Peter Abelard

Classic Pamphlet

D.E. Luscombe, last updated: 1st April 2014

The Boldest Theologian of the 12th Century

The Catalogue of Printed Books in the British Library contains a large number of entries under the name of Peter Abelard. Most relate to books published in the last two hundred years and most of the editions of works written by Abelard, as distinct from books about him or about aspects of his thought, are of one part only of his large written output. This is his correspondence or rather that part of his correspondence which was supposedly exchanged with Heloise, his wife.

Heloise is a rare example of a well-educated medieval nun whose letters shed light on the foundation of a new order of religious women. But interest in her character as well as in that of Abelard has chiefly, and justly, reflected a broader recognition of the human interest of their relationship which, like that of Petrarch and Laura or of Romeo and Juliet, has come to be enshrined in great literature...

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