Abelard and Heloise

Released Thursday, 5th May 2005
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of Abelard and Heloise, a tale of literature and philosophy, theology and scandal, and above all love in the high Middle Ages. They were two of the greatest minds of their time and Abelard, a famous priest and teacher, wrote of how their affair began in his biography, Historia Calamitatum, “Her studies allowed us to withdraw in private, as love desired, and then with our books open before us, more words of love than of reading passed between us, and more kissing than teaching. My hands strayed oftener to her bosom than to the pages; love drew our eyes to look on each other more than reading kept them on our texts”. Years later, when she was an Abbess at the head of her own convent, Heloise wrote to Abelard: “Even during the celebration of Mass, when our prayers should be purer, lewd visions of those pleasures take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers”. With Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Henrietta Leyser, Medieval Historian and Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford; Michael Clanchy, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the Institute of Historical Research.

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Episode Details

41m 33s

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