Heloise and Abelard - a great romantic story from the Middle Ages
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Heloise and Abelard

Heloise and Abelard

The story of Peter Abelard and his wife Heloise is one of the saddest love stories of Western history. Abelard, who was born in 1079 AD, came to Paris as a young man and taught classes at the new Christian church school there. (This was just a few years after the Norman Conquest). Abelard was a very good teacher, and used logical methods to try to answer difficult questions about what God was really like. Students came from all over Europe to hear him lecture.

Abelard lived in a rented room in a house owned by a churchman named Fulbert. He fell in love with Fulbert's niece, Heloise (HELL-oh-ees), who was about 18 years old. When she got pregnant, Abelard wanted to marry her. At first she refused, because married men were not allowed to be churchmen, and so they could not be teachers. He was such a good teacher, she didn't want him to have to stop. But if Heloise were not married before the baby came, she would be disgraced herself. So Abelard insisted on marrying her. Finally they got married secretly, telling Heloise's uncle Fulbert but no one else.

But after the marriage, Fulbert told people about it anyway. Heloise, angry that her uncle had betrayed her secret, denied being married, and Abelard helped her move to an abbey where she would be safe from her uncle's anger. But Fulbert thought Abelard was trying to get rid of Heloise, and he hired men to follow Abelard, beat him up and cut off his private parts. Abelard almost died. He retired to a monastery, and didn't teach anymore, and never saw Heloise anymore either. But Heloise never married anyone else, and she became a nun. Abelard and Heloise wrote letters to each other all through their whole lives. Eventually Abelard founded a convent (a home for nuns), and Heloise became the abbess of the convent. Abelard died in 1142 AD, when he was 63, and Heloise died in 1164, when she was 63.

Bibliography and further reading about Heloise and Abelard:

Medieval Religion


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!


Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 26 February, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT