Peter Abelard

Peter Abelard was a 12th century French poet, theologian, philosopher, and logician. He is widely acclaimed as one the most intelligent people in medieval times. He was interested in metaphysics.

Peter Abelard

He solved many problems associated with the universe through the use of dialectics. His illustrious affair with a French nun named Heloise d’Argenteuil was admired by many people.


Peter Abelard was born Pierre le Pallet in 1079 C.E. around Nantes, Brittany. His father was a knight named Berengar from a negligible noble family. He was the eldest son of the family. His father was instrumental in his education.

Berengar encouraged his son to study liberal arts from a young age. Abelard was a quick learner absorbing as much knowledge as could find. He traveled about France learning and studying. He studied under Rosccellinus of Compiegne who had been previously charged with heresy in Loire.

Adult years

Near 1100 C.E. he traveled to Paris where he studied at Notre-Dame de Paris. One of his teachers was William of Champeaux who was interested in Realism.

At this point in his life he changed his name to be formally known as Abelard. His quick mind was a problem for his teacher which quickly defeated the teacher in numerous arguments.

After winning arguments against his former teachers he set out to open his own school which was located at Melun, France. Between 1102 and 1104 C.E. he moved the school to Corbeil closer to Paris.

Throughout his years teaching at his own school, Abelard continued to debate William and Roscellinus. The two teachers made life very difficult for Abelard and he was not permitted to teach students in Paris.

In 1110 C.E. Abelard moved to Paris once again. At this point in his life he became interested in theology and moved to Laon to study under Anselm. Once again Abelard found himself in conflict with his teacher.

He was appointed Master of Notre-Dame in 1115 C.E. At Notre-Dame he found himself in a relationship with a French nun named Heloise d’Argenteuil. She was the niece of Fulbert, a secular canon.

The two thought they could get married even with opposition from Fulbert. Then Abelard sent Heloise to stay in a convent near Argenteuil. He did not want her uncle to kill Heloise. Abelard would enter into a nearby monastery I St. Denis.

Here he continued his studies of theology but was out spoken about the monk’s lifestyle. During this time in his life Abelard and Heloise continued their correspondence together. Their love letters became famous across France and Europe.

Abelard left the monastery to study under William of St. Thiery. While studying under William of St. Thiery he was accused of heresy.

Abelard quickly fell from grace with the Church. He stopped teaching and writing at this point in his life. He spent his final days at St. Marcel close to Chalon-sur-Saone, France. He died in here from fever in 1142 C.E.

Famous works

Abelard’s most famous pieces of work include Dialectics, Yes or No, and Logic for Beginners. He was a frontrunner in dialectic thinking in solving problems about the universe becoming one of the first to use metaphysics in his work. Other interesting works include A Treatise of Understanding and Ethics or Know Yourself.

The letters between him and Heloise were legendary and people found them fascinating to read and study. His autobiography named A History of My Troubles that included all of the letters between him and Heloise was also popular.

Important facts about Peter Abelard

  • Peter Abelard was born Pierre le Pallet in 1079 C.E. His father was a knight named Berengar. The family was of minor nobility.
  • At a young age his father encouraged Abelard to study literature.
  • Abelard traveled France learning from scholars such as William of Champeaux, Roscellinus of Compiegne, and William of Thiery.
  • His mind was incredible and could form an argument in seconds. His superior debate skills were a problem for his teachers.
  • Abelard had an affair with Heloise d’Argenteuil, a French nun. Their correspondences would become very popular for people to read in France and Europe.
  • While living as a monk he criticized the monk’s lifestyle.
  • He was charged with heresy and fell from grace with the Church.
  • Abelard’s most famous pieces of literature include Logic for Beginners, Dialectics, Ethics or Know Yourself, and his autobiography namedA History of My Troubles which included the correspondences with Heloise.


  1. What occupation did Peter Abelard’s father hold?

A knight

  1. Who did Peter Abelard have a love affair with during his lifetime?

Heloise d’Argenteuil

  1. What is the name of his autobiography?

A History of My Troubles

  1. Where did Peter Abelard live while as a monk?

St. Denis