Abelard [Abaelard, Abailard], Peter [Petrus Abailardus]
- Lorenz Weinrich
(b Le Pallet, nr Nantes, 1079; d Saint-Marcel, nr Chalon-sur-Saône, April 21, 1142). French philosopher, poet and musician of Breton origin. After studying philosophy in Paris, he taught dialectic at the cathedral school. His love affair with Heloise, the young niece of Canon Fulbert, brought him fame as a musician. However, after they had secretly married in 1118 Fulbert had Abelard castrated. Heloise became a nun and he became a monk at St Denis. His highly original scholastic method and his restless and blunt nature aroused opposition to his teaching; principal among his opponents was Bernard of Clairvaux. After condemnation by the Council of Sens in 1140, Abelard found support from Peter the Venerable, Benedictine Abbot of Cluny.
Abelard’s songs are few beside his numerous theological and philosophical writings. Heloise’s testimony suggests that his love songs must have been important from both a literary and a musical point of view. In a later letter (probably revised by Abelard) she declared that he had ‘the gift of poetry and the gift of song’; he ‘composed quite a number of metrical and rhythmic love songs. The great charm and sweetness in language and music, and a soft attractiveness of the melody obliged even the unlettered’. These songs, presumably in Latin, have all been lost: they have not been identified among the anonymous repertory....