Prof. Constant J Mews, The University of Melbourne Medieval Round Table Talk

The University of Melbourne: Medieval Round Table

“Abelard, Heloise and the Cistercians on Love: Vauluisant and the Paraclete Between History and Legend”, Prof. Constant J Mews (Director, Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University)

Date: 5 June, 2017
Time: 6:15 pm
Venue: North Theatre, first floor, Old Arts, The University of Melbourne

The Medieval Round Table is an informal discussion group open to interested students, academics and independent scholars. The Round Table meets monthly, usually on the first Monday of the month for presentations of papers, discussions of participants’ work in progress, discussions of readings etc.

Abelard, Heloise and Bernard of Clairvaux are three of the most well-known personalities of the twelfth century, identified with three of the most important developments of their age: scholasticism, love and monastic renewal. The persistant antagonism between conflict between Abelard and Bernard tends to mean that Heloise is marginalized as a figure, imagined as someone imprisoned within religious life rather, rather than as the innovative abbess of a religious community. I argue that there were close connections between the Paraclete under Heloise and the nearby Cistercian abbey of Vauluisant, founded in 1127, just two years before Abelard transferred control of the Paraclete to Heloise. While Heloise is often imagined as loyal to the memory of Peter Abelard, she combined certain of his ideas with those of the Cistercians, bringing together at the Paraclete two distinction visions of religious renewal. The fact that the love letters which Heloise and Abelard exchanged at the time of their affair should be preserved in the library of Clairvaux may not be as surprising as it first seems.