ABÉLARD AND HÉLOÏSE

Abélard and Héloïse chene bleu

Abélard and Héloïse are one of history’s most celebrated couples, known for their passionate love affair as well as the tragedy that cruelly separated them. 

We felt inspired to name our two flagship reds after them because of their uncommon destiny and extraordinary relationship — they were soul mates through thick and thin, and cut from the same cloth.  But also we loved the fact that they were both extremely accomplished intellectuals in their own rights, and managed to juggle complex, erudite thinking with feelings and sensuality.  The complex, brooding character of our Grenache blend seemed worthy of Abélard, and the perfumed, intense but restrained character of our Syrah blend reminded us of Héloïse. 

The Affair

Their love story begins in 12th century Paris when intellectually gifted and beautiful young Héloïse, on an existential quest for Knowledge, is entrusted to Abélard, a philosopher and theologian considered one of the greatest thinkers of his time (he remains to this day the most distinguished philosopher of the Middle Ages).   Though 20 years her senior, Abélard is captivated by Héloïse’s rare wit and intelligence and they soon become lovers, entwined by burning physical and spiritual desires. 

The Marriage

They marry in secret for fear of scandal, but when Héloïse’s possessive uncle and guardian, Canon Fulbert, discovers their love, he forces them to part.  Little does he know that Héloïse is pregnant and soon thereafter a son, Astrolabe, is born. 

The Attack

Meanwhile, Fulbert has been scheming to protect his niece’s dignity, to ruin Abélard and to keep Héloïse for himself.  Héloïse escapes to a nunnery in Argenteuil for her safety but her uncle believes that Abélard had cast her off and forced her into a life of the Church.  So, he sends his kinsmen to carry out a cruel and shameful punishment on Abélard, attacking him in the middle of the night and castrating him.

Abélard’s humiliation compels him to give up his teaching at Notre Dame and the lovers take Holy Orders as monk and nun. 

The Separation

For ten years they are separated with no contact for about ten years, and Héloïse, advocating the coexistence of passion and piety, goes on to become the most important abbess of her time.  Meanwhile Abélard continues his theological research, some of which earns him criticism as a heretic. 

The Letters

Abélard and Héloïse manage to re-establish epistolary contact and their relationship, which never died sentimentally, resumes, duly recorded in a series of passionate letters that reflect their theological musings and discoveries as well as their feelings for each other (and remain one of the great romantic and intellectual documents of human civilization). 

The Legacy

They continue to consult each other for twenty years till Abélard’s death in 1142.  Fortunately, the letters are kept and found.  In 1817 their remains are transferred to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, supposedly by Empress Josephine herself, reputedly moved by their tragic love story. 

Their story has been retold and reinterpreted through history in many texts from The Roman de La Rose to the poetry of Lamartine, from Alexander Pope to William Shakespeare, from Mark Twain to Cole Porter.

 “Whenever they speak of great men, they will remember Peter Abélard” – Héloïse

“If I am remembered, it will be for this: that I was loved by Héloïse” - Abélard