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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Heloise

b. 1101, France; d. 1162, Nogent-sur-Seine, France

The enduring love of Héloïse and Abélard, known to us through their correspondence, has inspired literature through the centuries. A scholar of several languages, Héloïse became the student of Pierre Abélard, a philosopher and theologian, at the age of eighteen. They married secretly and had a son. When the situation was revealed to her relatives, they had Abélard castrated. The event precipitated the couple’s entry into a monastery, he at Saint-Denis and she at Argenteuil, where she became abbess. She and her community of nuns later moved to the Oratory of the Paraclete, an abbey that Abélard had founded. It was during this time that Abélard and Héloïse began writing to each other. He died in 1142, Héloïse twenty years later, and there is some debate over whether their remains are buried at the Oratory or at Père-Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris.