten with a grievous illness,
brought upon me by my immoderate zeal for study. This illness
forced me to turn homeward to my native province, and thus for some
years I was as if cut off from France. And yet, for that very
reason, I was sought out all the more eagerly by those whose hearts
were troubled by the lore of dialectics. But after a few years had
passed, and I was whole again from my sickness, I learned that my
teacher, that same William Archdeacon of Paris, had changed his
former garb and joined an order of the regular clergy. This he had
done, or so men said, in order that he might be deemed more deeply
religious, and so might be elevated to a loftier rank in the
prelacy, a thing which, in truth, very soon came to pass, for he
was made bishop of Châlons. Nevertheless, the garb he had donned by
reason of his conversion did nought to keep him away either from
the city of Paris or from his wonted study of philosophy; and in
the very monastery wherein he had shut himself up for the sake of
religion he straightway set to teaching again after the same
fashion as before.

To him did I return, for I was eager to learn more of rhetoric from
his lips; and in the course of our many arguments on various
matters, I compelled him by most potent reasoning first to alter
his former opinion on the subject of the universals, and finally to
abandon it altogether. Now, the basis of this old concept of his
regarding the reality of universal ideas was that the same quality
formed the essence alike of the abstract whole and of the
individuals which were its parts: in other words, that there could
be no essential differences among these individuals, all being
alike save for such variety as might grow out of the many accidents
of existence. Thereafter, however, he corrected this opinion, no
longer maintaining that the same quality was the essence of all
things, but that, rather, it manifested itself in them through
diverse ways. This problem of universals is ever the most vexed one
among logicians, to such a degree, indeed, that even Porphyry,
writing in his "Isagoge" regarding universals, dared not attempt a
final pronouncement thereon, saying rather: "This is the deepest of
all problems of its kind." Wherefore it followed that when William
had first revised and then finally abandoned altogether his views
on this one subject, his lecturing sank into such a state of
negligent reasoning that it could scarce be called lecturing on the
science of dialectics at all; it was as if all his science had been
bound up in this one question of the nature of universals.

Thus it came about that my teaching won such strength and authority
that even those who before had clung most vehemently to my former
master, and most bitterly attacked my doctrines, now flocked to my
school. The very man who had succeeded to my master's chair in the
Paris school offered me his post, in order that he might put
himself under my tutelage along with all the rest, and this in the
very place where of old his master and mine had reigned. And when,
in so short a time, my master saw me directing the study of
dialectics there, it is not easy to find words to tell with what
envy he was consumed or with what pain he was tormented. He could
not long, in truth, bear the anguish of what he felt to be his
wrongs, and shrewdly he attacked me that he might drive me forth.
And because there was nought in my conduct whereby he could come at
me openly, he tried to steal away the school by launching the
vilest calumnies against him who had yielded his post to me, and by
putting in his place a certain rival of mine. So then I returned to
Melun, and set up my school there as before; and the more openly
his envy pursued me, the greater was the authority it conferred
upon me. Even so held the poet: "Jealousy aims at the peaks; the
winds storm the loftiest summits." (Ovid: "Remedy for Love," I, 369.)

Not long thereafter, when William became aware of the fact that
almost all his students were holding grave doubts as to his
religion, and were whispering earnestly among themselves about his
conversion, deeming that he had by no means abandoned this world,
he withdrew himself and his brotherhood, together with his
students, to a certain estate far distant from the city. Forthwith
I returned from Melun to Paris, hoping for peace from him in the
future. But since, as I have said, he had caused my place to be
occupied by a rival of mine, I pitched the camp, as it were, of my
school outside the city on Mont Ste. Geneviève. Thus I was as one
laying siege to him who had taken possession of my post. No sooner
had my master heard of this than he brazenly returned post haste to
the city, bringing back with him such students as he could, and
reinstating his brotherhood in their for mer monastery, much as if
he would free his soldiery, whom he had deserted, from my blockade.
In truth, though, if it was his purpose to bring them succour, he
did nought but hurt them. Before that time my rival had indeed had
a certain number of students, of one sort and another, chiefly by
reason of his lectures on Priscian, in which he was considered of
great authority. After our master had returned, however, he lost
nearly all of these followers, and thus was compelled to give up
the direction of the school. Not long thereafter, apparently
despairing further of worldly fame, he was converted to the
monastic life.

Following the return of our master to the city, the combats in
disputation which my scholars waged both with him himself and with
his pupils, and the successes which fortune gave to us, and above
all to me, in these wars, you have long since learned of through
your own experience. The boast of Ajax, though I speak it more
temperately, I still am bold enough to make:

      "... if fain you would learn now
       How victory crowned the battle, by him was
         I never vanquished."
               (Ovid, "Metamorphoses," XIII, 89.)

But even were I to be silent, the fact proclaims itself, and its
outcome reveals the truth regarding it.

While these things were happening, it became needful for me again
to repair to my old home, by reason of my dear mother, Lucia, for
after the conversion of my father, Berengarius, to the monastic
life, she so ordered her affairs as to do likewise. When all this
had been completed, I returned to France, above all in order that I
might study theology, since now my oft-mentioned teacher, William,
was active in the episcopate of Châlons. In this held of learning
Anselm of Laon, who was his teacher therein, had for long years
enjoyed the greatest renown.



Sought out, therefore, this same venerable man, whose fame, in
truth, was more the result of long-established custom than of the
potency of his own talent or intellect. If any one came to him
impelled by doubt on any subject, he went away more doubtful still.
He was wonderful, indeed, in the eyes of these who only listened to
him, but those who asked him questions perforce held him as nought.
He had a miraculous flock of words, but they were contemptible in
meaning and quite void of reason. When he kindled a fire, he filled
his house with smoke and illumined it not at all. He was a tree
which seemed noble to those who gazed upon its leaves from afar,
but to those who came nearer and examined it more closely was
revealed its barrenness. When, therefore, I had come to this tree
that I might pluck the fruit thereof, I discovered that it was
indeed the fig tree which Our Lord cursed (Matthew xxi, 19; Mark
xi, 13), or that ancient oak to which Lucan likened Pompey, saying:

    "... he stands, the shade of a name once mighty,
     Like to the towering oak in the midst of the fruitful field."
             (Lucan, "Pharsalia," IV, 135.)

It was not long before I made this discovery, and stretched myself
lazily in the shade of that same tree. I went to his lectures less
and less often, a thing which some among his eminent followers took
sorely to heart, because they interpreted it as a mark of contempt
for so illustrious a teacher. Thenceforth they secretly sought to
influence him against me, and by their vile insinuations made me
hated of him. It chanced, moreover, that one day, after the
exposition of certain texts, we scholars were jesting among
ourselves, and one of them, seeking to draw me out, asked me what I
thought of the lectures on the Books of Scripture. I, who had as
yet studied only the sciences, replied that following such lectures
seemed to me most useful in so far as the salvation of the soul was
concerned, but that it appeared quite extraordinary to me that
educated persons should not be able to understand the sacred books
simply by studying them themselves, together with the glosses
thereon, and without the aid of any teacher. Most of those who were
present mocked at me, and asked whether I myself could do as I had
said, or whether I would dare to undertake it. I answered that if
they wished, I was ready to try it. Forthwith they cried out and
jeered all the more. "Well and good," said they; "we agree to the
test. Pick out and give us an exposition of some doubtful passage
in the Scriptures, so that we can put this boast of yours to the
proof." And they all chose that most obscure prophecy of Ezekiel.

I accepted the challenge, and invited them to attend a lecture on
the very next day. Whereupon they undertook to give me good advice,
saying that I should by no means make undue haste in so important a
matter, but that I ought to devote a much loner space to working
out my exposition and offsetting my inexperience by diligent toil.
To this I replied indignantly that it was my wont to win success,
not by routine, but by ability. I added that I would abandon the
test altogether unless they would agree not to put off their
attendance at my lecture. In truth at this first lecture of mine
only a few were present, for it seemed quite absurd to all of them
that I, hitherto so inexperienced in discussing the Scriptures,
should attempt the thing so hastily. However, this lecture gave
such satisfaction to all those who heard it that they spread its
praises abroad with notable enthusiasm, and thus compelled me to
continue my interpretation of the sacred text. When word of this
was bruited about, those who had stayed away from the first lecture
came eagerly, some to the second and more to the third, and all of
them were eager to write down the glosses which I had begun on the
first day, so as to have them from the very beginning.



Now this venerable man of whom I have spoken was acutely smitten
with envy, and straightway incited, as I have already mentioned, by
the insinuations of sundry persons, began to persecute me for my
lecturing on the Scriptures no less bitterly than my former master,
William, had done for my work in philosophy. At that time there
were in this old man's school two who were considered far to excel
all the others: Alberic of Rheims and Lotulphe the Lombard. The
better opinion these two held of themselves, the more they were
incensed against me. Chiefly at their suggestion, as it afterwards
transpired, yonder venerable coward had the impudence to forbid me
to carry on any further in his school the work of preparing glosses
which I had thus begun. The pretext he alleged was that if by
chance in the course of this work I should write anything
containing blunders--as was likely enough in view of my lack of
training--the thing might be imputed to him. When this came to the
ears of his scholars, they were filled with indignation at so
undisguised a manifestation of spite, the like of which had never
been directed against any one before. The more obvious this rancour
became, the more it redounded to my honour, and his persecution did
nought save to make me more famous.



And so, after a few days, I returned to Paris, and there for
several years I peacefully directed the school which formerly had
been destined for me, nay, even offered to me, but from which I had
been driven out. At the very outset of my work there, I set about
completing the glosses on Ezekiel which I had begun at Laon. These
proved so satisfactory to all who read them that they came to
believe me no less adept in lecturing on theology than I had proved
myself to be in the held of philosophy. Thus my school was notably
increased in size by reason of my lectures on subjects of both
these kinds, and the amount of financial profit as well as glory
which it brought me cannot be concealed from you, for the matter
was widely talked of. But prosperity always puffs up the foolish,
and worldly comfort enervates the soul, rendering it an easy prey
to carnal temptations. Thus I, who by this time had come to regard
myself as the only philosopher remaining in the whole world, and
had ceased to fear any further disturbance of my peace, began to
loosen the rein on my desires, although hitherto I had always lived
in the utmost continence. And the greater progress I made in my
lecturing on philosophy or theology, the more I departed alike from
the practice of the philosophers and the spirit of the divines in
the uncleanness of my life. For it is well known, methinks, that
philosophers, and still more those who have devoted their lives to
arousing the love of sacred study, have been strong above all else
in the beauty of chastity.

Thus did it come to pass that while I was utterly absorbed in pride
and sensuality, divine grace, the cure for both diseases, was
forced upon me, even though I, forsooth, would fain have shunned
it. First was I punished for my sensuality, and then for my pride.
For my sensuality I lost those things whereby I practiced it; for
my pride, engendered in me by my knowledge of letters--and it is
even as the Apostle said: "Knowledge puffeth itself up" (I Cor.
viii, 1)--I knew the humiliation of seeing burned the very book in
which I most gloried. And now it is my desire that you should know
the stories of these two happenings, understanding them more truly
from learning the very facts than from hearing what is spoken of
them, and in the order in which they came about. Because I had ever
held in abhorrence the foulness of prostitutes, because I had
diligently kept myself from all excesses and from association with
the women of noble birth who attended the school, because I knew so
little of the common talk of ordinary people, perverse and subtly
flattering chance gave birth to an occasion for casting me lightly
down from the heights of my own exaltation. Nay, in such case not
even divine goodness could redeem one who, having been so proud,
was brought to such shame, were it not for the blessed gift of



Now there dwelt in that same city of Paris a certain young girl
named Héloïse, the niece of a canon who was called Fulbert. Her
uncle's love for her was equalled only by his desire that she
should have the best education which he could possibly procure for
her. Of no mean beauty, she stood out above all by reason of her
abundant knowledge of letters. Now this virtue is rare among women,
and for that very reason it doubly graced the maiden, and made her
the most worthy of renown in the entire kingdom. It was this young
girl whom I, after carefully considering all those qualities which
are wont to attract lovers, determined to unite with myself in the
bonds of love, and indeed the thing seemed to me very easy to be
done. So distinguished was my name, and I possessed such advantages
of youth and comeliness, that no matter what woman I might favour
with my love, I dreaded rejection of none. Then, too, I believed
that I could win the maiden's consent all the more easily by reason
of her knowledge of letters and her zeal therefor; so, even if we
were parted, we might yet be together in thought with the aid of
written messages. Perchance, too, we might be able to write more
boldly than we could speak, and thus at all times could we live in
joyous intimacy.

Thus, utterly aflame with my passion for this maiden, I sought to
discover means whereby I might have daily and familiar speech with
her, thereby the more easily to win her consent. For this purpose I
persuaded the girl's uncle, with the aid of some of his friends, to
take me into his household--for he dwelt hard by my school--in
return for the payment of a small sum. My pretext for this was that
the care of my own household was a serious handicap to my studies,
and likewise burdened me with an expense far greater than I could
afford. Now, he was a man keen in avarice, and likewise he was most
desirous for his niece that her study of letters should ever go
forward, so, for these two reasons, I easily won his consent to the
fulfillment of my wish, for he was fairly agape for my money, and
at the same time believed that his niece would vastly benefit by my
teaching. More even than this, by his own earnest entreaties he
fell in with my desires beyond anything I had dared to hope,
opening the way for my love; for he entrusted her wholly to my
guidance, begging me to give her instruction whensoever I might be
free from the duties of my school, no matter whether by day or by
night, and to punish her sternly if ever I should find her
negligent of her tasks. In all this the man's simplicity was
nothing short of astounding to me; I should not have been more
smitten with wonder if he had entrusted a tender lamb to the care
of a ravenous wolf. When he had thus given her into my charge, not
alone to be taught but even to be disciplined, what had he done
save to give free scope to my desires, and to offer me every
opportunity, even if I had not sought it, to bend her to my will
with threats and blows if I failed to do so with caresses? There
were, however, two things which particularly served to allay any
foul suspicion: his own love for his niece, and my former
reputation for continence.

Why should I say more: We were united first in the dwelling that
sheltered our love, and then in the hearts that burned with it.
Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of
love, and learning held out to us the secret opportunities that our
passion craved. Our speech was more of love than of the book which
lay open before us; our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words.
Our hands sought less the book than each other's bosoms; love drew
our eyes together far more than the lesson drew them to the pages
of our text. In order that there might be no suspicion, there were,
indeed, sometimes blows, but love gave them, not anger; they were
the marks, not of wrath, but of a tenderness surpassing the most
fragrant balm in sweetness. What followed? No degree in love's
progress was left untried by our passion, and if love itself could
imagine any wonder as yet unknown, we discovered it. And our
inexperience of such delights made us all the more ardent in our
pursuit of them, so that our thirst for one another was still

In measure as this passionate rapture absorbed me more and more, I
devoted ever less time to philosophy and to the work of the school.
Indeed it became loathsome to me to go to the school or to linger
there; the labour, moreover, was very burdensome, since my nights
were vigils of love and my days of study. My lecturing became
utterly careless and lukewarm; I did nothing because of
inspiration, but everything merely as a matter of habit. I had
become nothing more than a reciter of my former discoveries, and
though I still wrote poems, they dealt with love, not with the
secrets of philosophy. Of these songs you yourself well know how
some have become widely known and have been sung in many lands,
chiefly, methinks, by those who delighted in the things of this
world. As for the sorrow, the groans, the lamentations of my
students when they perceived the preoccupation, nay, rather the
chaos, of my mind, it is hard even to imagine them.

A thing so manifest could deceive only a few, no one, methinks,
save him whose shame it chiefly bespoke, the girl's uncle, Fulbert.
The truth was often enough hinted to him, and by many persons, but
he could not believe it, partly, as I have said, by reason of his
boundless love for his niece, and partly because of the well-known
continence of my previous life. Indeed we do not easily suspect
shame in those whom we most cherish, nor can there be the blot of
foul suspicion on devoted love. Of this St. Jerome in his epistle
to Sabinianus (Epist. 48) says: "We are wont to be the last to know
the evils of our own households, and to be ignorant of the sins of
our children and our wives, though our neighbours sing them aloud."
But no matter how slow a matter may be in disclosing itself, it is
sure to come forth at last, nor is it easy to hide from one what is
known to all. So, after the lapse of several months, did it happen
with us. Oh, how great was the uncle's grief when he learned the
truth, and how bitter was the sorrow of the lovers when we were
forced to part! With what shame was I overwhelmed, with what
contrition smitten because of the blow which had fallen on her I
loved, and what a tempest of misery burst over her by reason of my
disgrace! Each grieved most, not for himself, but for the other.
Each sought to allay, not his own sufferings, but those of the one
he loved. The very sundering of our bodies served but to link our
souls closer together; the plentitude of the love which was denied
to us inflamed us more than ever. Once the first wildness of shame
had passed, it left us more shameless than before, and as shame
died within us the cause of it seemed to us ever more desirable.
And so it chanced with us as, in the stories that the poets tell,
it once happened with Mars and Venus when they were caught together.

It was not long after this that Héloïse found that she was
pregnant, and of this she wrote to me in the utmost exultation,
at the same time asking me to consider what had best be done.
Accordingly, on a night when her uncle was absent, we carried out
the plan we had determined on, and I stole her secretly away from
her uncle's house, sending her without delay to my own country. She
remained there with my sister until she gave birth to a son, whom
she named Astrolabe. Meanwhile her uncle, after his return, was
almost mad with grief; only one who had then seen him could rightly
guess the burning agony of his sorrow and the bitterness of his
shame. What steps to take against me, or what snares to set for me,
he did not know. If he should kill me or do me some bodily hurt, he
feared greatly lest his dear-loved niece should be made to suffer
for it among my kinsfolk. He had no power to seize me and imprison
me somewhere against my will, though I make no doubt he would have
done so quickly enough had he been able or dared, for I had taken
measures to guard against any such attempt.

At length, however, in pity for his boundless grief, and bitterly
blaming myself for the suffering which my love had brought upon him
through the baseness of the deception I had practiced, I went to
him to entreat his forgiveness, promising to make any amends that
he himself might decree. I pointed out that what had happened could
not seem incredible to any one who had ever felt the power of love,
or who remembered how, from the very beginning of the human race,
women had cast down even the noblest men to utter ruin. And in
order to make amends even beyond his extremest hope, I offered to
marry her whom I had seduced, provided only the thing could be kept
secret, so that I might suffer no loss of reputation thereby. To
this he gladly assented, pledging his own faith and that of his
kindred, and sealing with kisses the pact which I had sought of
him--and all this that he might the more easily betray me.



Forthwith I repaired to my own country, and brought back thence my
mistress, that I might make her my wife. She, however, most
violently disapproved of this, and for two chief reasons: the
danger thereof, and the disgrace which it would bring upon me. She
swore that her uncle would never be appeased by such satisfaction
as this, as, indeed, afterwards proved only too true. She asked how
she could ever glory in me if she should make me thus inglorious,
and should shame herself along with me. What penalties, she said,
would the world rightly demand of her if she should rob it of so
shining a light! What curses would follow such a loss to the
Church, what tears among the philosophers would result from such a
marriage! How unfitting, how lamentable it would be for me, whom
nature had made for the whole world, to devote myself to one woman
solely, and to subject myself to such humiliation! She vehemently
rejected this marriage, which she felt would be in every way
ignominious and burdensome to me.

Besides dwelling thus on the disgrace to me, she reminded me of the
hardships of married life, to the avoidance of which the Apostle
exhorts us, saying: "Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry,
she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the
flesh: but I spare you" (I Cor. vii, 27). And again: "But I would
have you to be free from cares" (I Cor. vii, 32). But if I would
heed neither the counsel of the Apostle nor the exhortations of the
saints regarding this heavy yoke of matrimony, she bade me at least
consider the advice of the philosophers, and weigh carefully what
had been written on this subject either by them or concerning their
lives. Even the saints themselves have often and earnestly spoken
on this subject for the purpose of warning us. Thus St. Jerome,
in his first book against Jovinianus, makes Theophrastus set forth
in great detail the intolerable annoyances and the endless
disturbances of married life, demonstrating with the most
convincing arguments that no wise man should ever have a wife, and
concluding his reasons for this philosophic exhortation with these
words: "Who among Christians would not be overwhelmed by such
arguments as these advanced by Theophrastus?"

Again, in the same work, St. Jerome tells how Cicero, asked by
Hircius after his divorce of Terentia whether he would marry the
sister of Hircius, replied that he would do no such thing, saying
that he could not devote himself to a wife and to philosophy at the
same time. Cicero does not, indeed, precisely speak of "devoting
himself," but he does add that he did not wish to undertake
anything which might rival his study of philosophy in its demands
upon him.

Then, turning from the consideration of such hindrances to the
study of philosophy, Héloïse bade me observe what were the
conditions of honourable wedlock. What possible concord could there
be between scholars and domestics, between authors and cradles,
between books or tablets and distaffs, between the stylus or the
pen and the spindle? What man, intent on his religious or
philosophical meditations, can possibly endure the whining of
children, the lullabies of the nurse seeking to quiet them, or the
noisy confusion of family life? Who can endure the continual
untidiness of children? The rich, you may reply, can do this,
because they have palaces or houses containing many rooms, and
because their wealth takes no thought of expense and protects them
from daily worries. But to this the answer is that the condition of
philosophers is by no means that of the wealthy, nor can those
whose minds are occupied with riches and worldly cares find time
for religious or philosophical study. For this reason the renowned
philosophers of old utterly despised the world, fleeing from its
perils rather than reluctantly giving them up, and denied
themselves all its delights in order that they might repose in the
embraces of philosophy alone. One of them, and the greatest of all,
Seneca, in his advice to Lucilius, says: "Philosophy is not a thing
to be studied only in hours of leisure; we must give up everything
else to devote ourselves to it, for no amount of time is really
sufficient thereto" (Epist. 73).

It matters little, she pointed out, whether one abandons the study
of philosophy completely or merely interrupts it, for it can never
remain at the point where it was thus interrupted. All other
occupations must be resisted; it is vain to seek to adjust life to
include them, and they must simply be eliminated. This view is
maintained, for example, in the love of God by those among us who
are truly called monastics, and in the love of wisdom by all those
who have stood out among men as sincere philosophers. For in every
race, gentiles or Jews or Christians, there have always been a few
who excelled their fellows in faith or in the purity of their
lives, and who were set apart from the multitude by their
continence or by their abstinence from worldly pleasures.

Among the Jews of old there were the Nazarites, who consecrated
themselves to the Lord, some of them the sons of the prophet Elias
and others the followers of Eliseus, the monks of whom, on the
authority of St. Jerome (Epist. 4 and 13), we read in the Old
Testament. More recently there were the three philosophical sects
which Josephus defines in his Book of Antiquities (xviii, 2),
calling them the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. In our
times, furthermore, there are the monks who imitate either the
communal life of the Apostles or the earlier and solitary life of
John. Among the gentiles there are, as has been said, the
philosophers. Did they not apply the name of wisdom or philosophy
as much to the religion of life as to the pursuit of learning, as
we find from the origin of the word itself, and likewise from the
testimony of the saints?

There is a passage on this subject in the eighth book of St.
Augustine's "City of God," wherein he distinguishes between the
various schools of philosophy. "The Italian school," he says, "had
as its founder Pythagoras of Samos, who, it is said, originated the
very word 'philosophy.' Before his time those who were regarded as
conspicuous for the praiseworthiness of their lives were called
wise men, but he, on being asked of his profession, replied that he
was a philosopher, that is to say a student or a lover of wisdom,
because it seemed to him unduly boastful to call himself a wise
man." In this passage, therefore, when the phrase "conspicuous for
the praiseworthiness of their lives" is used, it is evident that
the wise, in other words the philosophers, were so called less
because of their erudition than by reason of their virtuous lives.
In what sobriety and continence these men lived it is not for me to
prove by illustration, lest I should seem to instruct Minerva

Now, she added, if laymen and gentiles, bound by no profession of
religion, lived after this fashion, what ought you, a cleric and a
canon, to do in order not to prefer base voluptuousness to your
sacred duties, to prevent this Charybdis from sucking you down
headlong, and to save yourself from being plunged shamelessly and
irrevocably into such filth as this? If you care nothing for your
privileges as a cleric, at least uphold your dignity as a
philosopher. If you scorn the reverence due to God, let regard for
your reputation temper your shamelessness. Remember that Socrates
was chained to a wife, and by what a filthy accident he himself
paid for this blot on philosophy, in order that others thereafter
might be made more cautious by his example. Jerome thus mentions
this affair, writing about Socrates in his first book against
Jovinianus: "Once when he was withstanding a storm of reproaches
which Xantippe was hurling at him from an upper story, he was
suddenly drenched with foul slops; wiping his head, he said only,
'I knew there would be a shower after all that thunder.'"

Her final argument was that it would be dangerous for me to take
her back to Paris, and that it would be far sweeter for her to be
called my mistress than to be known as my wife; nay, too, that
this would be more honourable for me as well. In such case, she
said, love alone would hold me to her, and the strength of the
marriage chain would not constrain us. Even if we should by chance
be parted from time to time, the joy of our meetings would be all
the sweeter by reason of its rarity. But when she found that she
could not convince me or dissuade me from my folly by these and
like arguments, and because she could not bear to offend me, with
grievous sighs and tears she made an end of her resistance, saying:
"Then there is no more left but this, that in our doom the sorrow
yet to come shall be no less than the love we two have already
known." Nor in this, as now the whole world knows, did she lack the
spirit of prophecy.

So, after our little son was born, we left him in my sister's care,
and secretly returned to Paris. A few days later, in the early
morning, having kept our nocturnal vigil of prayer unknown to all
in a certain church, we were united there in the benediction of
wedlock, her uncle and a few friends of his and mine being present.
We departed forthwith stealthily and by separate ways, nor
thereafter did we see each other save rarely and in private, thus
striving our utmost to conceal what we had done. But her uncle and
those of his household, seeking solace for their disgrace, began to
divulge the story of our marriage, and thereby to violate the
pledge they had given me on this point. Héloïse, on the contrary,
denounced her own kin and swore that they were speaking the most
absolute lies. Her uncle, aroused to fury thereby, visited her
repeatedly with punishments. No sooner had I learned this than I
sent her to a convent of nuns at Argenteuil, not far from Paris,
where she herself had been brought up and educated as a young girl.
I had them make ready for her all the garments of a nun, suitable
for the life of a convent, excepting only the veil, and these I
bade her put on.

When her uncle and his kinsmen heard of this, they were convinced
that now I had completely played them false and had rid myself
forever of Héloïse by forcing her to become a nun. Violently
incensed, they laid a plot against me, and one night, while I, all
unsuspecting, was asleep in a secret room in my lodgings, they
broke in with the help of one of my servants, whom they had bribed.
There they had vengeance on me with a most cruel and most shameful
punishment, such as astounded the whole world, for they cut off
those parts of my body with which I had done that which was the
cause of their sorrow. This done, straightway they fled, but two of
them were captured, and suffered the loss of their eyes and their
genital organs. One of these two was the aforesaid servant, who,
even while he was still in my service, had been led by his avarice
to betray me.



When morning came the whole city was assembled before my dwelling.
It is difficult, nay, impossible, for words of mine to describe the
amazement which bewildered them, the lamentations they uttered, the
uproar with which they harassed me, or the grief with which they
increased my own suffering. Chiefly the clerics, and above all my
scholars, tortured me with their intolerable lamentations and
outcries, so that I suffered more intensely from their compassion
than from the pain of my wound. In truth I felt the disgrace more
than the hurt to my body, and was more afflicted with shame than
with pain. My incessant thought was of the renown in which I had so
much delighted, now brought low, nay, utterly blotted out, so
swiftly by an evil chance. I saw, too, how justly God had punished
me in that very part of my body whereby I had sinned. I perceived
that there was indeed justice in my betrayal by him whom I had
myself already betrayed; and then I thought how eagerly my rivals
would seize upon this manifestation of justice, how this disgrace
would bring bitter and enduring grief to my kindred and my friends,
and how the tale of this amazing outrage would spread to the very
ends of the earth.

What path lay open to me thereafter? How could I ever again hold up
my head among men, when every finger should be pointed at me in
scorn, every tongue speak my blistering shame, and when I should be
a monstrous spectacle to all eyes? I was overwhelmed by the
remembrance that, according to the dread letter of the law, God
holds eunuchs in such abomination that men thus maimed are
forbidden to enter a church, even as the unclean and filthy; nay,
even beasts in such plight were not acceptable as sacrifices. Thus
in Leviticus (xxii, 24) is it said: "Ye shall not offer unto the
Lord that which hath its stones bruised, or crushed, or broken, or
cut." And in Deuteronomy (xxiii, 1), "He that is wounded in the
stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the
congregation of the Lord."

I must confess that in my misery it was the overwhelming sense of
my disgrace rather than any ardour for conversion to the religious
life that drove me to seek the seclusion of the monastic cloister.
Héloïse had already, at my bidding, taken the veil and entered a
convent. Thus it was that we both put on the sacred garb, I in the
abbey of St. Denis, and she in the convent of Argenteuil, of which
I have already spoken. She, I remember well, when her fond friends
sought vainly to deter her from submitting her fresh youth to the
heavy and almost intolerable yoke of monastic life, sobbing and
weeping replied in the words of Cornelia:

    "... O husband most noble,
    Who ne'er shouldst have shared my couch! Has fortune such power
To smite so lofty a head? Why then was I wedded
Only to bring thee to woe? Receive now my sorrow,
The price I so gladly pay."
                        (Lucan, "Pharsalia," viii, 94.)

With these words on her lips did she go forthwith to the altar, and
lifted therefrom the veil, which had been blessed by the bishop,
and before them all she took the vows of the religious life. For my
part, scarcely had I recovered from my wound when clerics sought me
in great numbers, endlessly beseeching both my abbot and me myself
that now, since I was done with learning for the sake of gain or
renown, I should turn to it for the sole love of God. They bade me
care diligently for the talent which God had committed to my
keeping (Matthew, xxv, 15), since surely He would demand it back
from me with interest. It was their plea that, inasmuch as of old I
had laboured chiefly in behalf of the rich, I should now devote
myself to the teaching of the poor. Therein above all should I
perceive how it was the hand of God that had touched me, when I
should devote my life to the study of letters in freedom from the
snares of the flesh and withdrawn from the tumultuous life of this
world. Thus, in truth, should I become a philosopher less of this
world than of God.

The abbey, however, to which I had betaken myself was utterly
worldly and in its life quite scandalous. The abbot himself was as
far below his fellows in his way of living and in the foulness of
his reputation as he was above them in priestly rank. This
intolerable state of things I often and vehemently denounced,
sometimes in private talk and sometimes publicly, but the only
result was that I made myself detested of them all. They gladly
laid hold of the daily eagerness of my students to hear me as an
excuse whereby they might be rid of me; and finally, at the
insistent urging of the students themselves, and with the hearty
consent of the abbot and the rest of the brotherhood, I departed
thence to a certain hut, there to teach in my wonted way. To this
place such a throng of students flocked that the neighbourhood
could not afford shelter for them, nor the earth sufficient

Here, as befitted my profession, I devoted myself chiefly to
lectures on theology, but I did not wholly abandon the teaching of
the secular arts, to which I was more accustomed, and which was
particularly demanded of me. I used the latter, however, as a hook,
luring my students by the bait of learning to the study of the true
philosophy, even as the Ecclesiastical History tells of Origen, the
greatest of all Christian philosophers. Since apparently the Lord
had gifted me with no less persuasiveness in expounding the
Scriptures than in lecturing on secular subjects, the number of my
students in these two courses began to increase greatly, and the
attendance at all the other schools was correspondingly diminished.
Thus I aroused the envy and hatred of the other teachers. Those who
sought to belittle me in every possible way took advantage of my
absence to bring two principal charges against me: first, that it
was contrary to the monastic profession to be concerned with the
study of secular books; and, second, that I had presumed to teach
theology without ever having been taught therein myself. This they
did in order that my teaching of every kind might be prohibited,
and to this end they continually stirred up bishops, archbishops,
abbots and whatever other dignitaries of the Church they could



It so happened that at the outset I devoted myself to analyzing the
basis of our faith through illustrations based on human
understanding, and I wrote for my students a certain tract on the
unity and trinity of God. This I did because they were always
seeking for rational and philosophical explanations, asking rather
for reasons they could understand than for mere words, saying that
it was futile to utter words which the intellect could not possibly
follow, that nothing could be believed unless it could first be
understood, and that it was absurd for any one to preach to others
a thing which neither he himself nor those whom he sought to teach
could comprehend. Our Lord Himself maintained this same thing when
He said: "They are blind leaders of the blind" (Matthew, xv, 14).

Now, a great many people saw and read this tract, and it became
exceedingly popular, its clearness appealing particularly to all
who sought information on this subject. And since the questions
involved are generally considered the most difficult of all, their
complexity is taken as the measure of the subtlety of him who
succeeds in answering them. As a result, my rivals became furiously
angry, and summoned a council to take action against me, the chief
instigators therein being my two intriguing enemies of former days,
Alberic and Lotulphe. These two, now that both William and Anselm,
our erstwhile teachers, were dead, were greedy to reign in their
stead, and, so to speak, to succeed them as heirs. While they were
directing the school at Rheims, they managed by repeated hints to
stir up their archbishop, Rodolphe, against me, for the purpose of
holding a meeting, or rather an ecclesiastical council, at
Soissons, provided they could secure the approval of Conon, Bishop
of Praeneste, at that time papal legate in France. Their plan was
to summon me to be present at this council, bringing with me the
famous book I had written regarding the Trinity. In all this,
indeed, they were successful, and the thing happened according to
their wishes.

Before I reached Soissons, however, these two rivals of mine so
foully slandered me with both the clergy and the public that on the
day of my arrival the people came near to stoning me and the few
students of mine who had accompanied me thither. The cause of their
anger was that they had been led to believe that I had preached and
written to prove the existence of three gods. No sooner had I
reached the city, therefore, than I went forthwith to the legate;
to him I submitted my book for examination and judgment, declaring
that if I had written anything repugnant to the Catholic faith, I
was quite ready to correct it or otherwise to make satisfactory
amends. The legate directed me to refer my book to the archbishop
and to those same two rivals of mine, to the end that my accusers
might also be my judges. So in my case was fulfilled the saying:
"Even our enemies are our judges" (Deut. Xxxii, 31).

These three, then, took my book and pawed it over and examined it
minutely, but could find nothing therein which they dared to use as
the basis for a public accusation against me. Accordingly they put
off the condemnation of the book until the close of the council,
despite their eagerness to bring it about. For my part, everyday
before the council convened I publicly discussed the Catholic faith
in the light of what I had written, and all who heard me were
enthusiastic in their approval alike of the frankness and the logic
of my words. When the public and the clergy had thus learned
something of the real character of my teaching, they began to say
to one another: "Behold, now he speaks openly, and no one brings
any charge against him. And this council, summoned, as we have
heard, chiefly to take action upon his case, is drawing toward its
end. Did the judges realize that the error might be theirs rather
than his?"

As a result of all this, my rivals grew more angry day by day. On
one occasion Alberic, accompanied by some of his students, came to
me for the purpose of intimidating me, and, after a few bland
words, said that he was amazed at something he had found in my
book, to the effect that, although God had begotten God, I denied
that God had begotten Himself, since there was only one God. I
answered unhesitatingly: "I can give you an explanation of this if
you wish it." "Nay," he replied, "I care nothing for human
explanation or reasoning in such matters, but only for the words
of authority." "Very well." I said; "turn the pages of my book and
you will find the authority likewise." The book was at hand, for he
had brought it with him. I turned to the passage I had in mind,
which he had either not discovered or else passed over as
containing nothing injurious to me. And it was God's will that I
quickly found what I sought. This was the following sentence, under
the heading "Augustine, On the Trinity, Book I": "Whosoever
believes that it is within the power of God to beget Himself is
sorely in error; this power is not in God, neither is it in any
created thing, spiritual or corporeal. For there is nothing that
can give birth to itself."

When those of his followers who were present heard this, they were
amazed and much embarrassed. He himself, in order to keep his
countenance, said: "Certainly, I understand all that." Then I
added: "What I have to say further on this subject is by no means
new, but apparently it has nothing to do with the case at issue,
since you have asked for the word of authority only, and not for
explanations. If, however, you care to consider logical
explanations, I am prepared to demonstrate that, according to
Augustine's statement, you have yourself fallen into a heresy in
believing that a father can possibly be his own son." When Alberic
heard this he was almost beside himself with rage, and straightway
resorted to threats, asserting that neither my explanations nor my
citations of authority would avail me aught in this case. With this
he left me.

On the last day of the council, before the session convened, the
legate and the archbishop deliberated with my rivals and sundry
others as to what should be done about me and my book, this being
the chief reason for their having come together. And since they had
discovered nothing either in my speech or in what I had hitherto
written which would give them a case against me, they were all
reduced to silence, or at the most to maligning me in whispers.
Then Geoffroi, Bishop of Chartres, who excelled the other bishops
alike in the sincerity of his religion and in the importance of his
see, spoke thus:

"You know, my lords, all who are gathered here, the doctrine of
this man, what it is, and his ability, which has brought him many
followers in every field to which he has devoted himself. You know
how greatly he has lessened the renown of other teachers, both his
masters and our own, and how he has spread as it were the offshoots
of his vine from sea to sea. Now, if you impose a lightly
considered judgment on him, as I cannot believe you will, you well
know that even if mayhap you are in the right there are many who
will be angered thereby, and that he will have no lack of
defenders. Remember above all that we have found nothing in this
book of his that lies before us whereon any open accusation can be
based. Indeed it is true, as Jerome says: 'Fortitude openly
displayed always creates rivals, and the lightning strikes the
highest peaks.' Have a care, then, lest by violent action you only
increase his fame, and lest we do more hurt to ourselves through
envy than to him through justice. A false report, as that same wise
man reminds us, is easily crushed, and a man's later life gives
testimony as to his earlier deeds. If, then, you are disposed to
take canonical action against him, his doctrine or his writings
must be brought forward as evidence, and he must have free
opportunity to answer his questioners. In that case, if he is found
guilty or if he confesses his error, his lips can be wholly sealed.
Consider the words of the blessed Nicodemus, who, desiring to free
Our Lord Himself, said: 'Doth our law judge any man before it hear
him and know what he doeth? '" (John, vii, 51).

When my rivals heard this they cried out in protest, saying: "This
is wise counsel, forsooth, that we should strive against the
wordiness of this man, whose arguments, or rather, sophistries, the
whole world cannot resist!" And yet, methinks, it was far more
difficult to strive against Christ Himself, for Whom, nevertheless,
Nicodemus demanded a hearing in accordance with the dictates of the
law. When the bishop could not win their assent to his proposals,
he tried in another way to curb their hatred, saying that for the
discussion of such an important case the few who were present were
not enough, and that this matter required a more thorough
examination. His further suggestion was that my abbot, who was
there present, should take me back with him to our abbey, in other
words to the monastery of St. Denis, and that there a large
convocation of learned men should determine, on the basis of a
careful investigation, what ought to be done. To this last proposal
the legate consented, as did all the others.

Then the legate arose to celebrate mass before entering the
council, and through the bishop sent me the permission which had
been determined on, authorizing me to return to my monastery and
there await such action as might be finally taken. But my rivals,
perceiving that they would accomplish nothing if the trial were to
be held outside of their own diocese, and in a place where they
could have little influence on the verdict, and in truth having
small wish that justice should be done, persuaded the archbishop
that it would be a grave insult to him to transfer this case to
another court, and that it would be dangerous for him if by chance
I should thus be acquitted. They likewise went to the legate, and
succeeded in so changing his opinion that finally they induced him
to frame a new sentence, whereby he agreed to condemn my book
without any further inquiry, to burn it forthwith in the sight of
all, and to confine me for a year in another monastery. The
argument they used was that it sufficed for the condemnation of my
book that I had presumed to read it in public without the approval
either of the Roman pontiff or of the Church, and that,
furthermore, I had given it to many to be transcribed. Methinks it
would be a notable blessing to the Christian faith if there were
more who displayed a like presumption. The legate, however, being
less skilled in law than he should have been, relied chiefly on the
advice of the archbishop, and he, in turn, on that of my rivals.
When the Bishop of Chartres got wind of this, he reported the whole
conspiracy to me, and strongly urged me to endure meekly the
manifest violence of their enmity. He bade me not to doubt that
this violence would in the end react upon them and prove a blessing
to me, and counseled me to have no fear of the confinement in a
monastery, knowing that within a few days the legate himself, who
was now acting under compulsion, would after his departure set me
free. And thus he consoled me as best he might, mingling his tears
with mine.



Straightway upon my summons I went to the council, and there,
without further examination or debate, did they compel me with my
own hand to cast that memorable book of mine into the flames.
Although my enemies appeared to have nothing to say while the book
was burning, one of them muttered something about having seen it
written therein that God the Father was alone omnipotent. This
reached the ears of the legate, who replied in astonishment that he
could not believe that even a child would make so absurd a blunder.
"Our common faith," he said, "holds and sets forth that the Three
are alike omnipotent." A certain Tirric, a schoolmaster, hearing
this, sarcastically added the Athanasian phrase, "And yet there are
not three omnipotent Persons, but only One."

This man's bishop forthwith began to censure him, bidding him
desist from such treasonable talk, but he boldly stood his ground,
and said, as if quoting the words of Daniel: "'Are ye such fools,
ye sons of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the
truth ye have condemned a daughter of Israel? Return again to the
place of judgment,' (Daniel, xiii, 48--The History of Susanna) and
there give judgment on the judge himself. You have set up this
judge, forsooth, for the instruction of faith and the correction of
error, and yet, when he ought to give judgment, he condemns himself
out of his own mouth. Set free today, with the help of God's mercy,
one who is manifestly innocent, even as Susanna was freed of old
from her false accusers."

Thereupon the archbishop arose and confirmed the legate's
statement, but changed the wording thereof, as indeed was most
fitting. "It is God's truth," he said, "that the Father is
omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent.
And whosoever dissents from this is openly in error, and must not
be listened to. Nevertheless, if it be your pleasure, it would be
well that this our brother should publicly state before us all the
faith that is in him, to the end that, according to its deserts, it
may either be approved or else condemned and corrected."

When, however, I fain would have arisen to profess and set forth my
faith, in order that I might express in my own words that which was
in my heart, my enemies declared that it was not needful for me to
do more than recite the Athanasian Symbol, a thing which any boy
might do as well as I. And lest I should allege ignorance,
pretending that I did not know the words by heart, they had a copy
of it set before me to read. And read it I did as best I could for
my groans and sighs and tears. Thereupon, as if I had been a
convicted criminal, I was handed over to the Abbot of St. Médard,
who was there present, and led to his monastery as to a prison. And
with this the council was immediately dissolved.

The abbot and the monks of the aforesaid monastery, thinking that I
would remain long with them, received me with great exultation, and
diligently sought to console me, but all in vain. O God, who dost
judge justice itself, in what venom of the spirit, in what
bitterness of mind, did I blame even Thee for my shame, accusing
Thee in my madness! Full often did I repeat the lament of St.
Anthony: "Kindly Jesus, where wert Thou?" The sorrow that tortured
me, the shame that overwhelmed me, the desperation that wracked my
mind, all these I could then feel, but even now I can find no words
to express them. Comparing these new sufferings of my soul with
those I had formerly endured in my body, it seemed that I was in
very truth the most miserable among men. Indeed that earlier
betrayal had become a little thing in comparison with this later
evil, and I lamented the hurt to my fair name far more than the one
to my body. The latter, indeed, I had brought upon myself through
my own wrongdoing, but this other violence had come upon me solely
by reason of the honesty of my purpose and my love of our faith,
which had compelled me to write that which I believed.

The very cruelty and heartlessness of my punishment, however, made
every one who heard the story vehement in censuring it, so that
those who had a hand therein were soon eager to disclaim all
responsibility, shouldering the blame on others. Nay, matters came
to such a pass that even my rivals denied that they had had
anything to do with the matter, and as for the legate, he publicly
denounced the malice with which the French had acted. Swayed by
repentance for his injustice, and feeling that he had yielded
enough to satisfy their rancour, he shortly freed me from the
monastery whither I had been taken, and sent me back to my own.
Here, however, I found almost as many enemies as I had in the
former days of which I have already spoken, for the vileness and
shamelessness of their way of living made them realize that they
would again have to endure my censure.

After a few months had passed, chance gave them an opportunity by
which they sought to destroy me. It happened that one day, in the
course of my reading, I came upon a certain passage of Bede, in his
commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, wherein he asserts that
Dionysius the Areopagite was the bishop, not of Athens, but of
Corinth. Now, this was directly counter to the belief of the monks,
who were wont to boast that their Dionysius, or Denis, was not only
the Areopagite but was likewise proved by his acts to have been the
Bishop of Athens. Having thus found this testimony of Bede's in
contradiction of our own tradition, I showed it somewhat jestingly
to sundry of the monks who chanced to be near. Wrathfully they
declared that Bede was no better than a liar, and that they had a
far more trustworthy authority in the person of Hilduin, a former
abbot of theirs, who had travelled for a long time throughout
Greece for the purpose of investigating this very question. He,
they insisted, had by his writings removed all possible doubt on
the subject, and had securely established the truth of the
traditional belief.

One of the monks went so far as to ask me brazenly which of the
two, Bede or Hilduin, I considered the better authority on this
point. I replied that the authority of Bede, whose writings are
held in high esteem by the whole Latin Church, appeared to me the
better. Thereupon in a great rage they began to cry out that at
last I had openly proved the hatred I had always felt for our
monastery, and that I was seeking to disgrace it in the eyes of the
whole kingdom, robbing it of the honour in which it had
particularly gloried, by thus denying that the Areopagite was their
patron saint. To this I answered that I had never denied the fact,
and that I did not much care whether their patron was the
Areopagite or some one else, provided only he had received his
crown from God. Thereupon they ran to the abbot and told him of the
misdemeanour with which they charged me.

The abbot listened to their story with delight, rejoicing at having
found a chance to crush me, for the greater vileness of his life
made him fear me more even than the rest did. Accordingly he
summoned his council, and when the brethren had assembled he
violently threatened me, declaring that he would straightway send
me to the king, by him to be punished for having thus sullied his
crown and the glory of his royalty. And until he should hand me
over to the king, he ordered that I should be closely guarded. In
vain did I offer to submit to the customary discipline if I had in
any way been guilty. Then, horrified at their wickedness, which
seemed to crown the ill fortune I had so long endured, and in utter
despair at the apparent conspiracy of the whole world against me, I
fled secretly from the monastery by night, helped thereto by some
of the monks who took pity on me, and likewise aided by some of my

I made my way to a region where I had formerly dwelt, hard by the
lands of Count Theobald (of Champagne). He himself had some slight
acquaintance with me, and had compassion on me by reason of my
persecutions, of which the story had reached him. I found a home
there within the walls of Provins, in a priory of the monks of
Troyes, the prior of which had in former days known me well and
shown me much love. In his joy at my coming he cared for me with
all diligence. It chanced, however, that one day my abbot came to
Provins to see the count on certain matters of business. As soon as
I had learned of this, I went to the count, the prior accompanying
me, and besought him to intercede in my behalf with the abbot. I
asked no more than that the abbot should absolve me of the charge
against me, and give me permission to live the monastic life
wheresoever I could find a suitable place. The abbot, however, and
those who were with him took the matter under advisement, saying
that they would give the count an answer the day before they
departed. It appeared from their words that they thought I wished
to go to some other abbey, a thing which they regarded as an
immense disgrace to their own. They had, indeed, taken particular
pride in the fact that, upon my conversion, I had come to them, as
if scorning all other abbeys, and accordingly they considered that
it would bring great shame upon them if I should now desert their
abbey and seek another. For this reason they refused to listen
either to my own plea or to that of the count. Furthermore, they
threatened me with excommunication unless I should instantly
return; likewise they forbade the prior with whom I had taken
refuge to keep me longer, under pain of sharing my excommunication.
When we heard this both the prior and I were stricken with fear.
The abbot went away still obdurate, but a few days thereafter he

As soon as his successor had been named, I went to him, accompanied
by the Bishop of Meaux, to try if I might win from him the
permission I had vainly sought of his predecessor. At first he
would not give his assent, but finally, through the intervention of
certain friends of mine, I secured the right to appeal to the king
and his council, and in this way I at last obtained what I sought.
The royal seneschal, Stephen, having summoned the abbot and his
subordinates that they might state their case, asked them why they
wanted to keep me against my will. He pointed out that this might
easily bring them into evil repute, and certainly could do them no
good, seeing that their way of living was utterly incompatible with
mine. I knew it to be the opinion of the royal council that the
irregularities in the conduct of this abbey would tend to bring it
more and more under the control of the king, making it increasingly
useful and likewise profitable to him, and for this reason I had
good hope of easily winning the support of the king and those about

Thus, indeed, did it come to pass. But in order that the monastery
might not be shorn of any of the glory which it had enjoyed by
reason of my sojourn there, they granted me permission to betake
myself to any solitary place I might choose, provided only I did
not put myself under the rule of any other abbey. This was agreed
upon and confirmed on both sides in the presence of the king and
his councellors. Forthwith I sought out a lonely spot known to me
of old in the region of Troyes, and there, on a bit of land which
had been given to me, and with the approval of the bishop of the
district, I built with reeds and stalks my first oratory in the
name of the Holy Trinity. And there concealed, with but one
comrade, a certain cleric, I was able to sing over and over again
to the Lord: "Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the
wilderness" (Ps. IV, 7).



No sooner had scholars learned of my retreat than they began to
flock thither from all sides, leaving their towns and castles to
dwell in the wilderness. In place of their spacious houses they
built themselves huts; instead of dainty fare they lived on the
herbs of the field and coarse bread; their soft beds they exchanged
for heaps of straw and rushes, and their tables were piles of turf.
In very truth you may well believe that they were like those
philosophers of old of whom Jerome tells us in his second book
against Jovinianus.

"Through the senses," says Jerome, "as through so many windows, do
vices win entrance to the soul. The metropolis and citadel of the
mind cannot be taken unless the army of the foe has first rushed in
through the gates. If any one delights in the games of the circus,
in the contests of athletes, in the versatility of actors, in the
beauty of women, in the glitter of gems and raiment, or in aught
else like to these, then the freedom of his soul is made captive
through the windows of his eyes, and thus is fulfilled the
prophecy: `For death is come up into our windows' (Jer. ix, 21).
And then, when the wedges of doubt have, as it were, been driven
into the citadels of our minds through these gateways, where will
be its liberty? where its fortitude? where its thought of God? Most
of all does the sense of touch paint for itself the pictures of
past raptures, compelling the soul to dwell fondly upon remembered
iniquities, and so to practice in imagination those things which
reality denies to it.

"Heeding such counsel, therefore, many among the philosophers
forsook the thronging ways of the cities and the pleasant gardens
of the countryside, with their well-watered fields, their shady
trees, the song of birds, the mirror of the fountain, the murmur of
the stream, the many charms for eye and ear, fearing lest their
souls should grow soft amid luxury and abundance of riches, and
lest their virtue should thereby be defiled. For it is perilous to
turn your eyes often to those things whereby you may some day be
made captive, or to attempt the possession of that which it would
go hard with you to do without. Thus the Pythagoreans shunned all
companionship of this kind, and were wont to dwell in solitary and
desert places. Nay, Plato himself, although he was a rich man, let
Diogenes trample on his couch with muddy feet, and in order that he
might devote himself to philosophy established his academy in a
place remote from the city, and not only uninhabited but unhealthy
as well. This he did in order that the onslaughts of lust might be
broken by the fear and constant presence of disease, and that his
followers might find no pleasure save in the things they learned."

Such a life, likewise, the sons of the prophets who were the
followers of Eliseus are reported to have led. Of these Jerome also
tells us, writing thus to the monk Rusticus as if describing the
monks of those ancient days: "The sons of the prophets, the monks
of whom we read in the Old Testament, built for themselves huts by
the waters of the Jordan, and forsaking the throngs and the cities,
lived on pottage and the herbs of the field" (Epist. iv).

Even so did my followers build their huts above the waters of the
Arduzon, so that they seemed hermits rather than scholars. And as
their number grew ever greater, the hardships which they gladly
endured for the sake of my teaching seemed to my rivals to reflect
new glory on me, and to cast new shame on themselves. Nor was it
strange that they, who had done their utmost to hurt me, should
grieve to see how all things worked together for my good, even
though I was now, in the words of Jerome, afar from cities and the
market place, from controversies and the crowded ways of men. And
so, as Quintilian says, did envy seek me out even in my hiding
place. Secretly my rivals complained and lamented one to another,
saying: "Behold now, the whole world runs after him, and our
persecution of him has done nought save to increase his glory. We
strove to extinguish his fame, and we have but given it new
brightness. Lo, in the cities scholars have at hand everything they
may need, and yet, spurning the pleasures of the town, they seek
out the barrenness of the desert, and of their own free will they
accept wretchedness."

The thing which at that time chiefly led me to undertake the
direction of a school was my intolerable poverty, for I had not
strength enough to dig, and shame kept me from begging. And so,
resorting once more to the art with which I was so familiar, I was
compelled to substitute the service of the tongue for the labour of
my hands. The students willingly provided me with whatsoever I
needed in the way of food and clothing, and likewise took charge of
the cultivation of the fields and paid for the erection of
buildings, in order that material cares might not keep me from my
studies. Since my oratory was no longer large enough to hold even a
small part of their number, they found it necessary to increase its
size, and in so doing they greatly improved it, building it of
stone and wood. Although this oratory had been founded in honour of
the Holy Trinity, and afterwards dedicated thereto, I now named it
the Paraclete, mindful of how I had come there a fugitive and in
despair, and had breathed into my soul something of the miracle of
divine consolation.

Many of those who heard of this were greatly astonished, and some
violently assailed my action, declaring that it was not permissible
to dedicate a church exclusively to the Holy Spirit rather than to
God the Father. They held, according to an ancient tradition, that
it must be dedicated either to the Son alone or else to the entire
Trinity. The error which led them into this false accusation
resulted from their failure to perceive the identity of the
Paraclete with the Spirit Paraclete. Even as the whole Trinity, or
any Person in the Trinity, may rightly be called God or Helper, so
likewise may It be termed the Paraclete, that is to say the
Consoler. These are the words of the Apostle: "Blessed be God, even
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the
God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation"
(2 Cor. i, 3). And likewise the word of truth says: "And he shall
give you another comforter" (Greek "another Paraclete," John, xiv, 16).

Nay, since every church is consecrated equally in the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, without any difference in
their possession thereof, why should not the house of God be
dedicated to the Father or to the Holy Spirit, even as it is to the
Son? Who would presume to erase from above the door the name of him
who is the master of the house? And since the Son offered Himself
as a sacrifice to the Father, and accordingly in the ceremonies of
the mass the prayers are offered particularly to the Father, and
the immolation of the Host is made to Him, why should the altar not
be held to be chiefly His to whom above all the supplication and
sacrifice are made? Is it not called more rightly the altar of Him
who receives than of Him who makes the sacrifice? Who would admit
that an altar is that of the Holy Cross, or of the Sepulchre, or of
St. Michael, or John, or Peter, or of any other saint, unless
either he himself was sacrificed there or else special sacrifices
and prayers are made there to him? Methinks the altars and temples
of certain ones among these saints are not held to be idolatrous
even though they are used for special sacrifices and prayers to
their patrons.

Some, however, may perchance argue that churches are not built or
altars dedicated to the Father because there is no feast which is
solemnized especially for Him. But while this reasoning holds good
as regards the Trinity itself, it does not apply in the case of the
Holy Spirit. For this Spirit, from the day of Its advent, has had
Its special feast of the Pentecost, even as the Son has had since
His coming upon earth His feast of the Nativity. Even as the Son
was sent into this world, so did the Holy Spirit descend upon the
disciples, and thus does It claim Its special religious rites. Nay,
it seems more fitting to dedicate a temple to It than to either of
the other Persons of the Trinity, if we but carefully study the
apostolic authority, and consider the workings of this Spirit
Itself. To none of the three Persons did the apostle dedicate a
special temple save to the Holy Spirit alone. He does not speak of
a temple of the Father, or a temple of the Son, as he does of a
temple of the Holy Spirit, writing thus in his first epistle to the
Corinthians: "But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."
(I Cor. vi, 17). And again: "What? know ye not that your body is
the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of
God, and ye are not your own?" (ib. 19).

Who is there who does not know that the sacraments of God's
blessings pertaining to the Church are particularly ascribed to the
operation of divine grace, by which is meant the Holy Spirit?
Forsooth we are born again of water and of the Holy Spirit in
baptism, and thus from the very beginning is the body made, as it
were, a special temple of God. In the successive sacraments,
moreover, the seven-fold grace of the Spirit is added, whereby
this same temple of God is made beautiful and is consecrated. What
wonder is it, then, if to that Person to Whom the apostle assigned
a spiritual temple we should dedicate a material one? Or to what
Person can a church be more rightly said to belong than to Him to
Whom all the blessings which the church administers are
particularly ascribed? It was not, however, with the thought of
dedicating my oratory to one Person that I first called it the
Paraclete, but for the reason I have already told, that in this
spot I found consolation. 'None the less, even if I had done it for
the reason attributed to me, the departure from the usual custom
would have been in no way illogical.



And so I dwelt in this place, my body indeed hidden away, but my
fame spreading throughout the whole world, till its echo
reverberated mightily-echo, that fancy of the poet's, which has so
great a voice, and nought beside. My former rivals, seeing that
they themselves were now powerless to do me hurt, stirred up
against me certain new apostles in whom the world put great faith.
One of these (Norbert of Prémontré) took pride in his position as
canon of a regular order; the other (Bernard of Clairvaux) made it
his boast that he had revived the true monastic life. These two ran
hither and yon preaching and shamelessly slandering me in every way
they could, so that in time they succeeded in drawing down on my
head the scorn of many among those having authority, among both the
clergy and the laity. They spread abroad such sinister reports of
my faith as well as of my life that they turned even my best
friends against me, and those who still retained something of their
former regard for me were fain to disguise it in every possible way
by reason of their fear of these two men.

God is my witness that whensoever I learned of the convening of a
new assemblage of the clergy, I believed that it was done for the
express purpose of my condemnation. Stunned by this fear like one
smitten with a thunderbolt, I daily expected to be dragged before
their councils or assemblies as a heretic or one guilty of impiety.
Though I seem to compare a flea with a lion, or an ant with an
elephant, in very truth my rivals persecuted me no less bitterly
than the heretics of old hounded St. Athanasius. Often, God knows,
I sank so deep in despair that I was ready to leave the world of
Christendom and go forth among the heathen, paying them a
stipulated tribute in order that I might live quietly a Christian
life among the enemies of Christ. It seemed to me that such people
might indeed be kindly disposed toward me, particularly as they
would doubtless suspect me of being no good Christian, imputing my
flight to some crime I had committed, and would therefore believe
that I might perhaps be won over to their form of worship.



While I was thus afflicted with so great perturbation of the
spirit, and when the only way of escape seemed to be for me to seek
refuge with Christ among the enemies of Christ, there came a chance
whereby I thought I could for a while avoid the plottings of my
enemies. But thereby I fell among Christians and monks who were far
more savage than heathens and more evil of life. The thing came
about in this wise. There was in lesser Brittany, in the bishopric
of Vannes, a certain abbey of St. Gildas at Ruits, then mourning
the death of its shepherd. To this abbey the elective choice of the
brethren called me, with the approval of the prince of that land,
and I easily secured permission to accept the post from my own
abbot and brethren. Thus did the hatred of the French drive me
westward, even as that of the Romans drove Jerome toward the East.
Never, God knows, would I have agreed to this thing had it not been
for my longing for any possible means of escape from the sufferings
which I had borne so constantly.

The land was barbarous and its speech was unknown to me; as for the
monks, their vile and untameable way of life was notorious almost
everywhere. The people of the region, too, were uncivilized and
lawless. Thus, like one who in terror of the sword that threatens
him dashes headlong over a precipice, and to shun one death for a
moment rushes to another, I knowingly sought this new danger in
order to escape from the former one. And there, amid the dreadful
roar of the waves of the sea, where the land's end left me no
further refuge in flight, often in my prayers did I repeat over and
over again: "From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when
my heart is overwhelmed" (Ps. lxi, 2).

No one, methinks, could fail to understand how persistently that
undisciplined body of monks, the direction of which I had thus
undertaken, tortured my heart day and night, or how constantly I
was compelled to think of the danger alike to my body and to my
soul. I held it for certain that if I should try to force them to
live according to the principles they had themselves professed, I
should not survive. And yet, if I did not do this to the utmost of
my ability, I saw that my damnation was assured. Moreover, a
certain lord who was exceedingly powerful in that region had some
time previously brought the abbey under his control, taking
advantage of the state of disorder within the monastery to seize
all the lands adjacent thereto for his own use, and he ground down
the monks with taxes heavier than those which were extorted from
the Jews themselves.

The monks pressed me to supply them with their daily necessities,
but they held no property in common which I might administer in
their behalf, and each one, with such resources as he possessed,
supported himself and his concubines, as well as his sons and
daughters. They took delight in harassing me on this matter, and
they stole and carried off whatsoever they could lay their hands
on, to the end that my failure to maintain order might make me
either give up trying to enforce discipline or else abandon my post
altogether. Since the entire region was equally savage, lawless and
disorganized, there was not a single man to whom I could turn for
aid, for the habits of all alike were foreign to me. Outside the
monastery the lord and his henchmen ceaselessly hounded me, and
within its walls the brethren were forever plotting against me, so
that it seemed as if the Apostle had had me and none other in mind
when he said: "Without were fightings, within were fears" (II Cor. vii, 5).

I considered and lamented the uselessness and the wretchedness of
my existence, how fruitless my life now was, both to myself and to
others; how of old I had been of some service to the clerics whom I
had now abandoned for the sake of these monks, so that I was no
longer able to be of use to either; how incapable I had proved
myself in everything I had undertaken or attempted, so that above
all others I deserved the reproach, "This man began to build, and
was not able to finish" (Luke xiv, 30). My despair grew still
deeper when I compared the evils I had left behind with those to
which I had come, for my former sufferings now seemed to me as
nought. Full often did I groan: "Justly has this sorrow come upon
me because I deserted the Paraclete, which is to say the Consoler,
and thrust myself into sure desolation; seeking to shun threats I
fled to certain peril."

The thing which tormented me most was the fact that, having
abandoned my oratory, I could make no suitable provision for the
celebration there of the divine office, for indeed the extreme
poverty of the place would scarcely provide the necessities of one
man. But the true Paraclete Himself brought me real consolation in
the midst of this sorrow of mine, and made all due provision for
His own oratory. For it chanced that in some manner or other,
laying claim to it as having legally belonged in earlier days to
his monastery, my abbot of St. Denis got possession of the abbey of
Argenteuil, of which I have previously spoken, wherein she who was
now my sister in Christ rather than my wife, Héloïse, had taken the
veil. From this abbey he expelled by force all the nuns who had
dwelt there, and of whom my former companion had become the
prioress. The exiles being thus dispersed in various places, I
perceived that this was an opportunity presented by God himself to
me whereby I could make provision anew for my oratory. And so,
returning thither, I bade her come to the oratory, together with
some others from the same convent who had clung to her.

On their arrival there I made over to them the oratory, together
with everything pertaining thereto, and subsequently, through the
approval and assistance of the bishop of the district, Pope
Innocent II promulgated a decree confirming my gift in perpetuity
to them and their successors. And this refuge of divine mercy,
which they served so devotedly, soon brought them consolation, even
though at first their life there was one of want, and for a time of
utter destitution. But the place proved itself a true Paraclete to
them, making all those who dwelt round about feel pity and
kindliness for the sisterhood. So that, methinks, they prospered
more through gifts in a single year than I should have done if I
had stayed there a hundred. True it is that the weakness of
womankind makes their needs and sufferings appeal strongly to
people's feelings, as likewise it makes their virtue all the more
pleasing to God and man. And God granted such favour in the eyes of
all to her who was now my sister, and who was in authority over the
rest, that the bishops loved her as a daughter, the abbots as a
sister, and the laity as a mother. All alike marvelled at her
religious zeal, her good judgment and the sweetness of her
incomparable patience in all things. The less often she allowed
herself to be seen, shutting herself up in her cell to devote
herself to sacred meditations and prayers, the more eagerly did
those who dwelt without demand her presence and the spiritual
guidance of her words.



Before long all those who dwelt thereabouts began to censure me
roundly, complaining that I paid far less attention to their needs
than I might and should have done, and that at least I could do
something for them through my preaching. As a result, I returned
thither frequently, to be of service to them in whatsoever way I
could. Regarding this there was no lack of hateful murmuring, and
the thing which sincere charity induced me to do was seized upon by
the wickedness of my detractors as the subject of shameless outcry.
They declared that I, who of old could scarcely endure to be parted
from her I loved, was still swayed by the delights of fleshly lust.
Many times I thought of the complaint of St. Jerome in his letter
to Asella regarding those women whom he was falsely accused of
loving, when he said (Epist. xcix): "I am charged with nothing save
the fact of my sex, and this charge is made only because Paula is
setting forth to Jerusalem." And again: "Before I became intimate
in the household of the saintly Paula, the whole city was loud in
my praise, and nearly every one deemed me deserving of the highest
honours of priesthood. But I know that my way to the kingdom of
Heaven lies through good and evil report alike."

When I pondered over the injury which slander had done to so great
a man as this, I was not a little consoled thereby. If my rivals, I
told myself, could but find an equal cause for suspicion against
me, with what accusations would they persecute me! But how is it
possible for such suspicion to continue in my case, seeing that
divine mercy has freed me therefrom by depriving me of all power to
enact such baseness? How shameless is this latest accusation! In
truth that which had happened to me so completely removes all
suspicion of this iniquity among all men that those who wish to
have their women kept under close guard employ eunuchs for that
purpose, even as sacred history tells regarding Esther and the
other damsels of King Ahasuerus (Esther ii, 5). We read, too, of
that eunuch of great authority under Queen Candace who had charge
of all her treasure, him to whose conversion and baptism the
apostle Philip was directed by an angel (Acts viii, 27). Such men,
in truth, are enabled to have far more importance and intimacy
among modest and upright women by the fact that they are free from
any suspicion of lust.

The sixth book of the Ecclesiastical History tells us that the
greatest of all Christian philosophers, Origen, inflicted a like
injury on himself with his own hand, in order that all suspicion of
this nature might be completely done away with in his instruction
of women in sacred doctrine. In this respect, I thought, God's
mercy had been kinder to me than to him, for it was judged that he
had acted most rashly and had exposed himself to no slight censure,
whereas the thing had been done to me through the crime of another,
thus preparing me for a task similar to his own. Moreover, it had
been accomplished with much less pain, being so quick and sudden,
for I was heavy with sleep when they laid hands on me, and felt
scarcely any pain at all.

But alas, I thought, the less I then suffered from the wound, the
greater is my punishment now through slander, and I am tormented
far more by the loss of my reputation than I was by that of part of
my body. For thus is it written: "A good name is rather to be
chosen than great riches" (Prov. xxii, 1). And as St. Augustine
tells us in a sermon of his on the life and conduct of the clergy,
"He is cruel who, trusting in his conscience, neglects his
reputation." Again he says: "Let us provide those things that are
good, as the apostle bids us (Rom. xii, 17), not alone in the eyes
of God, but likewise in the eyes of men. Within himself each one's
conscience suffices, but for our own sakes our reputations ought
not to be tarnished, but to flourish. Conscience and reputation are
different matters: conscience is for yourself, reputation for your
neighbour." Methinks the spite of such men as these my enemies
would have accused the very Christ Himself, or those belonging to
Him, prophets and apostles, or the other holy fathers, if such
spite had existed in their time, seeing that they associated in
such familiar intercourse with women, and this though they were
whole of body. On this point St. Augustine, in his book on the duty
of monks, proves that women followed our Lord Jesus Christ and the
apostles as inseparable companions, even accompanying them when
they preached (Chap. 4). "Faithful women," he says, "who were
possessed of worldly wealth went with them, and ministered to them
out of their wealth, so that they might lack none of those things
which belong to the substance of life." And if any one does not
believe that the apostles thus permitted saintly women to go about
with them wheresoever they preached the Gospel, let him listen to
the Gospel itself, and learn therefrom that in so doing they
followed the example of the Lord. For in the Gospel it is written
thus: "And it came to pass afterward, that He went throughout every
city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the
kingdom of God: and the twelve were with Him, and certain women,
which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called
Magdalene, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and
Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their
substance" (Luke viii, i-3).

Leo the Ninth, furthermore, in his reply to the letter of
Parmenianus concerning monastic zeal, says: "We unequivocally
declare that it is not permissible for a bishop, priest, deacon or
subdeacon to cast off all responsibility for his own wife on the
grounds of religious duty, so that he no longer provides her with
food and clothing; albeit he may not have carnal intercourse with
her. We read that thus did the holy apostles act, for St. Paul
says: 'Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as
other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?' (I
Cor. ix, 5). Observe, foolish man, that he does not say: 'have we
not power to embrace a sister, a wife,' but he says 'to lead
about,' meaning thereby that such women may lawfully be supported
by them out of the wages of their preaching, but that there must be
no carnal bond between them."

Certainly that Pharisee who spoke within himself of the Lord,
saying: "This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and
what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a
sinner" (Luke vii, 39), might much more reasonably have suspected
baseness of the Lord, considering the matter from a purely human
standpoint, than my enemies could suspect it of me. One who had
seen the mother of Our Lord entrusted to the care of the young man
(John xix, 27), or who had beheld the prophets dwelling and
sojourning with widows (I Kings xvii, 10), would likewise have had
a far more logical ground for suspicion. And what would my
calumniators have said if they had but seen Malchus, that captive
monk of whom St. Jerome writes, living in the same but with his
wife? Doubtless they would have regarded it as criminal in the
famous scholar to have highly commended what he thus saw, saying
thereof: "There was a certain old man named Malchus, a native of
this region, and his wife with him in his hut. Both of them were
earnestly religious, and they so often passed the threshold of the
church that you might have thought them the Zacharias and Elisabeth
of the Gospel, saving only that John was not with them."

Why, finally, do such men refrain from slandering the holy fathers,
of whom we frequently read, nay, and have even seen with our own
eyes, founding convents for women and making provision for their
maintenance, thereby following the example of the seven deacons
whom the apostles sent before them to secure food and take care of
the women? (Acts vi, 5). For the weaker sex needs the help of the
stronger one to such an extent that the apostle proclaimed that the
head of the woman is ever the man (I Cor. xi, 3), and in sign
thereof he bade her ever wear her head covered (ib. 5). For this
reason I marvel greatly at the customs which have crept into
monasteries, whereby, even as abbots are placed in charge of the
men, abbesses now are given authority over the women, and the women
bind themselves in their vows to accept the same rules as the men.
Yet in these rules there are many things which cannot possibly be
carried out by women, either as superiors or in the lower orders.
In many places we may even behold an inversion of the natural order
of things, whereby the abbesses and nuns have authority over the
clergy, and even over those who are themselves in charge of the
people. The more power such women exercise over men, the more
easily can they lead them into iniquitous desires, and in this way
can lay a very heavy yoke upon their shoulders. It was with such
things in mind that the satirist said:

     "There is nothing more intolerable than a rich woman."
                               (Juvenal, Sat. VI, v, 459).



Reflecting often upon all these things, I determined to make
provision for those sisters and to undertake their care in every
way I could. Furthermore, in order that they might have the greater
reverence for me, I arranged to watch over them in person. And
since now the persecution carried on by my sons was greater and
more incessant than that which I formerly suffered at the hands of
my brethren, I returned frequently to the nuns, fleeing the rage of
the tempest as to a haven of peace. There, indeed, could I draw
breath for a little in quiet, and among them my labours were
fruitful, as they never were among the monks. All this was of the
utmost benefit to me in body and soul, and it was equally essential
for them by reason of their weakness.

But now has Satan beset me to such an extent that I no longer know
where I may find rest, or even so much as live. I am driven hither
and yon, a fugitive and a vagabond, even as the accursed Cain (Gen.
iv, 14). I have already said that "without were fightings, within
were fears" (II Cor. vii, 5), and these torture me ceaselessly, the
fears being indeed without as well as within, and the fightings
wheresoever there are fears. Nay, the persecution carried on by my
sons rages against me more perilously and continuously than that of
my open enemies, for my sons I have always with me, and I am ever
exposed to their treacheries. The violence of my enemies I see in
the danger to my body if I leave the cloister; but within it I am
compelled incessantly to endure the crafty machinations as well as
the open violence of those monks who are called my sons, and who
are entrusted to me as their abbot, which is to say their father.

Oh, how often have they tried to kill me with poison, even as the
monks sought to slay St. Benedict! Methinks the same reason which
led the saint to abandon his wicked sons might encourage me to
follow the example of so great a father, lest, in thus exposing
myself to certain peril, I might be deemed a rash tempter of God
rather than a lover of Him, nay, lest it might even be judged that
I had thereby taken my own life. When I had safeguarded myself to
the best of my ability, so far as my food and drink were concerned,
against their daily plottings, they sought to destroy me in the
very ceremony of the altar by putting poison in the chalice. One
day, when I had gone to Nantes to visit the count, who was then
sick, and while I was sojourning awhile in the house of one of my
brothers in the flesh, they arranged to poison me, with the
connivance of one of my attendants, believing that I would take no
precautions to escape such a plot. But divine providence so ordered
matters that I had no desire for the food which was set before me;
one of the monks whom I had brought with me ate thereof, not
knowing that which had been done, and straightway fell dead. As for
the attendant who had dared to undertake this crime, he fled in
terror alike of his own conscience and of the clear evidence of his

After this, as their wickedness was manifest to every one, I began
openly in every way I could to avoid the danger with which their
plots threatened me, even to the extent of leaving the abbey and
dwelling with a few others apart in little cells. If the monks knew
beforehand that I was going anywhere on a journey, they bribed
bandits to waylay me on the road and kill me. And while I was
struggling in the midst of these dangers, it chanced one day that
the hand of the Lord smote me a heavy blow, for I fell from my
horse, breaking a bone in my neck, the injury causing me greater
pain and weakness than my former wound.

Using excommunication as my weapon to coerce the untamed
rebelliousness of the monks, I forced certain ones among them whom
I particularly feared to promise me publicly, pledging their faith
or swearing upon the sacrament, that they would thereafter depart
from the abbey and no longer trouble me in any way. Shamelessly and
openly did they violate the pledges they had given and their
sacramental oaths, but finally they were compelled to give this and
many other promises under oath, in the presence of the count and
the bishops, by the authority of the Pontiff of Rome, Innocent, who
sent his own legate for this special purpose. And yet even this did
not bring me peace. For when I returned to the abbey after the
expulsion of those whom I have just mentioned, and entrusted myself
to the remaining brethren, of whom I felt less suspicion, I found
them even worse than the others. I barely succeeded in escaping
them, with the aid of a certain nobleman of the district, for they
were planning, not to poison me indeed, but to cut my throat with a
sword. Even to the present time I stand face to face with this
danger, fearing the sword which threatens my neck so that I can
scarcely draw a free breath between one meal and the next. Even so
do we read of him who, reckoning the power and heaped-up wealth of
the tyrant Dionysius as a great blessing, beheld the sword secretly
hanging by a hair above his head, and so learned what kind of
happiness comes as the result of worldly power (Cicer. 5, Tusc.)
Thus did I too learn by constant experience, I who had been exalted
from the condition of a poor monk to the dignity of an abbot, that
my wretchedness increased with my wealth; and I would that the
ambition of those who voluntarily seek such power might be curbed
by my example.

And now, most dear brother in Christ and comrade closest to me in
the intimacy of speech, it should suffice for your sorrows and the
hardships you have endured that I have written this story of my own
misfortunes, amid which I have toiled almost from the cradle. For
so, as I said in the beginning of this letter, shall you come to
regard your tribulation as nought, or at any rate as little, in
comparison with mine, and so shall you bear it more lightly in
measure as you regard it as less. Take comfort ever in the saying
of Our Lord, what he foretold for his followers at the hands of the
followers of the devil: "If they have persecuted me, they will also
persecute you (John xv, 20). If the world hate you, ye know that it
hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world
would love his own" (ib. 18-19). And the apostle says: "All that
will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim.
iii, 12). And elsewhere he says: "I do not seek to please men. For
if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ"
(Galat. i, 10). And the Psalmist says: "They who have been pleasing
to men have been confounded, for that God hath despised them."

Commenting on this, St. Jerome, whose heir methinks I am in the
endurance of foul slander, says in his letter to Nepotanius: "The
apostle says: 'If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of
Christ.' He no longer seeks to please men, and so is made Christ's
servant" (Epist. 2). And again, in his letter to Asella regarding
those whom he was falsely accused of loving: "I give thanks to my
God that I am worthy to be one whom the world hates" (Epist. 99).
And to the monk Heliodorus he writes: "You are wrong, brother, you
are wrong if you think there is ever a time when the Christian does
not suffer persecution. For our adversary goes about as a roaring
lion seeking what he may devour, and do you still think of peace?
Nay, he lieth in ambush among the rich."

Inspired by those records and examples, we should endure our
persecutions all the more steadfastly the more bitterly they harm
us. We should not doubt that even if they are not according to our
deserts, at least they serve for the purifying of our soul. And
since all things are done in accordance with the divine ordering,
let every one of true faith console himself amid all his
afflictions with the thought that the great goodness of God permits
nothing to be done without reason, and brings to a good end
whatsoever may seem to happen wrongfully. Wherefore rightly do all
men say: "Thy will be done." And great is the consolation to all
lovers of God in the word of the Apostle when he says: "We know
that all things work together for good to them that love God"
(Rom. viii, 28). The wise man of old had this in mind when he said
in his Proverbs: "There shall no evil happen to the just"
(Prov. xii, 21). By this he clearly shows that whosoever grows
wrathful for any reason against his sufferings has therein departed
from the way of the just, because he may not doubt that these
things have happened to him by divine dispensation. Even such are
those who yield to their own rather than to the divine purpose, and
with hidden desires resist the spirit which echoes in the words,
"Thy will be done," thus placing their own will ahead of the will
of God. Farewell.



Petrus Abaelardus (or Abailardus) was born in the year 1079 at
Palets, a Breton town not far from Nantes. His father, Berengarius,
was a nobleman of some local importance; his mother, Lucia, was
likewise of noble family. The name "Abaelardus" is said to be a
corruption of "Habelardus," which, in turn, was substituted by
himself for the nickname "Bajolardus" given to him in his student
days. However the name may have arisen, the famous scholar
certainly adopted it very early in his career, and it went over
into the vernacular as "Abélard" or "Abailard," though with a
multiplicity of variations (in Villon's famous poem, for example,
it appears as "Esbaillart").

For the main facts of Abélard's life his own writings remain the
best authority, but through his frequent contact with many of the
foremost figures in the intellectual and clerical life of the early
twelfth century it has been possible to check his own account of
his career with considerable accuracy. The story told in the
"Historia Calamitatum" covers the events of his life from boyhood
to about 1132 or 1133,--in other words, up to approximately his
fifty-third or fifty-fourth year. That the account he gives of
himself is substantially correct cannot be doubted; making all due
allowance for the violence of his feelings, which certainly led him
to colour many incidents in a manner unfavourable to his enemies,
the main facts tally closely with all the external evidence now

A very brief summary of the events of the final years of his life
will serve to round out the story. The "Historia Calamitatum" was
written while Abélard was still abbot of the monastery of St.
Gildas, in Brittany. The terrors of his existence there are fully
dwelt on in his autobiographical letter, and finally, in 1134 or
1135, he fled, living for a short time in retirement. In 1136,
however, we find him once more lecturing, and apparently with much
of his former success, on Mont Ste. Genevieve. His old enemies were
still on his trail, and most of all Bernard of Clairvaux, to whose
fiery adherence to the faith Abélard's rationalism seemed a sheer
desecration. The unceasing activities of Bernard and others finally
brought Abélard before an ecclesiastical council at Sens in 1140,
where he was formally arraigned on charges of heresy. Had Abélard's
courage held good, he might have won his case, for Bernard was
frankly terrified at the prospect of meeting so formidable a
dialectitian, but Abélard, broken in spirit by the prolonged
persecution from which he had suffered, contented himself with
appealing to the Pope. The indefatigable Bernard at once proceeded
to secure a condemnation of Abélard from Rome, whither the accused
man set out to plead his case. On the way, however, he collapsed,
both physically and in spirit, and remained for a few months at the
abbey of Cluny, whence his friends removed him, a dying man, to the
priory of St. Marcel, near Châlons-sur-Saône. Here he died on April
21, 1142.

A discussion of Abélard's position among the scholastic
philosophers would necessarily go far beyond the proper limits of a
mere historical note. He stands out less commandingly as a
constructive philosopher than as a master of dialectics. He was, as
even his enemies admitted, a brilliant teacher and an unconquerable
logician; he was, moreover, a voluminous writer. Works by him which
have been preserved include letters, sermons, philosophical and
religious treatises, commentaries on the Bible, on Aristotle and on
various other books, and a number of poems.

Many of the misfortunes which the "Historia Calamitatum" relates
were the direct outcome of Abélard's uncompromising position as a
rationalist, and the document is above all interesting for the
picture it gives of the man himself, against the background of
early twelfth century France. A few dates will help the general
reader to connect the life surrounding Abélard with other and more
familiar facts. William the Conqueror had entered England thirteen
years before Abélard's birth. The boy was eight years old when the
Conqueror died near Rouen during his struggle with Philip of
France. He was seventeen when the First Crusade began, and twenty
when the crusaders captured Jerusalem.

Two of the men who most profoundly influenced the times in which
Abélard lived were Hildebrand, famous as Pope Gregory VII, and
Louis VI (the Fat), king of France. It was to Hildebrand that the
Church owed much of that regeneration of the spirit which gave it
such vitality throughout the twelfth century. Hildebrand died,
indeed, when Abélard was only six years old, but he left the Church
such a force in the affairs of men as it had never been before. As
for Louis the Fat, who reigned from 1108 to 1137, it was he who
began to lift the royal power in France out of the shadow which the
slothfulness and incompetence of his immediate predecessors, Henry
I and Philip I, had cast over it. Discerning enough to see that the
chief enemies of the crown were the great nobles, and constantly
advised by a minister of exceptional wisdom, Suger, abbot of St.
Denis, Louis did his utmost to protect the towns and the churches,
and to bring that small part of France wherein his power was felt
out of the anarchy and chaos of the eleventh century.

It was the France of Louis VI and Sager which formed the background
for the great battle between the realists and the nominalists, the
battle in which Abélard played no small part. His life was divided
between the towns wherein he taught and the Church which
alternately welcomed and denounced him. His fellow-disputants have
their places in the history of philosophy; the story of Abélard's
love for Héloïse has set him apart, so that he has lived for eight
centuries less as a fearless thinker and masterly logician than as
one of the glowingly romantic figures of the Middle Ages.


It is not known to whom Abélard's letter was addressed, but it may
be guessed that the writer intended it to reach the hands of
Héloïse. This actually happened, and the first and most famous
letter from Héloise to Abélard was substantially an answer to the
"Historia Calamitatum."


William of Champeaux (Gulielmus Campellensis) was born about 1070
at Champeaux, near Melun. He studied under Anselm of Laon and
Roscellinus, his training in philosophy thereby being influenced by
both realism and nominalism. His own inclination, however, was
strongly towards the former, and it was as a determined proponent
of realism that he began to teach in the school of the cathedral of
Notre Dame, of which he was made canon in 1103. In 1108 he withdrew
to the abbey of St. Victor, and subsequently became bishop of
Châlons-sur-Marne. He died in 1121. As a teacher his influence was
wide; he was a vigorous defender of orthodoxy and a passionate
adversary of the heterodox philosophy of his former master,
Roscellinus. That he and Abélard disagreed was only natural, but
Abélard's statement that he argued William into abandoning the
basic principles of his philosophy is certainly untrue.


It is not within the province of such a note as this to discuss in
detail the great controversy between the realists and the
nominalists which dominated the philosophical and, to some extent,
the religious thought of France during the first half of the
twelfth century. In brief, the realists maintained that the idea is
a reality distinct from and independent of the individuals
constituting it; their motto, _Universalia sunt realia_, was
readily capable of extension far beyond the Church, and William of
Champeaux himself carried it to the extent of arguing that nothing
is real but the universal. The nominalists, on the other hand,
argued that "universals" are mere notions of the mind, and that
individuals alone are real; their motto was _Universalia sunt
nomina_. Thus the central question in the long controversy
concerned the reality of abstract or incorporate ideas, and it is
to be observed that the realists held views diametrically opposite
to those which the word "realism" today implies. In upholding the
reality of the idea, they were what would now be called idealists,
whereas their opponents, denying the reality of abstractions and
insisting on that of the concrete individual or object, were
realists in the modern sense.

The peculiar importance of this controversy lay in its effect on
the status of the Church. If nominalism should prevail, then the
Church would be shorn of much of its authority, for its greatest
power lay in the conception of it as an enduring reality outside of
and above all the individuals who shared in its work. It is not
strange, then, that the ardent realism of William of Champeaux
should have been outraged by the nominalistic logic of Abélard.
Abélard, indeed, never went to such extreme lengths as the
arch-nominalist, Roscellinus, who was duly condemned for heresy by
the Council of Soissons in 1092, but he went quite far enough to
win for himself the undying enmity of the leading realists, who
were followed by the great majority of the clergy.


The Introduction ("Isagoge") to the Categories of Aristotle,
Written by the Greek scholar and neoplatonist Porphyry in the third
century A.D., was translated into Latin by Boetius, and in this
form was extensively used throughout the Middle Ages as a
compendium of Aristotelian logic. As a philosopher Porphyry was
chiefly important as the immediate successor of Plotinus in the
neoplatonic school at Rome, but his "Isagoge" had extraordinary
weight among the medieval logicians.


The _Institutiones grammaticae_ of Priscian (Priscianus
Caesariensis) formed the standard grammatical and philological
textbook of the Middle Ages, its importance being fairly indicated
by the fact that today there exist about a thousand manuscript
copies of it.


Anselm of Laon was born somewhere about 1040, and is said to have
studied under the famous St. Anselm, later archbishop of
Canterbury, at the monastery of Bec. About 1070 he began to teach
in Paris, where he was notably successful. Subsequently he returned
to Laon, where his school of theology and exegetics became the most
famous one in Europe. His most important work, an interlinear gloss
on the Scriptures, was regarded as authoritative throughout the
later Middle Ages. He died in 1117. That he was something of a
pedant is probable, but Abélard's picture of him is certainly very
far from doing him justice.


Of these two not much is known beyond what Abélard himself tells
us. ALberic, indeed, won a considerable reputation, and was highly
recommended to Pope Honorius II by St. Bernard. In 1139 Alberic
seems to have become archbishop of Bourges, dying two years later.
Lotulphe the Lombard is referred to by another authority as
Leutaldus Novariensis.


The enormous scholarship of St. Jerome, born about 340 and dying
September 30, 420, made him not only the foremost authority within
the Church itself throughout the Middle Ages, but also one of the
chief guides to secular scholarship. Abélard repeatedly quotes from
him, particularly from his denunciation of the revival of Gnostic
heresies by Jovinianus and from some of his voluminous epistles. He
also refers extensively to the charges brought against Jerome by
reason of his teaching of women at Rome in the house of Marcella.
One of his pupils, Paula, a wealthy widow, followed him on his
journey through Palestine, and built three nunneries at Bethlehem,
of which she remained the head up to the time of her death in 404.


Regarding the position of St. Augustine (354-430) throughout the
Middle Ages, it is here sufficient to quote a few words of Gustav
Krüger: "The theological position and influence of Augustine may be
said to be unrivalled. No single name has ever exercised such power
over the Christian Church, and no one mind ever made so deep an
impression on Christian thought. In him scholastics and mystics,
popes and opponents of the papal supremacy, have seen their
champion. He was the fulcrum on which Luther rested the thoughts by
which be sought to lift the past of the Church out of the rut; yet
the judgment of Catholics still proclaims the ideals of Augustine
as the only sound basis of pbilosopby."


The abbey of St. Denis was founded about 625 by Dagobert, son of
Lothair II, at some distance from the basilica which the clergy of
Paris had erected in the fifth century over the saint's tomb. Long
renowned as the place of burial for most of the kings of France,
the abbey of St. Denis had a particular importance in Abélard's day
by reason of its close association with the reigning monarch. The
abbot to whom Abélard refers so bitterly was Adam of St. Denis, who
began his rule of the monastery about 1094. In 1106 this same Adam
chose as his secretary one of the inmates of the monastery, Suger,
destined shortly to become the most influential man in France
through his position as advisor to Louis VI, and also the foremost
historian of his time. Adam died in 1123, and his successor,
referred to by Abélard in Chapter X, was none other than Suger
himself. From 1127 to 1137 Suger devoted most of his time to the
reorganization and reform of the monastery of St. Denis. If we are
to believe Abélard, such reform was sorely needed, but other
contemporary evidence by no means fully sustains Abélard in his
condemnation of Adam and his fellow monks.


The ALexandrian theological writer Origen, who lived from about 185
to 254, was the most distinguished and the most influential of all
the theologians of the ancient Church, with the single exception of
Augustine. His incredible industry resulted in such a mass of
Writings that Jerome himself asked in despair, "Which of us can
read all that he has written?" Origen's self-mutilation, referred
to by Abélard, was subsequently used by his enemies as an argument
for deposing him from his presbyterial status.


Abélard's tract regarding the power of God to create Himself was
one of the many distant echoes of the great Arian-Athanasian
controversy of the fourth century. St. Athanasius, bishop of
Alexandria, well deserved the title conferred on him by the Church
as "the father of orthodoxy," and it was by his name that the
doctrine of identity of substance ("the Son is of the same
substance with the Father") became known. Much of the life of
Athanasius was passed amid persecutions at the hands of his
enemies, and on several occasions he was driven into exile.


Rodolphe, or, as some authorities call him, Rudolph or Radulph,
became archbishop of Rheims in 1114, after having served as
treasurer of the cathedral. His importance among the French clergy
is attested by the many references to him in contemporary


Conon, bishop of Praeneste, whose real name may have been Conrad,
came to France as papal legate on at least two occasions. He
represented Paschal II in 1115 at ecclesiastical councils held in
Beauvais, Rheims and Châlons; in 1120 he represented Calixtus II at
Soissons on the occasion of Abélard's trial.


Geoffroi, bishop of Chartres, the second of the name to hold that
post, was subsequently a warm friend of St. Bernard. Abélard's high
estimate of him is fully confirmed by other contemporary


This abbot was probably, though not certainly, Anselm of Soissons,
who became a bishop in 1145. The chronology, however, is confusing.


The confusion regarding the identity of Dionysius the Areopagite
persists to this day, at least to the extent that we do not know
the real name of the fourth or fifth century writer who, under this
pseudonym, exercised so profound an influence on medieval thought.
That he was not the bishop of either Athens or Corinth, nor yet the
Dionysius who became the patron saint of France, is clear enough.
Of the actual Dionysius the Areopagite we know practically nothing.
He is mentioned in Acts, xvii, 34, as one of those Athenians who
believed when they had heard Paul preach on Mars Hill. A century or
more later we learn from another Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, that
Dionysius the Areopagite was the first bishop of Athens, a
statement of doubtful value. In the fourth or fifth century a Greek
theological writer of extraordinary erudition assumed the name of
Dionysius the Areopagite, and as his works exerted an enormous
influence on later scholarship, it was quite natural that the
personal legend of the real Dionysius should have been extended

The Hilduin referred to by Abélard, who was abbot of St. Denis from
814 to 840, was directly responsible for the extreme phase of this
extension. Accepting, as most of his contemporaries unquestioningly
did, the identity of the theological writer with the Dionysius
mentioned in Acts and spoken of as bishop of Athens, Hilduin went
one step further, and demonstrated that this Dionysius was likewise
the Dionysius (Denis) who had been sent into Gaul and martyred at
Catulliacus, the modern St. Denis. There is no evidence to support
Hilduin's contention, and the chronology of Gregory of Tours is
quite sufficient to disprove it, but none the less it was
enthusiastically accepted in France, and above all by the monks of
St. Denis.

There was, however, a persistent doubt as to the identity of the
Dionysius whose writings had become so famous. Bede, the authority
quoted by Abélard, was, of course, wrong in saying that he was the
bishop of Corinth, but anything which tended to shake the triple
identity, established by Hilduin, of the Dionysius of Athens who
listened to St. Paul, of the pseudo-Areopagite whose works were
known to every medieval scholar, and of the St. Denis who had
become the patron saint of France, was naturally anathematized by
the monks who bore the saint's name. Bede and Abélard were by no
means accurate, but Bede's inkling of the truth was quite enough to
get Abélard into serious trouble.


Theobald II, Count of Blois, Meaux and Champagne, was one of the
most powerful nobles in France, and by the extent of his influence
fully deserved the title of "the Great" by which he was
subsequently known. His domain included the modern departments of
Ardennes, Marne, Aube and Haute-Marne, with part of Aisne, Seine-et-Marne,
Yonne and Meuse. Furthermore, his mother Adela, was the daughter of
William I of England, and his younger brother, Stephen, was King of
England from 1135 to 1154. Theobald became Count of Blois in 1102,
Count of Champagne in 1125, and Count of Troyes in 1128. Had he so
chosen, he might likewise have become Duke of Normandy after the
death of his uncle, Henry I of England, in 1135. He died in 1152.


There is much doubt as to whether this Stephen was Stephen de
Garland, _dapifer_, or another Stephen, who was royal chancellor
under Louis the Fat. A charter of the year 1124 is signed by both
Stephen _dapifer_ and Stephen _cancellarius_. Probably, however,
the authority identifying Stephen _dapifer_ as Stephen de Garland,
seneschal of France, is trustworthy.


Among the terms which are characteristic of, or even peculiar to,
the Gospel of St. John is that of "the Paraclete," rendered in the
King games version "the Comforter." The Greek word of which
"Paraclete" is a reproduction literally means "advocate," one
called to aid; hence "intercessor." The doctrine of the Paraclete
appears chiefly in John, xiv and xv. For example: (xiv, 16-17) "And
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter
(Paraclete) that be may abide with you for ever; even the spirit of
truth." Again: (xiv, 26) "But the Comforter (Paraclete), which is
the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall
teach you all things." With John's words as a basis, the Paraclete
came to be regarded as identical with the Third Person of the
Trinity, but always with the special attributes of consolation and


In 1120 there was established at Prémontré, a desert place in the
diocese of Laon, a monastery of canons regular who followed the
so-called Rule of St. Augustine, but with supplementary statutes
which made the life one of exceptional severity. The head of this
monastery was Norbert, subsequently canonized. His order received
papal approbation in 1126, and thereafter it spread rapidly
throughout Europe; two hundred years later there were no less than
seventeen hundred Norbertine or Premonstratensian monasteries.
Norbert himself became archbishop of Magdeburg, and it was in
Germany that the most notable work of his order was accomplished.


Regarding the illustrious St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, it is
needless here to say more than that his own age recognized in him
the embodiment of the highest ideal of medieval monasticism.
Intellectually inferior to Abélard and to some others of those over
whom he triumphed, he was their superior in moral strength, in
zeal, and above all in the power of making others share his own
enthusiasms. Born in 1090, he was renowned as one of the foremost
of French churchmen before he was thirty years old; his share in
the contest which followed the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130
made him one of the most commanding figures in all Europe. It was
to him that the Cistercian order owed its extraordinary expansion
in the twelfth century. That Abélard should have fallen before so
redoubtable an adversary (see the note on Pierre Abélard) is in no
way surprising, but there can be no doubt that St. Bernard's
"persecution" of Abélard was inspired solely by high ideals and an
intense zeal for the truth as Bernard perceived it.


Traditionally, at least, this abbey was the oldest one in Brittany.
According to the anonymous author of the Life and Deeds of St.
Gildas, it was founded during the reign of Childeric, the second of
the Merovingian kings, in the fifth century. Be that as it may, its
authentic history had been extensive before Abélard assumed the
direction of its affairs. His gruesome picture of the conditions
which prevailed there cannot, of course, be accepted as wholly
accurate, but even allowing for gross exaggeration, the life of the
monks must have been quite sufficiently scandalous. It was
apparently in the closing period of Abélard's sojourn at the abbey
of St. Gildas that he wrote the "Historia Calamitatum." He endured
the life there for nearly ten years; the date of his flight is not
certain, but it cannot have been far from 1134 or 1135.


Leo IX, pope from 1049 to 1054, was a native of Upper Alsace. It
was at the Easter synod of 1049 that he enjoined anew the celibacy
of the clergy, in connection with which the letter quoted by
Abélard was written.

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